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Ben Strothmann
Credit: Steven Fontas

One of Ben Strothmann’s earliest NYC memories is when his voice teacher tells him, “Ben, you are living your life in a constant state of reaction to people and things around you. You’re not an authentic person.

Years ago, my own voice teacher made a telling observation about me–she said I sang in pastels, which was very pretty, but not real–no bold, no edge. See, voice teachers have this quest to make a person sing their best, but the finest voice teachers know that a person’s best voice carries their authentic self out of the body with it, and they can tell when the voice and authenticity are not connected. Pretty amazing.

Ben Strothmann has found his authentic voice with his one man show Coming Clean, presented as part of FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade’s fourth annual Queerly festival. Now a grown man with a healthy relationship with his inner 5-year old, Strothmann takes us on a journey of his past, starting with tales of his Milwaukee childhood, where he discovers he’s gay and has his first man-crushes on cartoon characters like Foghorn Leghorn and the Pink Panther. His story culminates in his sex-and-drug-filled early adulthood in New York City where, struggling to make ends meet as a waiter and theater photographer, Ben turns to escorting, the ultimate acting job, and eventually falls in with the BiTch Tina.

“We can steep in this for the sake of experience, but when it’s time to leave, be ready to get out.”

Voice teachers might strive to build a person up, but crystal meth burns a person to the ground. Those most fortunate to recover from it arise reborn from the ashes, and Strothmann, a magnificent phoenix, tells his tale with humor, poignancy, gratitude and dignity. The script is well-written and expertly structured for maximum effect, both comic and dramatic. Direction by Mark Finley is deft and efficient.

Coming Clean is, in a word, brilliant; it is a delight and joy to watch. Regrettably, there are no other upcoming performances of Coming Clean nearby (although if you’re going to be in Reykjavík on 8/8 that’s another story). However, Strothmann can be seen and heard digitally on a regular basis as Honey LaBronx, host of The Vegan Drag Queen cooking show (www.VeganDragQueen.com), and on the podcast “Big Fat Vegan Radio” (www.BigFatVeganRadio.com). If you’re in need of a headshot or other theatrical photography, he’s available for that, too (www.benstrothmann.com).

“It’s sad but I know that one day I’ll tell this story and it’ll be funny–like a scene from Showgirls”.

Keep an eye out for Ben Strothmann.