Top-Notch New York Cabaret Comes to Seattle Via a Joe’s Pub Pipeline

In a cross-continental exchange, Teatro Zinzanni is hosting the Big Apple’s best cabaret performers.

Cabaret has never been too adherent to any particular rules, requiring just a bar, a performer, and a songbook to qualify. But for those interested in artists who can explore and tiptoe past the limits of the long-standing American theatrical tradition, Teatro ZinZanni’s new series promises to do so with the help of an institution three thousand miles away. Partnering with Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York City, the Queen Anne theater is bringing three adventurous cabaret acts to Seattle over the next three months, a test-run of what could be a long-lasting pipeline of talent from one of the most lively theatrical venues on the East Coast.

The first act to arrive will be Justin Vivian Bond, a Tony Award-nominated performance artist best known as half of the duo Kiki and Herb. Appearing for one late night only on October 15, Bond will perform their acclaimed solo show Love Is Crazy, an evening of storytelling and songs that explore sex and obsession and a whole lot more, depending on the vibe in the country and under the tent that night.

Bond is a fitting introduction to the kind of artistry at play at Joe’s Pub, where they have performed since the venue opened in 1998. “Vivian is truly one of the funniest artists I have ever seen,” says Shanta Thake, associate director of Joe’s Pub. “The quickest I have ever seen with a twisted view of what is happening in the world. V is not afraid of saying or doing anything.”

Following on Bond’s heels will be Lady Rizo, who has worked with the pub since 2008 and will bring her Nina Simone tribute to Zinzanni on November 12, and Molly Pope, who will perform her autobiographical cabaret show, An Audience With Molly Pope, on December 17.

“We would love for these artists to have a wider fan base,” says Thake when asked about the reasons for the partnership. “These are three artists that are redefining cabaret, all in very different ways. Cabaret has always been about just having a drink and having someone tell me stories and sing songs from the great American songbook; these artists are different.”

Joe’s Pub Seattle, as the series is called, is the theater’s second such effort, following similar series started with Lott Entertainment in Houston. That series has had enough success that it has moved into that city’s revered Alley Theatre. After this brief Seattle test run, Thake and co. will work with ZinZanni to determine if Joe’s should have a permanent place on the calendars of Seattle theatergoers. Early indications are good.

“We are looking for culturally very exciting cities to take these shows to, and Seattle definitely fits that description,” she says.

Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., 802-0015. $20–$40. 21 and over. 11 p.m.