When it comes to trash-based evangelism, you’d be hard pressed to find a pair of spiritual gurus with better rap skills and dance moves than Heather Lang and Eleanor Bauer. Their dresses, which are hand-crafted from the finest plastic bags and old fashion magazines, are probably better than any other trash evangelists’ too.
In their live comedy show Trash is Fierce, the duo slip into their trashy dresses and sing the gospel of finding new meaning in the used and discarded. It’s surprisingly uplifting stuff (“make somethingness out of nothingness” goes one of their mantras) and practical (“realness = shit happens” goes another) and not exactly what you’d expect from a performance that resembles a QVC informercial and opens with a song called “Trannie Rap.” But that’s what you get when two professional dancers decide to collaborate on something totally different from anything they’ve done before.
After becoming friends at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Lang and Bauer lost touch as Lang’s career as a commercial dancer took her on tour with the Radio City Rockettes and later landed her in the movies as a slithering, bald creature in I Am Legend, among other roles. Bauer meanwhile gained a following in Europe for shows like her Big Girls Do Big Things and earned a dancing residency in Brussels. So it wasn’t until 2009 when the friends had a week free to create Trash is Fierce in between hitting the beach at Lang’s time-share apartment in Fire Island, New York.
“We were like, we’re going to make shit,” Lang told me over the phone. “We had all these alter egos and all this stuff that we didn’t get to express in our worlds. It was very instinctual, the way we worked. It was like, ‘You want to do that? We’re going to do it.’”
After their first performance in Berlin, the friends decided to add more structure to the show and plan out their characters more fully, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do with their busy schedules. “It’d be hysterical because I’d be in this giant wig and makeup and we’d be on Skype trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do,” Lang said. But the two stuck with it and put together an entirely different show that they use to poke fun at our culture’s fixation with trashy TV and new technologies.
“It all started with this obsession I have with reality TV,” Lang said. “It’s so busted and horrible, and so I wanted to make a really bad cable access show. And Eleanor was like, let’s figure out how we can make this so it’s spiritual trash, it’s complete crap, it’s falling apart, but we still give meaning to it.”
As alter egos Duané Readé (pronounced doo-wanna read-uh) and Witty Banteur, Lang and Bauer invite audience members to call in to their hotline so they can dispense some of their rubbish-inspired wisdom. Then they hand out special tools, like the barely working flashlight that in Readé and Banteur’s hands becomes a “Deep Sea Diver’s Vision Quest Flashlight Within,” perfect for exploring your own murky subconscious, or the “Reclaim Your Vanity Mirror” made from the shiny remains of cracked CDs.
Everything in the show is basically from Lang and Bauer’s own discarded stuff. Lang rescued the “Vanity Mirrors” when her DJ fiancé upgraded to vinyl, and the cellphone-toting Barbie that doubles as the show’s silent assistant, Vanilla Heights – (if it wasn’t clear already, you’ve never seen anything like this show) – comes from Lang’s childhood Barbie stash.
After two recent shows in New York City, the friends don’t know when their next performance will be as Bauer continues her residency in Brussels and Lang has begun filming in the second season of NBC’s musical-drama Smash. But this isn’t the last you’ve seen of Duané Readé and Witty Banteur.
“This is my passion project and something I’ve dreamt of and we’re making it happen, which is kind of mind-blowing,” Lang said. “It took a long time to craft these things, and get your voice stronger and your message stronger.”
So you’ll just have to keep tabs on Lang and Bauer for your next installment of spiritual trash guidance, because Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra certainly aren’t going to be of any help when you need to know how to repurpose an old origami decoration into an anal guard.
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