Work samples

  • Earth Is the Target! / We Are the Trigger! / Ashes! Ashes! / We Don't Fall Down!
    "Earth Is the Target! / We Are the Trigger! / Ashes! Ashes! / We Don't Fall Down!"combines original poetry, composition, visuals, and performance in a surreal dystopian video performance. Though I originally published the piece in 2015 through The Light Ekphrastic alongside the work of Sejong Cho, I re-imagined it as a performance in 2020 due to its timely themes of the apocalyptic excesses of capitalism for a dystopian digital drag show organized by CYBER DISTANCING, a digital drag collaborative in New Orleans. A few short clips layered into the video collage-style come from open sources named in the credits at the end of the video, but the reading and poem, as well as all moving images, are my own. Because this was created for a digital drag show, and because I do not identify as a film artist, I consider this piece a video performance exploiting the breadth of the medium, as well as an embracing of digital performance in the age of a pandemic.
  • Blood Moon Blood Bath (Apartscape 2020)
    Blood Moon Blood Bath (Apartscape 2020)
    In July of 2020, I filmed myself reading a selection of prose and poetry unified by the theme of body horror, gender dysphoria, and the occult: "Blood Moon" and"Ano/Rite?" (both originally published in Assaracus Journal in 2016 and reprinted in both Pussy Magic Press AND my chapbook in 2018), as well as "Tea Leaves" published online via Gingerbread House Lit Mag. Rather than treat this performance as a traditional poetry reading, I filled a bathtub with fake blood (water mixed with tempura paint) and read each piece overall in character as a beauty influencer sharing their cosmetic regiment. This is a prime example of combining performance with my writing work, in which each piece is recontextualized in the way it's presented. "Blood Moon" was also nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net Prize by Pussy Magic in 2018. Both "Blood Moon" and "Ano/Rite?" can be read here ( or in my chapbook sample, "Tea Leaves" can be found here (, and the performance should still be archived on Day 3 of Apartscape via their Facebook page:[0]=AZWGM_Op-gOMaVCtFXZLYc9iTM3kZSo78S9d28NqApxsCbU_lxAYLePEkzspXGcSOnY6zmxNukJqMeqEXBiZmhsUT68u5fBnmVvtP5u-sH7qGCMdTdlXloi90jzupxZr9sS5HdTthWsJEQCFjj21voT1quy_CB96BJPw0MyfC-TJgpPmje-y8wEqB6ZiXvGYTHl-hoKwYWJ9tNJUzOgyUha7&__tn__=-]C-R
  • I, A FLYING CRAB by Moth Broth (album artwork by Christine Ferrera)
    I, A FLYING CRAB by Moth Broth (album artwork by Christine Ferrera)
    Album cover by Christine Ferrera for I, A FLYING CRAB, my band Moth Broth's debut album which we released in July of 2022 through Chicago-based label Worry Records. I, A FLYING CRAB conjures stories of magical fauna, ghosts, and climate change through voice, autoharp, and a sprinkling of psychedelic pop arrangements. It's the fruit of a 7-year collaboration between myself (Jake Bee, a.k.a. Dreambaby) and Greg Hatem (of Natural Velvet) featuring synth on "Quite Leisurely from the Disaster" by our newest band member Jason. You can stream it on Spotify or Apple music or purchase a physical copy/download code from I am the lyricist, lead singer, synth player, and co-composer for all Moth Broth's music.
  • Crawl Inside the Yam (for Rhizome, 2020)
    In 2020, Rhizome hosted a stream for a "round robin" show we put together with local bands Woven In and Molesuit Choir. Fully taking advantage of the digital performance format, we arranged it so that each band filmed three performances, and Theresa Columbus MCed the show and we played clips from each band at random. To add an element of performance to it, each band came up with mysterious prompts for each of their videos, so Theresa Columbus did not know what performance was coming next and had to improvise about what she thought was coming next. This is yet another example of how we like to take our work with Moth Broth beyond the medium of music, adding an element of theatricality and performance art to our live work. I am attaching one of our performances, "Crawl Inside the Yam" here.

About Jacob

Baltimore City

Jacob Budenz is a theater artist, actor, writer, director, performance artist, and musician with a BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from University of New Orleans. Among other things, their work focuses heavily on the intersection of the queer "other" and the otherworldly, incorporating myth, magic, and dark humor to provide catharsis or escape. 

Various reviews have referred to Jake's performances as "a high voltage thrill" (City Paper), "the one… more

Tea Leaves - Book Release, Audiobook, & Tour

Mediums: short fiction, voice acting, musical composition, live acting, live music. 

In 2023, I released my debut collection of queer magic realist short stories, Tea Leaves, through legacy lesbian-owned press Bywater Books. I then embarked on a 14-city tour through bookstores, breweries, bars, and theaters to perform and present my work. While the primary medium for this project is literary arts--short fiction--I tapped into my performance background in a number of ways. Namely, I recorded the voiceover for the audiobook myself, in addition to composing bite-sized incidental songs for each of the 16 stories. Additionally, I presented these works in a number of theatrical ways such as merging shorter, lyrical pieces with spooky songs from my solo act, Dreambaby; performing the work alongside workshops on Tarot; and presenting excerpts of work in tandem with other artists. I planned the entire tour myself, tapping into my network of writers, musicians, artists, and performers--including literary legend Carolyn Hembree (New Orleans), puppetmaster and indie icon Toybox (Asheville), comedian and TV personality Ian Abramson (Chicago, known for his appearance on Conan O'Brien), Baltimore's own Christine Ferrera (Chicago), and more. My Baltimore release celebrated an all-queer bill, with DJing by Amy Reid, Tarot by Soleil, music by folk icons Molesuit Choir, and readings and performances by Sylvia Jones, Tonee Moll, and Alex D'Agostino. 

About the book: A queer romance spans multiple reincarnations, but only in doomed cities. A gay medieval scholar must testify for his life to the sentient octopus who has him trapped in a French Quarter cafe bathroom. A lesbian food truck power couple caters a gay wedding in Lafayette as the spirits of the air and land attempt to sabotage their ill-fated union. Heralded by Baynard Woods (author of Inheritance: an Autobiography of Whiteness) as "fabulous, in every sense... quick and sharp, full of charms that whisk us into the darkest forests of the human condition," Tea Leaves explores the urgency of contemporary queer life in encounters with the otherworldly. Shirley Jackson Award-winning editor dave ring calls the collection "a charm against the banal and a com-hither to the hidden forces of the universe," and editor-in-chief of the iconic Taco Bell Quarterly, M.M. Carrigan, writes, "This is a beautiful collection. [Budenz writes] with an aesthetic and energy that jump off the page. It's funny, it's queer, and it's full of life." 

Additional praise: 

"Budenz’s writing makes me uncomfortable in ways that taught me things about myself I didn’t know I still needed to learn: things about the impacts of prejudice and hate and the need to break from a destructive social status quo that assumes these rote cruelties as its default. The writing is eminently self-aware, wry, and subtle, satirizing straight (in both senses of the word) and corporate culture liberally, and I frequently found myself belly-laughing out loud in places and at ideas I entirely did not expect... I don’t often see lovers, long-term relationships broken and whole, even chance encounters between strangers portrayed with this kind of comfortable generosity or warmly illuminating attention to detail. Budenz has such sympathy for these poor saps and their partners and family and friends, treating their flaws with such generosity, somehow without flinching from them. It’s really a feat."--Michael J. Deluca, editor-in-chief of Reckoning Magazine, for The Independent Book Review

"Tea Leaves is such a fiercely and tenderly human set of stories. Jacob tells tales of longing—longing to be seen; longing to be loved; longing for definition, for certainty, or at the very least to be accepted in all our foible-filled uncertainties. These are unremittingly and exultantly queer stories, in every sense, but this is not a collection solely for the queer reader. These are stories of intense universality. Jacob Budenz is a magician. On September 19th, give yourself over to his spell."—Tad Bartlett, award-winning author of Marchers' Season and managing editor of Peauxdunque Review

"These stories are fabulous, in every sense: beautifully queer fables set in a familiar world of food trucks and AirBnBs, but with just enough magic to set it all askew and show us the wonderful absurdity of the mundane—and the abiding miracle of love even amidst the uncertainty of our minds and the frailties of our ever-aging bodies. Budenz’s prose is quick and sharp, full of charms that whisk us into the darkest forests of the human condition. In Tea Leaves, we experience the fearsome joy of inhabiting the world in other bodies.”— Baynard Woods, author of Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness

"Mostly set in places or situations that exist as a veil on the contemporary American South, the stories conjure a realm of the extra-ordinary, a respite from the ordinary. They evoke alternate worlds in which “taking a flight” may mean transforming into a peregrine falcon for a trip to Miami to battle a witch in his “subtropical convenience store kingdom”—but it turns out even shapeshifters keep secrets from their fiancées. Indeed, Budenz has a talent for teasing out these incongruities, juxtaposing them with biting humor about the vanity and pettiness that enchanted entities share with their human counterparts, while embracing queerness and examining marginalization and isolation. In this, Tea Leaves has a kinship with Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of genre-defying short fiction, Her Body and Other Parties, and these stories will also appeal to readers of Kelly Link and Neil Gaiman— authors who Budenz cites as influences."--Sarah Lawrence, Charlottesville Weekly

In addition to receiving high praise in The Independent Book Review, Charlottesville Weekly, The Baltimore Fishbowl, and more, Tea Leaves has led me to a number of speaking engagements and classroom visits, from workshops and seminars at Goucher College and GWU to podcast appearances to queer literary conferences and more. This year, I will appear at ReadOUT, the Online Midwinter Seminar for the Mythopoeic Society, Saints & Sinners Festival, and more. 

  • Book Cover (art by Ann McMann)
    Book Cover (art by Ann McMann)
  • Dedication & Excerpts: "Of the Air and Land," "Under Her White Stars," "Deadbeat," "Mask for Mask," "The Girl the Crows Followed," "Ah, Well," The Color of Cream," and "Trial"

    To give a sense of the collection's aesthetic and tonal range, I have included a handful of excerpts of the first 1-3 pages of various stories. In "Of the Air and Land," the spirits of the land attempt to thwart the ill-fated union of Hailey and Ainsley, a "lesbian food truck power couple" catering a gay wedding. In "Under Her White Stars," a non-binary witch brings their mortal partner on a hunt for a deadly sorcerer and must deal with the dire consequences. In "Deadbeat," a gay warlock and demon couple discuss the demon's failed attempts to win speed eating contests by possessing the bodies of his hosts. In "Mask for Mask," a gay swamp tourguide in his 60s grapples with the limitations of his marital fidelity when a group of mysterious but attractive strangers leaves a variety of shapeshifting potions on his boat. In "The Girl the Crows Followed," crows ruin a heterosexual wedding as an unlikely bond forms between two women.

  • Tea Leaves Tour Sheet
    Tea Leaves Tour Sheet

    This graphic contains 12 of the 14 cities (Baltimore on 9/20 and NYC on 9/24 not pictured) as well as most of the authors and artists that participated in my various events. 

    Additional artists not depicted:

    • Baltimore: poet/essayist Tonee Moll, musician and multimedia artist Amy Reid, poet Sylvia Jones, performance artist Alex D'Agostino
    • Chicago: comedians Ian Abramson, Erica Switzer, and Ameerah Sanders; musicians Risa Rubin and Dan Hanrahan
    • DC: Fiction writers Craig L. Gidney, dave ring, K.M. Szpara, Marianne Kirby, and Dominique Dickey
    • Salem: Fiction writer Ann LeBlanc
  • Seen (Audiobook Performance & Original Music)

    The opening story in the collection, this story features some of the more monologue-oriented voice stylings of the collection. 

  • Borealis (Audiobook Performance and Music)

    In this contemporary southern gothic satire of "Sleeping Beauty," a mysterious aunt rescues a young woman from the trappings of a heteronormative life, at a cost. Included to give a sense of performance range from this collection. 

  • "And Then Again to the Next" live with Ever Alters in Nashville

    At this intimate event, I perform "And Then Again to the Next" in collaboration with Nashville-based cosmic folk artist Ever Alters. The story presents a queer romance across multiple reincarnations in doomed cities, and Ever Alters plays a song for each incarnation as the room slowly fills. 

Moth Broth (2015-Present)

My mediums: writing, musical composition, performing arts, vocal performance, synth

Moth Broth is an all queer psychedlic pop collaboration formed by musician and autoharp extroardinaire Greg Hatem in 2015, with the addition of Jason Charney in 2019. Our music explores the occult, the divine feminine, and the strangeness of the natural world, all wrapped in whimsical pop composition, conjuring stories of magical fauna, ghosts, and climate change through my voice, Greg's autoharp, and a sprinkling of synth arrangements. The 2022 release of our debut album, I, a Flying Crab, allowed us to truly take flight, performing with queer indie legends Xiu Xiu in 2023 at Metro Gallery and with giants of the local scene including Chiffon, Nourished by Time, Darsombra, Amy Reid, Manners Manners, and more, bringing our signature over-the-top psychedelic stylings to hundreds of new listeners. We are also a frequent feature on iconic indie radio station WFMU and appeared as their number one cassette release in the sumer of 2023. 

My own role in the band is as lyricist, lead singer at live performances, and backup synth player—with Greg doing the heavy lifting on the chordal compositions, the two of us collaborating on melodies and overarching song structures, and Greg bringing these compositions to life through opulent, psychedelic studio recordings which he mixes himself, to which I contribute my vocal stylings, synth diddies, and occasional editorial feedback. While our first EP —a labor of love six years in the making—is pending release, we have released a few singles and performed avidly around Baltimore at indie and DIY venues (including The Crown, Rituals, Current Space, Rhizome in DC, and Joe Squared), as well as over Zoom when necessary. In our live performance capacity, Jason Charney has joined us to provide a rich tapestry of live synth performance. In addition to spearheading and editing our socially distanced videos during quarantine (he and Greg were quarantined together at the time), Jason has also joined us in the composition of new music in the works!

In my own contributions to the project, I'm pulling from multiple disciplines: from my creative writing background to create lush fantasy worlds and new myths through my lyrics; from my music background to contribute in the composition process; and from my theater background to put together a feast of psychedelic costuming and embody the full drama of our songs through live performance. Moth Broth has never been one art form for me—it has been an opportunity to pull multiple mediums together and co-create something greater than the sum of its parts. Still, the through-line of performance pervades; to this work, I bring an attention to theatricality, visual aesthetics, movement, and ecstatic emotional embodiment in the performance of our work. 

  • Moth Broth performing a sold-out show with indie legends Xiu Xiu
    Moth Broth performing a sold-out show with indie legends Xiu Xiu

    In support of indie legends Xiu Xiu on tour for their 2023 album, Ignore Grief, Moth Broth brought a high level of spectacle, with numerous costume reveals and a cover of Madonna's "Supernatural" featuring a modular synth shaped like a ghost baby. 

  • Baba Yaga

    An ode to the infamous witch of Russian folktale herself, "Baba Yaga" is a song about divine femininity and the multitude of conflicting expectations placed on women. Depending on the folktale at hand, Baba Yaga is a surrogate mother who takes in wayward children, a monstrous ogre who eats them, or a lesson to be learned along their journey. Sonically and lyrically, "Baba Yaga" encapsulates (in my opinion) the essence of Moth Broth: surreal, whimsical, yet heavy-hitting. Credits: Vocals, lyrics, and intermittent synth riffs: Jacob Budenz (me) Instrumental arrangement, mixing, production, and autoharp: Greg Hatem Composition: Greg and Jacob

  • Scrybaby

    "Scrybaby" is one of our more surreal compositions (on a structural and lyrical level). A pun on "crybaby" and the act of "scrying" (looking into a crystal ball or, in this case, a bowl of water for the purpose of foretelling the past, present, or future), the song is about self-fulfilling prophecies and negative self-talk in a relationship. In this song, the speaker engages in the practice of divination only to see what they want to see—both banal and serious reasons for self-sabotage and self-criticism, ranging from personal appearance to emotional habits.

  • Maternal Worm Instinct (ft. CrysTal Bugz)

    Perhaps our most beloved live performance, "Maternal Worm Instinct" details the adventures of a mother worm using witchcraft to defend her last remaining baby from attacking birds. Written in the absurdist voice of a worm and flouting the conventions of pop song structures, this song well represents our experimentation as well as the theatricality and performativity of my lyrical voice. 

  • "Fairy Queen" and "Quite Leisurely from the Disaster" (Socially Distant Set May 2020)
    In May of 2020, Greg, Jason, and I put together a socially distant performance of two of our unreleased songs, "Fairy Queen" and "Quite Leisurely from the Disaster." Greg and Jason, who were quarantined together at the time, performed these two songs live together and sent me the video. I filmed myself singing to the tracks, and Jason edited it all together, "trapping" me in the mirror with a campy performance of confused concern and a cheeky reference to our second song before the music starts. Though "Fairy Queen" is a campy song, it carries a special meaning for me as I wrote the lyrics while I worked at a highly conservative for-profit vocational college in 2019 for six months, commuting before sunrise to teach in windowless rooms where students in the hallway uttered audible homophobic slurs at me as I passed them and older, cis/heterosexual male faculty members fell silent and sneered at me in the faculty lounge.
  • Crawl Inside the Yam (for Rhizome, 2020)
    In 2020, Rhizome hosted a stream for a "round robin" show we put together with local bands Woven In and Molesuit Choir. Fully taking advantage of the digital performance format, we arranged it so that each band filmed three performances, and Theresa Columbus MCed the show and we played clips from each band at random. To add an element of performance to it, each band came up with mysterious prompts for each of their videos, so Theresa Columbus did not know what performance was coming next and had to improvise about what she thought was coming next. This is yet another example of how we like to take our work with Moth Broth beyond the medium of music, adding an element of theatricality and performance art to our live work. I am attaching one of our performances, "Crawl Inside the Yam" here.
  • Lyric Book for our Debut Album with Photos from Select Performances

    For our debut album, we created a lyric booklet featuring photos from select performances. I am the sole lyricist of our songs, with the exception of "I Send U a Ghost," which is a translation from Icelandic poet Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir. 

  • Moth Broth posing with our album release flyer on the LED billboard in Station North.
    Moth Broth posing with our album release flyer on the LED billboard in Station North.

    In August 2022, we released our anticipated debut album at The Crown. 

  • A collage of Moth Broth action shots from over the years
    A collage of Moth Broth action shots from over the years


Mediums: poetry, performance art, music, live performance, piano, voice

Dreambaby is my witch cabaret alter ego, as well as the quintessence of my interdisciplinary work as it combines poetry, storytelling, vocal performance, piano, and ritual for a unique and cathartic experience. Typical Dreambaby sets include original poems, a blend of original and covered music,and rituals that include audience participation. I also host and MC shows such as my 2019 Winter Solstice Tarot Ball and Arts Market at Rituals and numerous "Dreambaby Cabarets" like Nostos: a Dreambaby Cabaret at The Peale Center. Dreambaby operates firmly in the aesthetics of camp and the occult, drawing inspiration from artists like Diamanda Galas to bring spooky, operatic music and phantasmagoric writing/incantation to the ears of audiences everywhere. I've always described Dreambaby as more of a performance art project that uses music, ritual, and spoken word poetry as a storytelling medium—this is especially true in the sense that Dreambaby isn't a "music" project as heavily aestheticized covers of other artists' work comprise about 80% of the music I perform, making even the music itself more an act of theatrical mimesis than musical composition. Although I write the arrangements themselves, I am largely interspersing my own spoken word poetry and music with my own theatrical, witchy interpretations of music written by other artists; thus, the performance itself becomes the main artistic throughline of the work, collaging my own original work with mimesis. Dreambaby is meant to be experienced as live performance, and even studio recordings are complementary/secondary to that experience. 

Through my Dreambaby Cabaret experiences, I was one of Baltimore's early adopters of the "Zoom show" format, embracing the medium to create Diadem: a Dreambaby Cabaret as early as April 2020, Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret in May of the same year, and Spells & Songs for the Winter Solstice in December—these shows brought in queer indie icons from across the country like Vinsantos (New Orleans), Jeremy Mikush (LA and San Francisco), and moon baby (Philadelphia) alongside of performances by current or former Baltimore residents like Ginger Witch, Talbolt Johnson, Amorous Ebony, Christine Ferrera, and Olga Comedy. Through Zoom, Dreambaby also co-hosted Apartscape 2020, guest featured for Mobtown Ballroom's Mobtown Live (my performance starts around 58 minutes), and featured music and poetry at the online Mushroom City Arts Festival. This year, thanks to warm weather and the scientific wonder of vaccination, Dreambaby was able to return to the stage for Cicadarama at Peabody Heights and join other shows like Laure Drogoul's popup 14 KT Cabaret shows at Maryland Art Place. 

As a witchy host, producer, musician, and performer born at the 2013 Transmodern Festival, Dreambaby has enchanted stages from Baltimore venues like Metro Gallery and The Crown to Washington DC (The Black Cat & Bier Baron Tavern), New Orleans (Siberia & The All Ways Lounge), and even Spain (La Xata La Rifa 2013). Dreambaby has also been featured at festivals like Electric Halloween (rural PA) and The Americana Burlesque and Sideshow Festival (Asheville). 

  • Dreambaby Hosting Florror Show, 2023
    Dreambaby Hosting Florror Show, 2023

    Hosting Florror Show, a celebration of horrific plant life, October 2023--rather than play a set, I MCed the show and read poetry about climate change and the intersection of masculine violence and imperialism. 

  • Dreambaby Performs "Green Grass" to Close Black Cherry Puppet Slamwich

    Just before hitting the road on tour, I had the opportunity to host the September 2023 Black Cherry Puppet Slamwich as their musical guest and closed the song with my cover of "Green Grass," singing to my own backing track as the moon rose. In addition to being one of the more gratifying Dreambaby gigs of 2023, I performed this double-header show to standing-room-only crowds at Current Space the night before I embarked on the Tea Leaves tour. On a symbolic level, the act of begging to be remembered and lying down on the stage in exhaustion feels, in retrospect, like the perfect way to have begun that journey. 

  • Dreambaby Clip Compilation and Full Set Links
    Although it's difficult to capture the magic of live performance, I've created a clip compilation from a few live shows over the last few years (recent videos of course follow CDC guidelines for best safety practices at public events). The clip attached here is meant to demonstrate my live singing/performance prowess.
  • Dreambaby - Mushroom City 2020
    My recording for Mushroom City Arts Festival's digital performances 2020.
  • Dreambaby for Wonderful and Strange: a David Lynch Fest

    2023 provided the opportunity to flex my crooning muscles at the David Lynch Fest at Mercury Theater. Pairing a smooth lounge vocal version of "Blue Velvet" with a more raw vocal of "Falling," the backing track I made for the latter offered a tribute to the late Angelo Badalamenti and his infamous--and somewhat homoerotic--interview about writing the Twin Peaks theme with Lynch. 

  • Voice of the Bayou
    This is a cover of Anita Carter's "Voice of the Bayou" featuring lyrical re-writes to reframe the original story (a somewhat dated story about getting revenge on a voodoo queen) as a story of empowerment for a witch protecting her home in the swamp. "Voice of the Bayou" was released on a Halloween compilation benefiting mutual aid:
  • Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret
    Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret
    Somebody's screenshot of Dreambaby hosting Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret in May of 2020. Though the image may be grainy, it captures the DIY essence of early pandemic performance.
  • Dreambaby as Glinda the Good Witch (2017)
    Dreambaby as Glinda the Good Witch (2017)
    For the DC Weirdo Show in 2017, I performed both as Glinda the Good Witch and The Wicked Witch of the West (or her "soft butch" sister). Here, I am delivering a comedic monologue as the jaded Glinda who's discovered being a good witch is not all it's cracked up to be, before performing "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Unfortunately, footage of this performance is lost, but a clip of my "Bad Witch" performance later in the evening is available in my clip compilation footage.
  • Dreambaby as the Wicked Witch of the West's soft butch younger sister for the DC Weirdo Show in 2017
    Dreambaby as the Wicked Witch of the West's soft butch younger sister for the DC Weirdo Show in 2017
    The companion to my "Good Witch" look, after my drag performance as Glinda I got out of drag and painted myself a bright forest green* as the Wicked Witch. FOR VIEWERS WITH COLORBLINDNESS OR OTHER VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS, I am painted green (not black or brown) in this photograph. This is not a blackface performance; I am painted like a green-skinned film witch.
  • "The Devil" (Tears for Fears cover)
    With just piano, voice, and drums, "The Devil" has been a Dreambaby live performance staple for years and was finally captured in studio late 2019.

The Master and Margarita (Annex Theater, 2016)

Mediums: creative writing (stage adaptation/theater), theatrical direction, dramaturgy

In 2016, I had the opportunity to realize a longtime dream of staging an original adaptation of my favorite work of literature, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The iconic carnivalesque novel traces the devil's visit to Moscow, where he and his retinue wreak havoc on an anti-spiritual, highly censored, rigid Moscow while restoring the lives of Margarita and her beloved, the fallen-from-grace Master who has been banished from polite society for writing a novel about Pontius Pilate. 

I wrote the adaptation for the stage, a script project I had started at Johns Hopkins in 2012 under the mentorship of Joseph Martin, and directed the play through the Annex Theater, where I also did a bulk of the marketing. The show sold out 12 of its 16 shows and appeared among Baltimore City Paper's Top Ten Stage Productions of 2016. 

My production preserved the over-the-top, carnivalesque spirit of the novel while udpating its themes and playing with contemporary casting choices to the fullest extent allowed. Spoiled for casting choices due to the popularity of Bulgakov's work, the casting criteria (along with my co-casting-director Theresa Columbus) were as follows: I needed ten powerhouse actors to play an ensemble of over 100 characters, so I needed those actors first and foremost to be incredible talents while also affording the latitude to challenge the heteronormative, whitewashed, male-dominated status quo of the original work in which the primary roles for women are as vixens, mistresses, and witches. 

I ended up with a cast containing only one white/cis/straight/male-identifying actor, who consequently played The Devil himself (Woland), although even this choice was not a villification of straight, white men as Woland is not a villain in this story. Other noteworthy casting choices included casting The Master and Bezdomny, two central male characters, as Lucia Treasure and Caitlin Weaver respectively, affording the "troubled writer hero" storyline to two women. This meant that Autumn Breaud, cast as Margarita, made the central romantic relationship a queer one, played by two women who identify as queer in real life (too often, straight actors are heralded as "brave" for playing queer roles when queer actors themselves are passed over) and also speaks to my refusal to re-write a mature romance as two 20-something-year-old ingenues (a choice all too common even in "radical" experimental theater). In the concurrent Pilate/Jesus storyline, Pontius Pilate is double-played by The Master (Lucia Treasure), and Jesus is played by Margarita (Autumn Breaud), a choice The Bad Oracle reviewer referred to as "inspired" and one that highlights the metatheatrical nature of staging snippets of The Master's book. The choice to cast Margarita as Jesus also places the central woman in the messiah/martyr role, an archetype which I believe is consistent with Margarita's character in the original text, although I believe Bulgakov himself—based on his personal affinity with The Master, the autobiographical nature of that character, and his own martyr complex—would have reserved for himself. 

One reviewer from The Bad Oracle described the work as “a gorgeous, glamorous piece of small theater art, designed at its absolute best.” In nominating it as 4th place in Baltimore City Paper's Top Ten Staged Productions of 2016, Bret McCabe writes, "Annex company member Jacob Budenz flirted with biting off more than he could chew by adapting and directing Mikhail Bulgakov's carnavalesque Soviet satire, in which the Devil and his entourage come to Moscow. That Budenz and Annex pulled it off—with a nearly three-hour running time to boot—is due to its budget visual extravagance and the performers in two pivotal roles. Autumn Breaud brought a serene vulnerability to the star-crossed Margarita, while Martin Kasey nearly walked away with the production as Woland, playing this devilish figure like a Paul Lynde exterminating angel, the kind of judge, jury, and executioner who makes a wittily fey comment right before burning everything to the ground."
Everyone in the cast played 10+ characters, but below they are designated in alphabetical order alongside their primary roles: 
Autum Breaud: Margarita/Jesus
Emily Classen: Azazello
Theresa Columbus: Behemoth
Samy Figaredo: Koroviev
Terrance Fleming: Levi
Jonathan Jacobs: Berlioz
Sarah Jacqueline: Hella
Martin Kasey: Woland
Lucia Treasure: The Master/Pontius Pilate
Caitlin Weaver: Bezdomny

As a director, I also assembled a team of painters, musician, and costumers who helped me fully realize the opulent, operatic, over-the-top aesthetic of the play:
Set design: Zac Lawhon, Douglas Johnson, Frederick Gerriets
Costume design: Nicolette Le Faye
Lighting: Frederick Gerriets
Projection: David Crandall
Stage Manager: Ashley Saville

NOTE: Due to a high volume of actor nudity in this show, it was difficult to find appropriate video documentation to post here, but I've done my best to include work samples that show the breadth and scope of the production. 
  • Photo of Breaud and Columbus in a Visit Baltimore Guidebook
    Photo of Breaud and Columbus in a Visit Baltimore Guidebook
    This photo, by Dave Iden, appeared in a book entitled 11 PLACES IN BALTIMORE THAT YOU MUST NOT MISS, citing the Annex Theater. Here, Margarita bathes in a pool of acid and weeps with exhaustion midway through The Devil's ball, where she must act as his greeter in order to save The Master.
  • The Master and Margarita (Excerpt)
    Although I am unable to show much of the footage from this show due to nudity, this clip contains two scenes that I believe adequately showcase my work as a writer and director. In the first scene, Bezdomny (Caitlin Weaver) attempts to write a letter to the police detailing his disorienting experience with The Devil/Wolan (Martin Kasey). Adapting this scene for the stage was tricky, as much of Bezdomny's struggle in the book is internal and written in free, indirect discourse (prose that merges third person with a character's thoughts with no distinction between the two).
  • Figaredo and Fleming
    Figaredo and Fleming
    In his iconic role as Koroviev, the inimitable Samy Figaredo harasses, tricks, and frightens a businessman (Fleming in one of his minor roles) into a deal he might regret.
  • Pontius Pilate and Jesus
    Pontius Pilate and Jesus
    This image shows a tender moment between Jesus (Breaud) and Pilate (Treasure), presided over by a soldier (Classen) and scribe (Columbus). It's an example of the intentional challenging of gender norms, reimagining a patriarchal religious scene as one of matriarchal serenity. Although Pilate "must" rule for the death of Jesus, in Bulgakov's story he loathes the decision even more than the Biblical Pilate—Jesus intrigues and delights him, while clearing away his migraines. There is an almost-romantic intimacy between the two characters, which I exploit to its fullest by double casting with the two romantic leads.
  • The Devil and Azazello Conspire
    The Devil and Azazello Conspire
    The Devil (Kasey) and Azazello (Classen) conspire
  • Behemoth
    Theresa Columbus in her slapstick antics as the wily talking cat Behemoth
  • The Master & Margarita's Romance in Flashback
    The Master & Margarita's Romance in Flashback
    At the asylum, The Master (Treasure) tells the story of his love affair with Margarita (Breaud) to Bezdomny (Weaver), slipping in and out of flashback.
  • The Devil and His Retinue Begin Their Magic Show
    The Devil and His Retinue Begin Their Magic Show

At the Water's Edge (Composition and Music Direction, MICA Spring Production, 2019)

In 2019, I was hired by MICA to collaborate with Kanta Kochhar-Lingdren to compose music for her spring production and co-teach her studio class as the production's music director. The production, At the Water's Edge, was an interdisciplinary experimental work combining dance, theater, electronic composition, live singing, and projection art to retell the story of Shakespeare's Tempest from a post-colonial, climate justice perspective. In it, Cycarax and Calliban become the heroic voices of indigenous and marginalized communities, calling up Prospero to answer for his colonialist violence. This narrative, which was written by Dr. Kochhar-Lingdren, her students, and MICA writing faculty, is woven together with troubling climate justice statistics supplemented with dance performance and my own composition.

In terms of my own work in this production, I not only composed the score from the ground up, taught it to students, and co-taught studio devising lessons that combined Dr. Kochhar-Lingdren's movement training with experimental vocalization, but also created a unique score combining field recordings of focal images of the play like bees/the sounds of ice (recorded and contributed generously by Richard Devine), with environmental sounds, foley art, electronic instrumentation, abstract/experimental vocalization, and traditional melodic throughlines and structures. The result is a combination of surreal and abstract sounds coalescing into more "traditional" music at crucial inflection points of the play, although the melodic arrangements never lose the hint of environmental soundscape, and the abstract soundscapes are interwoven with moments of melody. I was also tasked ad hoc as a lyricist; although I didn't write much text from the ground up (except the "Glacial Dirge Reprise," a riff on Shakespeare's "Full Fathom Five" monologue from the original source material), I was tasked with taking poetry and prose and editing it to fit into representational melodic song structures. 

At the Water's Edge was a game-changing and empowering artistic experience for me: I was paid a professional rate to compose music from the ground up, write that music for the voices of specific people standing before me, teach that music to students while helping them build new performance competencies through my music direction, and hone my own skills in digital composition that would go on to supplement my live performances, freeing my performance persona Dreambaby up for the first time to move about the stage and sing rather than remain static at the keyboard. 

Although much detail is lost in the live video recording, this set of samples contains a sample of live video to sample moments of my compositions in action, as performed by the ensemble or played underneath their performances. It also contains a selection of audio and sheet music. 
  • At the Water's Edge Poster
    At the Water's Edge Poster
  • 0.3.4—Sycorax's Song
    In generating digital "backup" for Savannah Imani Wade (the singer here, playing Sycorax), I am fortunate to have gotten a studio recording of the vocal melody). Sycorax, divine mother and beekeeper, returns to orchestrate the reckoning and sings a song of invocation. The track uses real bee recordings and also envisions Sycorax's backup as a chorus of bees. Sycorax's character, though ancient, evokes themes of futurism—hence the heavy processing on the recorded vocals to mirror that.
  • 2.4.1—Prospero's Song
    Prospero (played by Zachary Morhaim) is the voice of the colonizer in AT THE WATER'S EDGE, and as such I wanted his solo to reflect that. Prospero, having appropriated ancient indigenous magic from Calliban and Sycorax, interrupts Sycorax's monologue to chastise (and mansplain) to her about how she cannot possibly understand true sorcery. Consistent with the play's themes, Zach's solo is the only one that has no interaction with environmental soundscape; pure synth, it is utterly disconnected from the physical and, to an extent, the overall musical aesthetics of the show. I wanted to give Prospero a solo that was still catchy, but whose goofy grooves (inspired by Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo) juxtapose Prospero's self-serious tone. Zachary does a splendid job with his interpretation, pushing his bass tones to their very limit.
  • 0.4.2—Who Carries the Earth?
    In "Who Carries the Earth," Caliban (played by Alexus Crockett) laments the betrayal of Prospero, underscoring the exploitation of "friendly" indigenous people by colonizers. The ensemble enacts movement over my score composed of drums, samples courtesy of Richard Devine of cooling lava, bees, and ice cracking. It sits firmly in between pure soundscape and music, offering a rhythmic element to accompany environmental sound.
  • 0.1.4—Echolocation
    This recording sits firmly on the abstract/surreal end of the composition spectrum. It combines samples of echolocation from bats and whales, samples of ocean waves, and the experimental/reactive vocalizations of my students recorded in-studio. Occasionally, this soundscape or adjacent tracks played beneath sections of movement, with the ensemble "echolocating" with each other as well as the music across the space, interacting with abstractly implemented recordings of their own voices in real time.
  • Glacial Dirge & Reprise Sheet Music
    This sample contains sheet music and lyrics for the "Glacial Dirge" and its reprise sung by a chorus of sculptural glaciers. The first dirge sets William Shakespeare's iconic "Full Fathom Five" poem from TEMPEST to music, and the second dirge includes my own lyrics that are a hopeful riff on the original.
  • 1.4.2—Utopia/Dystopia
    This stretch of performance couches Damla Yenigun's solo, "Utopia/Dystopia," between information about real climate catastrophe recited by the ensemble. Beneath these snapshots of text delivered by the ensemble, you will hear a reprisal of "Echolocation," which inactive performers interact with quietly while another performer speaks. Lamentably, the sound quality makes the details difficult to hear, especially the beautiful vocal stylings of Damla. Still, there is value in including both environmental soundscape and melodic interpretation in context of the work as a whole.

Writing & Publishing (Selected Publications & Performances)

Although my work runs the gamut of composition, performance, music, and writing, my MFA is ultimately in creative writing and I would be remiss not to feature some of my more prominent publications. I am primarily published as a poet and a fiction writer with work that operates generally under the "speculative" umbrella focusing on encounters between the queer and the otherworldly (with an undercurrent of environmental justice pervading much of my work) through fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, fabulism (the more politically correct term for "magic realist" inspired writing that was not written in Latin America), and various forms of contemporary poetry. Aesthetically, I am interested in lush, maximalist imagery, voice-driven narratives, spellwork, incantation, the grotesque, and myth both new and reconstructed. Thematically, my writing explores queer relationships as they intersect with the pressures of capitalism and normativity, gender and body horror, environmental justice, and a heavy dose of witchcraft!

As mentioned, performance is still a major component even of my published work. Among PDFs of published work, this section also contains performances of prose and poetry. In context of my body of work as a performer, these performances of my prose and poetry shows a gentler, more "stripped down" performance approach than my often over-the-top theatrical or musical acting. When I perform my own work, I prefer for the focus to be on the words and images themselves, and my presentation of this work both visually and sonically underscores rather than interprets the written word. Of course, I am still "acting out" the words in my expression and tone, but I approach these recitations more as incantation than monologue. 

I keep a relatively updated list of publications on my website, including clippings of recent reviews and links to some of my online work. 

  • Fantasmas

    Mediums: poetry, theatrical performance, theatrical direction, performance art, movement Featuring movement by Isa Leal, "Fantasmas" is both a poetry performance and a performance art piece about bilingualism and what is "lost in translation." While living in Spain, I wrote the poem I'm performing in this piece in a combination of English and Castillian Spanish (making heavy use of "vosotros," a casual second person plural conjugation that is seldom utilized outside of Spain). Even the writing of this poem is itself meant as a performance of cross-continental linguistic exchange, and the poem itself was always intended to be performed. In this performance, I perform the poem once, then perform it again translating all the English lines into Spanish and all the Spanish lines into English, creating a mirror image. Isa Leal interprets the mood and meaning of the poem through movement, and excerpts of Viridiana are projected silently over us both for the film's somnambulist themes and Luis Buñuel's own cross-continental movement. In 2015, the most publishing-friendly version of this poem was published in Hinchas de Poesia magazine.

  • Blood Moon Blood Bath (Apartscape 2020)
    Blood Moon Blood Bath (Apartscape 2020)
    In July of 2020, I filmed myself reading a selection of prose and poetry unified by the theme of body horror, gender dysphoria, and the occult: "Blood Moon" and"Ano/Rite?" (both originally published in Assaracus Journal in 2016 and reprinted in both Pussy Magic Press AND my chapbook in 2018), as well as "Tea Leaves" published online via Gingerbread House Lit Mag. Rather than treat this performance as a traditional poetry reading, I filled a bathtub with fake blood (water mixed with tempura paint) and read each piece overall in character as a beauty influencer sharing their cosmetic regiment. This is a prime example of combining performance with my writing work, in which each piece is recontextualized in the way it's presented. "Blood Moon" was also nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net Prize by Pussy Magic in 2018. Both "Blood Moon" and "Ano/Rite?" can be read here ( or in my chapbook sample, "Tea Leaves" can be found here (, and the performance should still be archived on Day 3 of Apartscape via their Facebook page:[0]=AZWGM_Op-gOMaVCtFXZLYc9iTM3kZSo78S9d28NqApxsCbU_lxAYLePEkzspXGcSOnY6zmxNukJqMeqEXBiZmhsUT68u5fBnmVvtP5u-sH7qGCMdTdlXloi90jzupxZr9sS5HdTthWsJEQCFjj21voT1quy_CB96BJPw0MyfC-TJgpPmje-y8wEqB6ZiXvGYTHl-hoKwYWJ9tNJUzOgyUha7&__tn__=-]C-R
  • Earth Is the Target! / We Are the Trigger! / Ashes! Ashes! / We Don't Fall Down!
    "Earth Is the Target! / We Are the Trigger! / Ashes! Ashes! / We Don't Fall Down!"combines original poetry, composition, visuals, and performance in a surreal dystopian video performance. Though I originally published the piece in 2015 through The Light Ekphrastic alongside the work of Sejong Cho, I re-imagined it as a performance in 2020 due to its timely themes of the apocalyptic excesses of capitalism for a dystopian digital drag show organized by CYBER DISTANCING, a digital drag collaborative in New Orleans. A few short clips layered into the video collage-style come from open sources named in the credits at the end of the video, but the reading and poem, as well as all moving images, are my own. Because this was created for a digital drag show, and because I do not identify as a film artist, I consider this piece a video performance exploiting the breadth of the medium, as well as an embracing of digital performance in the age of a pandemic.
  • PASTEL WITCHERIES (Poetry Chapbook published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2018)
    PASTEL WITCHERIES was my first chapbook publication. Originally accepted for publication by Ink Press Productions in 2017, then the winner of Birds Piled Loosely's Hard to Swallow Chapbook Contest as the long game of publishing often goes, PASTEL WITCHERIES was finally published in Seven Kitchen Press's Summer Kitchens Chapbook Series after being a finalist in their Keystone Chapbook competition. PASTEL WITCHERIES contains a dozen poetic works focused on the queer/trans/non-binary body in all its beauty as poetry becomes incantation, ritual becomes recitation, and bodies shift in a glory of metamorphosis. Although it would be unethical to publish a PDF of the original published chapbook, I own the rights to the poems attached and included a screenshot of the book cover & info in the attached sample for reference.
  • Under Her White Stars (Fiction, published in Mason Jar Press's BROKEN METROPOLIS anthology, 2018)
    BROKEN METROPOLIS: QUEER TALES OF A CITY THAT NEVER WAS is a critically acclaimed, conceptual queer anthology edited by dave ring, soliciting works of urban speculative fiction—that is, fiction featuring nameless cities that falls under the speculative (sci-fi/fantasy) umbrella. "Under Her White Stars" is my contribution to this anthology featuring a non-binary narrator, a witch and gifted healer who pursues a life of bounty hunting resulting in dire consequences for their mortal partner. "Under Her White Stars" is probably the most traditional fantasy story I've released—whereas much of my writing occupies a more literary realm of speculative fiction, "Under Her White Stars," while dealing with very real pressures in queer relationships, is more of an adventure fantasy piece.
  • And Then Again to the Next (Fiction, published in Wizards in Space Magazine, 2021)
    "And Then Again to the Next" is an experimental, non-linear work of short fiction about a queer couple that meets across incarnations, but only in doomed cities—covering myths like Ys and Sodom & Gomorrah alongside real, historical catastrophes like Pompeii and visions of the future of climate change.

    In the PDF, I've included a picture of myself holding the issue of Wizards in Space in which my work appears!
  • To Be in Love with the Void
    Another performance of my work, "To Be in Love with the Void" (a poem), for OutWrite 2021's VoidJunk Review posted by dave ring of Neon Hemlock Press. Although I also composed an electronic score for the other featured works in this strange experience, I include here only my performance of my own poem with a light drone soundscape underneath. Like "Earth Is the Target!" I consider this piece to exist more in the realm of digital performance than film, as the focus is on creating sound and visual to appropriately complement the performance of the poetry itself.
  • Ano/Rite? (Digital Performance for Mind on Fire, 2020)
    Yet another opportunity to embrace the medium of digital performance and explore new ways of sharing poetry, Mind on Fire commissioned work from artists with whom they collaborated, and I presented my poem "Ano/Rite?" (which you can read in my chapbook PDF) through performance with dance by Alexander D'Agostino. True to Mind on Fire's at home curation, the performance was shot lo-res on cellular phone, emphasizing its firm categorization as digital poetry performance rather than an attempt at DIY filmmaking. Alexander D'Agostino and I filmed one another on iPhones, and I edited the performances together and underscored them with my own electronic composition.
  • The Age of Oceanus (Prologue)
    I'm including here the prologue to my current work in progress, a colorful dystopian about climate change and the death of myth called THE AGE OF OCEANUS. Here, the death of a river goddess in Mexico, captured on camera, goes viral and sparks a worldwide "sport" of capturing the climate-induced death of sacred beings.
  • Medea Was an Aries with a Scorpio Moon (Poetry Published by The Wondrous Real, 2021)
    Though previous samples of performance as well as my chapbook should give a good idea of my poetic aesthetic overall, I would be remiss not to include this new poem, "Medea Was an Aries with a Scorpio Moon," which was published by The Wondrous Real Magazine and subsequently nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net!

SIMAETHA: a Dreambaby Cabaret at the Carroll Mansion (2020) and Annex Theater (2017)

Mediums:  performing arts (theatrical performance, direction, set design), literary arts (poetry, drama, fiction), music (vocal performance, piano performance, electronic composition), performance art (ritual)

In January 2020, with the help of a Baker Innovative Projects Grant, I had the opportunity to revamp my original 70-minute cabaret experience, SIMAETHA: a Dreambaby Cabaret at the historic Carroll Mansion. Originally, I performed a draft of the work in 2017 at the Annex Theater.

The through-line of the work is primarily one long monologue about a queer, immortal witch performed by me, occasionally broken up by my musical performances, my rituals (sometimes including audience participation), and even once by a "chapter" involving dialogue from Alexander D'Agostino, who dances throughout the performance. The "plot," as it were, is loose; Simaetha, interpreted by my performance persona Dreambaby, weaves the story of the life of an immortal witch through various cyclical phases, drawing from the neopagan Maiden/Mother/Crone archetypes but reinterpreting these timelines as part of a repeating circle rather than a linear lifespan. Thus, the visual and sonic aesthetic of the play is anachronistic, reimagining Theocritus's Ancient Greek Idyll II (from which the play derives its title) as a ritual underscored with electronic composition, combining contemporary costuming with anecdotes and scenes from bygone eras, imposing modern language on ancient stories or classical language on contemporary ones. The themes of the play are heavy—misogyny, domestic abuse, societal other, suicide—but delivered with dark humor and culminating in a catharsis in which audience members are encouraged to burn symbolic representations of negative cycles in their own lives. 

Although technically SIMAETHA is most easily categorized as a theater piece and does involve a heavy amount of singing and dance, I have always envisioned it more as a performance art piece or a live storytelling experience as it shares little in common with the reigning aesthetics of musical theater or the conventions of experimental theater; it can more accurately be described as a persona performance pulling in elements of song, theater, and music to create something greater—and more haunting—than the sum of its parts. I perform all the music live either via piano or singing along to electronic compositions I created, often while Alexander D'Agostino supplements my music performance with his haunting, aesthetically singular movement; the music, while all electronically composed or played live by me, combined original songs ("The Witch's Lover" and "Fly Trap") with covers (such as "Black for the Occasion" and "Hope There's Someone" by queer artists Heidrik and Anhohni, respectively). Another major sonic component was spoken word poetry layered over top of electronic composition, which also served as sound for Alexander D'Agostino to interpret through dance. The show is an homage to queerness and gender fluidity, with D'Agostino flouting gendered dance norms with balletic pointe work, a reigning gamut of genderfluid costuming, and fluidity of pronoun use throughout. It is a gleeful culmination of many of the themes throughout my body of work. 

Laurence Ross of Bmore Art writes, “And what SIMAETHA gets precisely right is its most potent, thematic refrain: that a man as a savior is the greatest myth, the most foolish fantasy of all… Dialogue, poetry, cover song, choreography, and original score are woven together in a dynamic method of storytelling—and it’s worth noting that Budenz’s words and voice both ring, in intervals, with beauty and terror. These shifting modalities allow for not only surprise but for tragicomedy to emerge. In a show that deals with systemic abuse, gender inequality, femme discrimination, slut shaming, and ageism, deadpan humor and comedic juxtaposition manage to make enough room for laughter.”
  • The Flyer for SIMAETHA in 2020
    The Flyer for SIMAETHA in 2020
    I designed the flyer for SIMAETHA, editing together a hand graphic (purchased and licensed) and an open source illustration of a demon which I edited.
  • In Season + Ergets Shtil/Baym Taykh
    Mediums: poetry, electronic composition, singing, theatrical performance (voiceover) The sonic pièce de résistance of SIMAETHA: A DREAMBABY CABARET (one of the main multidisciplinary works in my portfolio), "In Season + Ergets Shtil/Baym Taykh" is a sonic and literary collage combining my own English poetry and electronic composition with a new interpretation of a Yiddish folk song. "Ergets Shtil/Baym Taykh (Softly Somewhere/At the River)" was originally a Klezmer song by Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics, itself a mashup of two separate Yiddish poems set to music in 1998. My own arrangement reimagines the iconic Yiddish folk mashup as a synth pop song with my own neoclassical vocal stylings and techno instrumentation, as well as mashes it up with my own English-language poem, "In Season," performed as a spoken word piece over abstract instrumentation that transitions smoothly into my reimagining of the Klezmer hit.
  • Photo of Dreambaby (Me) Performing Black for the Occasion
    Photo of Dreambaby (Me) Performing "Black for the Occasion"
    The title is self explanatory; this is a photo early in the show, before I reveal into a costume inspired by a black widow spider. Taken by Alex Budenz
  • Action Shot of Participatory Burning Ritual
    Action Shot of Participatory Burning Ritual
    At the beginning of the show, audience members receive a small sheet of flash paper and the instruction to write down a cycle in their life that they know needs to end. At the end of the show, as the calm and collected Crone witch, I collect what they've written and burn it in this glass egg before performing the last song. Photo by Alex Budenz
  • Set Details for SIMAETHA
    Set Details for SIMAETHA
    Making full use of the space available at the Carroll Mansion, for the set I wanted to create the feeling that the audience was in a witch's home, invited to sit by her hearth and tell stories. As a result, the room is not decorated as a traditional "set" (barring a couple of purple curtains in the back for changing) but rather decorated like the living room in a witch's house to create a more immersive, intimate feel.
  • Queer Migration Patterns
    Another pure soundscape + poetry + dance piece, "Queer Migration Patterns" reinterprets lines from "Masque of the Red Death" and explores the ways in which queer peopls have been blamed historically for natural disasters and plagues. In live performance, Alexander D'Agostino performs a slow crawl of a movement piece after being symbolically resurrected from his last character's suicide.
  • Fly Trap
    "Fly Trap" is the new song written to replace Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song" from the 2017 performance of it. In the 2020 production, Alexander D'Agostino plays the apart of a domestic abuser who doubles as a ghost that haunts generations of witches in Simaetha's family.
  • Excerpt from early, DIY draft of SIMAETHA (Annex Theater, 2017)
    Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench in my plans to document and tour SIMAETHA (I had shows confirmed in DC and New Orleans). However, some ephemeral documentation from the original performance exists. Although this scene is not representative of the overall quality of the show—it's been almost entirely re-written, with soundscape and movement to accompany the poem and a new song written for the 2020 production—I include this early draft in part to show how the aesthetic, quality, and performance value of the show has evolved in comparison with the accompanying music files and photographs.
  • Alexander D'Agostino, Blindfolded, Joins me for a Ritual Libation
    Alexander D'Agostino, Blindfolded, Joins me for a Ritual Libation
  • Excerpt of the Performance Text
    Although I lament the lack of video documentation for the Baker Innovative Projects Grant revamp of SIMAETHA, I include the script here which I hope, in context of the sound samples and photos provided, gives a firmer understanding of the content of the show. This excerpt takes place after the opening song—here, SIMAETHA ("THE WITCH" in the script) introduces herself and describes the purpose of her time with the audience. Included in here is one of the "collaged" elements of the show, which is an excerpt of Theocritus's "Idyll II" from which the show derives its name and inspiration. "Idyll II" is performed as a "real" love spell, incanted and song over a spooky soundscape I created for the show.

Acting & Stage Performance (2012-Present)

Mediums: theatrical performance (acting), writing, devising, directing

Since debuting with the Baltimore Annex Theater in 2012, I have been a regular staple of the Baltimore theater community as an actor in various indie productions. I was officially a resident actor for the Annex Theater from 2014-2017 where I was featured in two City Paper Best of Baltimore Awards (as Cucurucu in Marat/Sade in 2014 and Pup in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover in 2015) and starred in several acclaimed roles such as Alan Strang in Equus (2013) and Simon in our original devised adaptation of The Lord of the Flies (2016), which I co-wrote with Rjyan Kidwell, Sarah Jacqueline, Madison Coan, and Sarah Lamar. I also originated the lead role of Karl Glogauer in a new adaptation of Michael Moore's Behold the Man by Connor Kizer at the EMP Collective in 2015, starred as Timon in Shakespeare and Middleton's rarely performed Timon of Athens at The Mercury Theater in 2019, and originated the role of Miss Docent in Christine Ferrera's Cats, Criminals, and Comedians in 2019, which I also co-directed and co-devised and which we performed in Baltimore, DC, and New York with star-studded opening acts like Megan Stalter (at Vital Joint in NYC) and Olu Butterfly (at the Mercury Theater in Baltimore). 

Although my most major directing project (The Master and Margarita) can be found in a separate project, I do bring my skills in the mediums of writing, directing, and devising to several of these shows. Namely, I co-wrote and collaboratively devised Lord of the Flies, co-write and co-designed the episode of The Shades linked in my samples along with other episodes in that series, wrote the vocal melody for the Sharkboyd theme song although I am not properly credited for that contribution in the video linked here, and co-devised/co-directed Cats, Criminals, and Comedians in addition to performing in them. In Timon of Athens, I also assisted in costume design in that all the opulent clothes and jewelry worn by my character are my own, which I chose at the request of the head costume designer.

  • Cucurucu, Marat/Sade (2014)
    Cucurucu, Marat/Sade (2014)

    In 2014, I performed as Cucurucu in the iconic quartet in Peter Weiss's MARAT/SADE (the colloquial name for the play's full title: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade). The title of the play describes its conceit; as actors, we were in character as troubled inmates at an asylum attempting to put on a play, so the challenge of Cucurucu was two-fold: two execute my song, dance, and performance accurately, but to do so as a person with pathological hyperactivity and impulse control disorders struggling to keep himself stable. MARAT/SADE won Baltimore City Paper's Best Staged Production of 2014. In addition to acting, the directors named me vocal captain during rehearsals to assist fellow singers in warming up and learning their music. 

  • Excerpt of Baltimoratory: a Diad of Speeches on the Salem Witch Trials

    In September of 2022, I had the opportunity to perform for Lucia Treasure's Baltimoratory, in which I served as actor, co-writer, and dramaturg for a diad of speeches on the Salem Witch Trials. I began with a devised ritual invocation of the infamous Samuel Parris, whose sermons are considered one of the major catalysts for fear mongering, and then had Treasure "snuff me out" as I stripped down to a simple dress and delivered a speech by Elie Weisel on the contemporary impact of the witch trials, opting in the latter to deliver the speech as myself rather than in character. 

  • The Backer's Audition - Impassioned Embraces directed by Lucia Treasure
    CW: suicidal ideation, guns In IMPASSIONED EMBRACES, I had the delight of acting in many comedic sketches including this solo monologue, "The Backer's Audition," which follows an unhinged would-be playwright who goes to extreme lengths in pitching her ill-conceived play about Thoreau to an audience of bemused Broadway backers. For this monologue, I had the pleasure of bringing to life parodies of Broadway hits like "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and adding just the right mix of sincere belting and the occasional, purposefully clunky note.
  • Sharkboyd S2 E6: The One with the Twist
    Contrary to the title, Sharkboyd S2 E6: The One with the Twist was a standalone slapstick comedy play written by Trevor Willhelms and directed by Martin Kasey for the Mondo Festo Ten Minute Play Festival in 2015. A raunchy parody of prime time kid's TV, Sharkboyd (played by me) is a half-shark half-teen whose evil brother, Henry Kissinger, attempts to sabotage Sharboyd's running in the National Championships for Moral Relativity.
  • Cats, Criminals & Comedians @ The Mercury Theater 2019 (excerpt)
    In Christine Ferrera's CATS, CRIMINALS, AND COMEDIANS: THE UNTOLD HERSTORY OF FEMINIST PERFORMANCE ART, I had the opportunity to occupy a purely comedic role—a rarity for me, as I'm often cast in villainous, tragic (or tragicomic) roles. The show is a parody lecture on feminist performance, straddling the line between performance art, comedy, and experimental theater. My role, MISS DOCENT 2019, acted as a true docent (supposedly winning the role by way of a beauty pageant) showcasing the prop ephemera from these made-up moments in performance history, a mime/clown to act out the various moments in feminist performance art "herstory," and an MC to introduce the opening acts of our show and set the comedic tone. The attached footage is an excerpt compilation edited together by Ferrera that showcases some of the slapstick comedy of this role.
  • Simon, Lord of the Flies (2016)
    Simon, Lord of the Flies (2016)
    LORD OF THE FLIES was an experimental, devised dystopian play inspired by William Golding’s similarly titled novel written by Madison Coan, Sarah Jacqueline, Rjyan Kidwell, Sarah Lamar, and myself. Using the archetypal characters presented in Golding’s novel, the play takes place on the semi-fictitious Plum Island, where a lockdown during a press tour of the biochemical weaponry building drives the scientists to extreme measures. After casting four additional actors, we proceeded to devise the show with no director as a way of experimenting with the work’s themes of authority and power balance. As Simon, I had the opportunity to show a softer side of my performance repertoire, as our Simon is a sensitive researcher who cares deeply for the animals upon which numerous ethically dubious tests are conducted. Here are some blurbs about my performance from various reviewers: “Budenz’s acting is spot on, detached yet loving, juvenile but responsible, hesitant and also a bit clairvoyant.”—Pandora Locks from The Bad Oracle “Simon is easily the most sympathetic role—a power Budenz wields beautifully as he interrupts the frenzied multi-character scenes with monologues… these quieter, uncanny moments bring even more discomfort than the livelier scenes.”—Maura Callahan of Baltimore City Paper “The most intriguing character, Simon, a gentle scientist with a readily shared knowledge of coconut crabs, fits Jacob Budenz perfectly. The actor’s boyish voice gives Simon a disarming innocence, a certain angelic quality, even. If you remember your Golding, you’ll have a good idea of Simon’s fate, but Budenz still manages to make it surprising and affecting. He gives the play its heart.” Tim Smith of The Baltimore Sun The monologues to which Callahan refers to above are a four-part fairytale about a coconut crab I wrote into the script, a story that foreshadows the events of the play about a coconut crab who is unable to grow his own shell and subsequently killed by a mob of his fellow crabs when he finally finds his own strength.
  • The Shades 1.04 - The Lover and The Fool
    From 2014-2015, I had the joy of playing the role of Angelo in The Shades, a comedic web series about a neighborhood of religious extremists. Included in my acting reels for the sake of variety, Angelo offers a contrast to the dark, often-unhinged characters I often play. One half of a polyamorous pagan partnership, Angelo is the embodiment of awkward cheer and smiling condescension. In this episode, which I also co-wrote, Angelo and his partner Jade have an absurd, passive aggressive argument through Tarot cards about the boundaries of their polyamory. Meant more as a surreal parody of paganism, Angelo and my work in The Shades still remains consistent with overarching themes of my work: namely the role of the occult in othered sexualities/relationships.
  • Timon of Athens (Title Role, 2019, Mercury Theater)
    In 2019, I starred in Martin Kasey's independently funded production of TIMON OF ATHENS (a rarely performed Elizabethan classic by Shakespeare and Middleton), about a rich, generous Athenian socialite and his fall from grace and power. In this clip right before intermission, Timon has finally been pushed over the edge; he has incurred massive debts that have rapidly caught up to him because of boundless generosity to his friends, the same "friends" who have become his debt collectors and refuse to reciprocate his generosity to save him from destitution. The opening monologue of this excerpt is a sinister mirror to a sincere speech from the beginning of the play, in which Timon ardently thanks the gods for his friends; here, he tricks those same friends into a mock banquet at which he serves them dog food and proceeds to heap a curse on the town of Athens before running away to the woods.
  • Alan Strang, Equus (2013)
    Alan Strang, Equus (2013)
    Though technically my second role in an indie production in Baltimore, Equus was the first role in which I had the opportunity to make a true splash, a role which solidified my place in Baltimore indie performance and led to opportunities like ROOMS FALL APART (the last of the iconic Rooms Play series) and even La Xata La Rifa (an arts and music festival on the north coast of Spain). Contrary to many of the more drugged-out portrayal’s of Alan, director Mason Ross and I worked on an Alan who was more overtly manic but ultimately still the tragic and sympathetic character the script calls for. The show performed to oversold houses, and ultimately the two week run was extended to four weeks due to popular demand. City Paper’s Geoffry Himes reported that I “radiate a high voltage thrill,” saying, “As Alan, Jacob Budenz gives us the cool hipster and pagan rebel the dialogue often calls for, but the slender, mohawked actor also reveals the scared, sexually stifled little boy behind all the bluster.” In The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, Jen Diamond said, “Budenz led the production gracefully as Alan Strang, a troubled teenager obsessed with horses… Budenz’s vibrant energy enticed the audience as he swung from bouts of wild-eyed mania to fearful moments of childlike anxiety.”
  • Pup in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (2014)
    Pup in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (2014)
    Photo by Carly Bales

Event Production & Curation (Various Posters & Ephemera, 2015-Present)

Both as Dreambaby and as myself, I have had the pleasure of curating, producing, and hosting a variety of events over the years. Here, I include a repository of those events. I made all the posters except for GEM, which was created by Kristen McWharter. 

I was the sole organizer for all events presented here except Proxima Arcanum (co-organized with dave ring) and Tooth Fair (co-organized with Devin Martin and Dessie Delaplaine), coordinating with all the performers myself and, in the case of Zoom shows, both running and hosting the show entirely on my own. 

  • Tooth Fair
    Tooth Fair

    For Tooth Fair, I co-organized and co-hosted a stage show and tooth-oriented market with Dessie Delaplaine and Devin Martin featuring a number of local artists and performers. Solidifying an ongoing collaboration with Delaplaine (followed by Florror Show, referenced in the Dreambaby section), we have continued to organize popup events that bring back the spirit of the carnivalesque to Baltimore. 

  • Spellbinder Salon(s)
    Spellbinder Salon(s)

    In summer 2022 and winter 2023, I organized and hosted two pop-up salons called the Spellbinder Salon at Black Cherry Puppet Theater and The Crown, where performers from numerous disciplines presented new work, revised work, or work-in-progress. The events featured Valeska Populoh, Rae Red, Talbolt Johnson, Rahne Alexander, Sylvia Jones, The Lyre Leaves, and more. In addition to organizing and MCing the events I presented new environmental work with poetry, soundscape, ritual, and singing. 

  • Proxima Arcanum
    Proxima Arcanum

    In 2023, I collaborated with Current Space and Neon Hemlock editor dave ring on the launch of Proxima Arcanum, a queer literary reading series and esoteric market featuring poets, fiction writers, esoteric vendors, and Tarot readers. We have events in May, July, August, and October, and I MCed all events. 

  • Tarot Ball & Holiday Market (Rituals 2019)
    Tarot Ball & Holiday Market (Rituals 2019)
    The Tarot Ball at Rituals was one of the most ambitious events I ever produced, with a rockstar list of performers and vendors (all listed on this poster). Rahne Alexander and I read Tarot at the event, as well, and we both performed in a variety show I MCed. Audience members were encouraged to dress as Tarot cards, and they did not disappoint!
  • GEM: a Reflection on Siblinghood (Gallery CA, 2015)
    GEM: a Reflection on Siblinghood (Gallery CA, 2015)
    In 2015, LabBodies gave me the opportunity to curate a night of performance art pieces meditating on Gemini energy—twins and twin-like energy. It was also a rare opportunity to curate a performance art piece with my sister in which we reflected on misogyny and our own experiences of sexual assault and abuse. Poster by Kristen Nicole McWharter.
  • Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret (Zoom, 2020)
    Mayfair: a Dreambaby Cabaret (Zoom, 2020)
    One of my COVID-19 Cabarets featuring a star-studded cast that included Amorous Ebony and Gingerwitch (local) as well as Jeremy Mikush (California) and acts from New Orleans among others. I produced, hosted, and performed in this show which was themed around Beltane and fire energy.
  • DIADEM: a Digital Dreambaby Cabaret (Zoom, 2020)
    DIADEM: a Digital Dreambaby Cabaret (Zoom, 2020)
    Similar to MAYFAIR, in April 2020 I curated a live Zoom "cabaret" featuring artists from all over the country, including indie drag legends like moon baby (Philadelphia) and Vinsantos (New Orleans) as well as former Baltimorean Christine Ferrera (Chicago), New Orleans writers Carmin Wong and Christopher Romaguera, and more.
  • Witchy Wednesdays (Rituals, 2019-2020)
    Witchy Wednesdays (Rituals, 2019-2020)
    This poster is from my very last live event before the pandemic, one of my "Witchy Wednesdays" at Rituals. This was a monthly series in which a guest Tarot reader and myself would read Tarot for a few hours, and I would wrap the night up with a performance (as would my guest reader, if they performed). This one featured Rae Sunshine; other Tarot guests included Alexander D'Agostino and Jennifer Shannon.
  • NOSTOS: a Dreambaby Cabaret (2019)
    NOSTOS: a Dreambaby Cabaret (2019)
    NOSTOS: a Dreambaby Cabaret was my first live show back in Baltimore after 2.5 years in graduate school! Performed at the historic Peale Center.
  • Spells & Songs for the Winter Solstice (Zoom, 2020)
    Spells & Songs for the Winter Solstice (Zoom, 2020)
    My very last Zoom show was on December 21st, 2021 featuring some of my usual guests. The show was such a success with hundreds of views—and ample donations that enabled me to pay performers well—that I decided to "quit while I was ahead," fatigued by the Zoom format and wanting to focus my attention on writing and recording instead.

Assorted Performance Art Photos

I was most active in the performance art scene from 2013-2016, at the height of the Transmodern Festival and before the closure of many DIY and warehouse venues in 2017. Though video documentation of this period of my exploration has disappeared, I include here a few stills from various performance art pieces over the years. 

  • The Coral Sings
    The Coral Sings

    For one of my Spellbinder Salon pieces, I merged a couple of my own poems, "The Coral Sings" and "As, in Mourning," with a video collage of coral science, environmental pollution, and a minimal doom synth cover of "End of the World" by Skeeter Davis. This piece was a followup to my previous environmental performance art piece, "Apology for the Divine Masculine" in the summer of 2022, which focused on the relationship between extractive capitalism and masculine violence. 

    In "The Coral Sings," I pre-recorded the poems to appear within the soundscape, lit candles, performed a ritual drowning of thrifted plastic machines in pink sand and water, and sang "End of the World" live in symbolic mourning and vengeance for coral reefs. 

  • Us: The Love Story of Icarus and the Sun
    Us: The Love Story of Icarus and the Sun
    "Us: The Love Story of Icarus and the Sun" was adurational, interactive re-imagining of the myth of Icarus performed for Laboddies' 2014 Transmodern Festival event, Over/Under Limbo Lab. Contextualizing Icarus in the underworld after his drowning, "Us" retold the Icarus myth as a tragic queer love story between Icarus and the sun god Helios through a combination of poetry, interactive dialogue, and obsessive word games.
  • Pastel Witch (2015-2016)
    Pastel Witch (2015-2016)
    "Pastel Witch" was a series of durational performances in which I recorded various texts I had written and enacted combinations of rehearsed and improvised interactive rituals in a celebration of queerness combining the pedestrian with the sacred. Many of the texts (including the title text) later appeared in my chapbook, PASTEL WITCHERIES, available as a PDF in my writing section. Here, I am depicted at Current Space performing the piece as part of the Transmodern Festival, but this piece also appeared at the EMP Collective (2015), Fields Fest (2016), and LabBodies' Borders/Boundaries/Barricades festival (2016)
  •  A Spell to Draw You Near (2014)
    A Spell to Draw You Near (2014)
    "A Spell to Draw You Near" was a performance art ritual cleansing about an experience I had with a stalker, brought to life with textual performance by me, dance by Alexander D'Agostino, and cello by Kate Porter. The proections were lended generously by Ben O'Brien. This piece was originally performed as part of a capstone project at Johns Hopkins and is depicted here from a performance art salon at the EMP Collective.
  • Sphinx & Co. Traveling Tent Show
    Sphinx & Co. Traveling Tent Show
    "Sphinx & Co. Traveling Tent Show" was a durational performance inspired by the life cycle developed in collaboration with Theresa Columbus, Ren Pepitone (pictured here), Madeline Joan, and Dana Woodson. Each member of the "company" developed a piece inspired by the life cycle. Here, Ren and I act out "Birth," a story about a fox who creates and protects an egg, mystically reproducing asexually.
  • Masque of the Red Death - Metamfiesi 2015
    Masque of the Red Death - Metamfiesi 2015
    A the Annex Theater's masquerade fundraiser, Metamfiesi, I developed an interactive piece centered around Edgar Allen Poe's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. In it, I wandered around the banquet whispering lines of the original work into the ears of party guests. Throughout the night, my physically health declined, and as partygoers were ushered upstairs to a series of performances, I revealed (by writing on a mirror in lipstick by the door where they passed) that they had been interacting with the plague all this time.