Kyle Loven’s Me Love BINGO!—a live mix of camp game show, variety hour, true storytelling, and raucous art party—had its humble beginnings in his Seattle living room.
When he wasn’t touring his puppet- and object-based theatrical works around North America and the globe, the Minneapolis-born artist would host his own warped bingo nights at home.
“So there’d be seven friends on my living-room floor. Or sometimes five wouldn’t show up, so there’d be two,” the now Vancouver-based Loven says with a laugh, speaking to the Straight from his day job in a local ceramics business. “I made a light-up bingo table and a set for it.”
Before he knew it, Loven was taking the ever-more-elaborate Me Love BINGO! out to the public, hosting happy hours and performing in other venues. And now Loven, now a Canadian permanent resident, has brought the one-of-a-kind stage phenomenon to Vancouver—most recently to the Magnetic North Festival. On August 2, he’ll present a new rendition at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Pride at the Gallery celebrations.
“What I’ve added in Vancouver is variety-hour elements with guest performances,” says Loven, who sometimes hosts the show in drag—as he will at the VAG. “And now it’s turned into this really immersive game night where things start to happen around the audience members and there’s this unconventional storytelling. Things start happening in the room and people start to question what’s real and what isn’t.
“So there are some performative elements and some game elements,” he hints. “A mini-narrative unfolds from things I’m talking about on-stage. Each time I do it there’s
a new theme. And then there are decorations, prizes, costumes, and a curated playlist of songs that all become a part of that narrative experience.”
Me Love BINGO! is becoming just as important to Loven’s theatrical practice as puppet work—as seen in shows like My Dear Lewis, which drew raves at this year’s rEvolver Festival. Like his other productions, Me Love BINGO! allows him to stretch both his theatrical and visual-art passions. It also draws on his teen obsession with the Game Show Network and retro favourites like Match Game.
He says the bingo performances let him explore audience relationships in new ways, via the most accessible work he’s ever done. Bingo, he’s found, is the great equalizer.
“Everybody has an equal chance and everybody’s on an equal playing field,” says Loven, who invites audience members to sit alongside strangers at long folding tables to play Me Love BINGO!. “They have a drink or two and have fun listening to music. It’s a real party atmosphere. People talk back and respond, and hopefully surprising things happen.”
At the VAG installment, shortened to 30 minutes so visitors can participate in the game at different times over the evening, he’ll be riffing on a playlist that features only LGBTQ artists.
“There are a lot of song facts and talking about artists and why that song was recorded—that’s a big part of Me Love BINGO!,” he says. “So there’ll be some speaking to those songs and their [the singers’] relationship to being able to be out, or coming out, or existing as a queer musician.”
At Pride at the Gallery, Loven’s Me Love BINGO! joins two themed, licensed bars, as well as exhibits like Moving Still and the Vikky Alexander retrospective. Also on the program: the Queer Living Library—pop-up conversations that allow you to “borrow” a real human being and learn their story. (Artists and advocates include Wil Aballe and Tom Hsu.) Visitors can also take part in painting a collective mural.
“The ‘human library’ is really in line with what I’m doing, with autobiographical storytelling and giving people a way to share their truths, to share stories and connect,” Loven says. “Me Love BINGO! is just like it was in my living room: it’s still about building community. The magic for Me Love BINGO! comes from the people in the room.”
Pride at the Gallery happens at the Vancouver Art Gallery next Friday (August 2) at 5 p.m. Me Love BINGO! takes place at 6, 7, and 8 p.m.