The Fourth of July Themed Performance of a Transcendental Clown

Posted July 5, 2007 in

It’s that patriotic portion of the summer, heralding the annual celebration of our great nation’s independence. While we are all puffed up with national braggadocio deciding which aspect of American culture and history we should be most reverent of this year, a moment of geo-political reflection may be in order. Let’s celebrate America’s independence while keeping in mind its present problems, including but not limited to: the widening disparity between the rich and the poor, to the denial of equal rights to persons who practice alternative lifestyles, the pathetic and preposterous health care system, the $550 billion a year defense budget, and the continued unconstitutional detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Queen Shmooquan, the doppelganger of performance artist and native Utahn Jeppa Hall, will be providing an interesting way to examine all these things in her own interpretive fashion when she performs impromptu at various locations around Salt Lake this Fourth of July week.

The Queen is Jeppa Hall’s alter ego, a creative and innocuous girl who was raised in Salt Lake by her “young, rebellious, gregarious, hilarious, emotionally sensitive, self-centered, alcoholic, drug-addicted, ex-Mormon carpenter” father and, “beautiful Hispanic, Native American, Catholic, chain-smoking, tough-ass waitress stepmother.” Like most non-LDS individuals who grew up in Utah, Jeppa experienced the social exclusion granted to those who are not members of the religious majority. “I hid from my friends the fact that I was poor, and masturbated, that my dad smoked pot, drank coffee and read porno on the toilet while he took a shit. I also hid the fact that we didn't have heat or hot water for most of the year, and that my dad was gone nights, days, and later weeks at a time on coke binges or in suicidal hidings at his girlfriend's house.” It’s no secret that the church has a large impact on everyone in Utah, regardless of their religious orientation, and for young Jeppa Hall the ubiquitous nature of the institution was no different. Foreshadowing an interest in singing, songwriting, and performance art, her fascination for the stories about Joseph Smith meant she frequented the Church History Museum, Temple and Beehive House, where she churned church stories and legends over in her impressionable and imaginative mind. But these mythological fascinations weren’t the only thing imparted upon the future goat girl, who would often explore Salt Lake’s streets via an intricate and memorized system of alleys and byways which she believed made her invulnerable to sexual predation. Other aspects of Church culture also made their impression on the young Ms. Hall, specifically the wealth discrimination present in the church and the chauvinistic male power structure she would soon encounter. “Being rich was just as important as being a good Mormon, in fact you couldn't really be a good Mormon if you didn't make money.” Her parent’s income notwithstanding, Jeppa had plenty of other reasons to feel like a pariah, one being her strong-willed independence which coupled with two X chromosomes ensured that she would run headlong into male patriarchy confined not just to the tackily decorated hallways of the local stake center. In high school, she spoke up ardently about the social, racial and sexual injustices that she witnessed, but was callously pigeonholed by friends, family, and high school teachers who labeled her as a “woman libber,” in an attempt to discourage the kind of feminist free thinking that threatened the conservative Utah bastion of power.

All of the adversity Jeppa faced growing up in a state bereft of diversity are the elements that shaped the personality of her alter ego, Queen Shmooquan. The Queen is a naive and gregarious woman child, an unashamed and irreproachable innocent mind flirting with experience through shared human cultural expressions. She is a fool trapped in a “Wal-Mart type purgatory,” beyond culpability and ignorant to the sinister nature of her surroundings, creating a tragic and powerful contrast between her natural self, and the universal acts she engages in. When the Queen retrieves a homemade phallic symbol from her pantaloons, brandishing it like the “package” of some male rock-star sex symbol she’s, “really trying to impress the crowd” like an innocent four-year-old girl brimming with pride over having caught a snake, only to be scolded by her parents who admonish her that those sort of exploits are best reserved for her brother. Through this sort of expressive contrast, the “transcendental burlesque clown” that is Queen Shmooquan is able to creatively explore politically and socially topical issues. “Food politics, the George W. Bush regime, male dominance and patriarchy, the hyper-sexualization of women,” all are themes explored by the Queen when, decked out in her Target-bought Fourth of July regalia, she gobbles down a Twinkie like a drug addict rejoicing in her next heroin fix.

So, after sating your inner pyromaniac with contraband Wyoming Roman Candles this Fourth of July, maybe ponder on their striking resemblance to mortars imposing American Imperialism in Iraq and substitute dogmatic patriotism for reflection by attending one or more of the creative and topical performances of this proud American, Queen Shmooquan.