Posted by: strugglesome | May 13, 2010

Who you calling a Cracker? Stolen Moments with Philadelphia’s Most Exciting, Tallest, Chantuese

I’m sitting at the bar at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, halfway through a glass of (fairly decent) house Cabernet Sauvignon, enjoying Pig Iron Theater Company‘s happy hour event, and watching a person twice my size, wearing heels the heights of which I would never dare contemplate placing on my feet, making a microphone his, her, their bitch like it’s their job. Now, let’s be clear here, when it comes to pronouns, I usually don’t have any trouble. People are what they say they are with me, and whoever I meet, be it with a handshake, a curtsy or a cheek kiss, I tend to take them at face value. But here’s the funny thing about Miss. Martha Graham Cracker, I can honestly say, I don’t know who she is. Is she a character? A personage? A Philadelphia sensation? A facet of the amazingly talented and personable Dito Van Reigsersberg, member and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theater Company? To these questions, I can give you only one answer: Yes.

When my father went to law school in California, my parents lived in San Fransisco. My father worked as a cab driver, and my mother went to art school. That right there is what we in the narrative profession would call “an opportunity to meet a hell of a lot of drag queens”. As a result, both of my parents can spot a drag queen, a transvestite, a transsexual, and everything in between, in five seconds flat. But Miss. Martha Graham Cracker defies such pedestrian definitions. Unapologetic for her unshaven legs, hairy chest and five o’clock shadow, she belts out David Bowie and Motown favorites with equal aplomb, she switches evening gowns and cocktail dresses and hair styles like Heidi Montag, she chirps out rip-roaring jokes between sets, and she leaves her back-up band panting while she is still ready to go. On this particular evening she was joined by another Philebrity, Johnny Showcase, who kept up with her musically like a pro, but broke her heart like a cad. Flirting with the back up singer, Johnny? That’s Bret Michaels style tacky, and you didn’t even wear a bandana!

More then anything else, however, Miss. Martha Graham Cracker begs a question, what’s really going on here? Is this a parody of drag, or a joke at the expense of the infamous Martha Graham? Are we supposed to be enjoying how well Van Reigersberg acts like a woman, or laughing at how funny it is to see a man in woman’s clothing? Is this a satire, a serious critical view of gender and sexual roles, or just a hugely entertaining spectacle of music and laughs? Well, I guess, in my opinion, the answer once again is yes.

Miss. Martha Graham Cracker appears every second Tuesday of every month at L’Etage, a delicious creperie at 6th and Bainbridge. She also appears at Pig Iron events and at caberets and bars across the city. Her willingness to perform might cause some people to call her names, but I can assure you, man, woman, anything in between, whatever else she is, she’s a lady.


  1. this is great! captures the experience that is Martha

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