Since 1998, Joe’s Pub has been synonymous with New York’s downtown performance and music scene — now it’s trying a pilot program in Seattle with shows by Justin Vivian Bond, Lady Rizo and Molly Pope.

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Joe’s Pub is a performance-art nerve center in New York City — an intimate, “alt-cabaret” space attached to the Public Theater that has presented and incubated both experimental artists and household names.

Amy Winehouse and Adele made their U.S. headliner debuts at Joe’s, which has also hosted art-minded musicians like David Byrne and Laurie Anderson, avant-garde drag “fool” Taylor Mac, hard-to-define clown singer Puddles Pity Party, actor Alan Cumming, songwriter Neko Case, powerhouse transgender performer Justin Vivian Bond (of Kiki and Herb fame) and many others.

Now Joe’s Pub, on a pilot basis, is exporting some of its favorite artists to Houston and Seattle, including three dates in late 2016 at Teatro ZinZanni’s Spiegeltent.

Theater preview

Joe’s Pub Seattle presents Justin Vivian Bond

Saturday, Oct. 15, at 11:30 p.m. Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-$40 (206-802-0015 or

“We only have 184 seats in Joe’s Pub and we sell out almost all our shows, and that’s great,” said Joe’s director Shanta Thake. “But we know there’s an audience outside of those walls.” Seattle, she said, seemed like a natural fit, “another like-minded city in terms of transgressive narrative, fringe stories … let’s see if the Joe’s Pub name can carry all those positive associations beyond New York.”

The first three Joe’s Pub Seattle shows will feature Justin Vivian Bond (“Love is Crazy!” on Saturday), actor and singer Lady Rizo (with her tribute to Nina Simone on Nov. 12) and actor/singer Molly Pope (“An Audience With Molly Pope” on Dec. 17).

Joe’s Pub, Thake said, “is the leader in alt-cabaret in New York, but we’re also a leader for country music.” The through line between all of Joe’s performers, she explained, is the intimacy of the space — artists feel a little freer to experiment, open up and have a dialogue with the audience.

“Everybody who comes through Joe’s Pub, even if you’re in a rock band or a country band, winds up doing cabaret,” Thake said. “We see the power of the artists in the room and people who feel like it’s their first time hearing these kinds of stories, and that’s a shame, whether it’s Lady Rizo talking about having a baby and being a performer — or any number of stories Vivian (Bond) tells about v’s incredible journey.” (Bond prefers the honorific “Mx.” instead of Mr. or Ms., and the pronoun “v.”)

All three artists, Thake said, are “so funny, so astute, so plugged in to what’s happening in the world.” Joe’s style of cabaret is “not just living in a time capsule — all these artists are deeply political.”

Last year’s Houston series, she said, was “incredibly positive … it’s a very vibrant, diverse city that people sometimes view as homogeneous. But people were hungry for a diversity of artists.”

Now, she added it’s time to “see if Seattle audiences are willing to take a risk.”