Max Vernon Talks About His Joe's Pub Residency, Early Influences, and the Return of KPOP
Max Vernon —the award-winning composer of the off-Broadway hits KPOP and The View UpStairs—continues his electrifying, can't-miss residency at Joe’s Pub on March 19 (the next show is April 23!). Following three sold out shows last year, Max returns to the iconic downtown venue with Existential Life Crisis Lullaby, a celebration of tattooed ladies, Korean pop stars, '70s queer culture, the apocalypse, sentient robots, aging club kids, homicidal hipster cults, and true love. Expect special guest appearances from Lauren Worsham, Margo Seibert, Larry Owens, Maria-Christina Oliveras, and Darius Harper, as well as some killer fashions designed by Max himself.
BroadwayBox caught up with Max to talk about the return of KPOP and the importance of Rocky Horror and Catwoman in his young life.
1. Who were your heroes growing up? Who inspired you?
Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass, Willi Ninja, Siouxsie Sioux.
2. What was the first musical you felt like you saw yourself in?
Rocky Horror, because I had been bullied for so many years of my life for experimenting with makeup, wearing women's clothing, my taste in music/art/culture, etc. Suddenly I saw that difference being celebrated, and it made me want to embrace and cultivate my subversiveness.
3. What was it for trailblazers like RuPaul and Lin-Manuel Miranda to respond to your work like that?
A bit surreal to be honest. It made me imagine what Lin would’ve been thinking ten years ago when people he admired saw his shows for the first time. It makes you realize that fame game aside, we’re all just people trying to do this crazy impossible thing, and we’re connected through time and our creative expression.
4. What can an audience member who has never seen you perform before expect from the show?
There’s a lot of spectacle and fantasy in what I do, but I’m also trying to embrace my vulnerability and talk about real shit too...while doing ten costume changes.
5. What can you tell us about the New York return of your sold-out hit KPOP?
Only that we’re working very hard to make it happen and it’s going to be a game changer. We are scaling up the ambition for sure...
6. You made all the incredible costumes you wear in Existential Life Crisis Lullaby. But if you could wear any iconic Hollywood costume on loan for a performance, which would you pick?
I kinda wanna wear Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman suit?? I feel like that performance was weirdly formative in some way as a young outsider artfag. Or maybe the Robot Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. That would be a powerful suit of armor.
Experience Max Vernon in Existential Life Crisis Lullaby at Joe’s Pub on March 19 and April 23.