Looking for Tiger Lily begins with a scene from the 1960 TV version of Peter Pan in which blonde, blue-eyed Indian “princess” Tiger Lily - played by American actress Sondra Lee - performs “Ugg-a-Wugg” with her tribe. As this screens on a projection, Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi, the “ghost of white privilege”, appears on stage and joins in on the dance. This entrance sets the scene for Anthony Hudson’s (and his alter ego Carla's) solo show on the intersectionality and difficulties of coming to terms with his racial, gender and sexual identity. Hudson is a gay American who is three-eighths Native American with his father being a Grande Ronde tribal member and a mother from Germany.
Hudson’s storytelling is engaging and entertaining as he shares stories of his family and childhood and opening up about his constantly shifting ideas of his own identity. While the space is perhaps too big for an intimate show such as this, he uses it well, giving himself plenty of room to express himself. Hudson is articulate and clear in what he is saying, and his physicality and movement demonstrate his enthusiasm and passion, allowing the audience to be further immersed into his world and gain a better understanding of the issues he is raising.
When Hudson speaks, his words are specifically used to form the heart of his story and this is perfectly highlighted with his retelling of his coming out experience to his father who informed him about two-spirit, an umbrella term used to describe Native Americans who fall outside the heteronormative notions of gender and identity. The songs that are performed in Looking for Tiger Lily, including “Colours of the Wind” from the Disney film Pocahontas and “American Life” by Madonna, present a new perspective on how to consider these songs and the struggles and conflicts he faces both internally and in society.
Along with his storytelling, Hudson has a PowerPoint playing behind him with numerous images displayed to serve as visual aids for his anecdotes and historical and pop culture references. These are seamlessly weaved into his performance and the expression a picture is worth a thousand words rings very true here as each one strengthens everything that Hudson has to say. At one point, several images provide evidence of how widespread Native American culture has been appropriated in sport, music, the arts, fashion and food that would have been impossible to effectively put into words.
Looking for Tiger Lily is an enlightening show on how difficult it can be for a person to develop their own identity particularly when it crosses into so many areas. Hudson has a strong stage presence and his ability to tell such a personal story while also making the audience accountable for their actions (or inactions) is testament to the skill he has a storyteller and performer.
Venue: Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne
Season: until 10 May | 6:15pm
Tickets: $35 Standard | $30 Concession
Photo Credit: Chelsea Petrakis