Harvey’s Cartoon Cabaret’s creator Alexis Harvey on becoming a “cultural curator”

FLINT, Michigan -- With a resumé consisting of substitute teaching, nonprofit work, and theatre accolades, Alexis Harvey, or Harvey The Bunny, is an enigma within Flint’s community. However, through Harvey’s Cartoon Cabaret—a theatre ensemble consisting of herself, multiple band mates including the group PhZD, Jo Ikigai, and now drag queens—Harvey brings Broadway to the community and does it on her terms.

Born and raised in Flint, Harvey gravitated towards theatre and the arts. With a degree from the University of Michigan-Flint, Harvey traveled across the country to perform in troupes, act, sing, and follow her dreams. Now back in Flint, and in a world entrenched in COVID-19, Harvey, through skating, holding Facebook live streams, dyeing wigs, and working, is re-establishing herself with the current and next generation of Flintstone powerhouses.

Flintside caught up with the talented “cultural curator” in her home to discuss the Cartoon Cabaret, auditioning, and of course, her love for theatre.  

Flintside: You have this star magnitude about you. You act, sing, roller skate in addition to a multitude of other talents. What inspired you to pursue theater and the arts?

Harvey: “I’ve been acting for 15-16 years. I was taking acting classes when I was in the fifth grade. I discovered that I like theater because it brings people together in one place to have one experience. Unlike sports, where it’s two sides competing against each other, we are here to experience this one thing simultaneously. I used to go to New York all the time. My senior year [in college], I would go to New York five or six times for auditions. I wouldn’t do any tourist stuff. I would get a student, rush, or lottery ticket for a Broadway show where I’ve seen The Lion King and Aladdin. I won tickets to see On Your Feet which was the story of Gloria Estafan. I got to see Corbin Bleu in Kiss Me Kate, and then afterward, I got to meet him. I miss being able to go back and forth to New York.”  
"I’m trying to have the capacity to create things in Flint.
Flintside: I heard that you lived in New Hampshire for a time. How did that come about?

Harvey: “I did an audition video for this company in New Hampshire called Tiger Theater which stands for Theater Integrating Guidance, Education, and Responsibility. It was my first acting contract, and it was closer to New York. The people who owned the company owned a nonprofit that does this huge production every year that the whole city gets involved. They bring in professional actors. They were good friends of mine, and we did Hair Spray. Long story short, it didn’t work out, but I don’t regret the experience.”  

Flintside: We often see in movies or television aspiring actors go for auditions, but we don’t truly see the behind-the-scenes aspect of it. Having lived in New Hampshire and New York, what’s that process like?

Harvey: “Nobody ever shows you getting up at the crack of dawn. A lot of auditions happened at Pearl Studios and up the street is another one. In advance, I’d look up all the auditions that were looking for people like me. I would find somewhere to sit, chill until the buildings opened, and I would do my makeup there because I’m there for hours. If you’re number one or two, you might be in the morning, but I’ve been number 76, and I’m the last person called for the day. So, I’d spend my whole day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

Flintside: That sounds like an ordeal! How do you prepare for something like that?

Harvey: “What I do maybe six times a year, there are people who do it every single day of their lives because they live there. What I learned from those people is, the more they see your face, and the more they hear your voice and get used to you, they’re more likely to [pick you.] I had a voice teacher here [in Flint], and whenever I found out about an audition, I’d go and have voice lessons for two-three weeks to prepare. All actors have books that have sheet music for all their songs. You always want to be prepared for a comedic, dramatic, or “this is me” monologue. It’s intense. When I came back to Michigan, I was very sad and depressed but I would still go back and forth to New York and all over Michigan for auditions, and then the pandemic came.”  

Flintside: But now, right here in Flint, you’ve created Harvey’s Cartoon Cabaret. Can you explain what HCC does? 

Harvey: “[With my band] I sing songs from animated television shows and sometimes television movies. A lot of the songs I sing are from shows that are canceled. I do stuff from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, and Discovery Network. I always wanted to go to a concert where they sang songs from like Steven Universe. I was like, “I guess I’ll have to be the one to do it.”

Flintside: The Cartoon Cabaret is a unique theater endeavor for you and Flint. How do you see this growing? 

Harvey: “My goals in theater have now shifted to I want to be able to create my own stuff. I want to provide another option. Auditioning for other people wasn’t working, and I wanted to make Black theater that wasn’t about Black pain. So much theater and musicals are about slavery, civil rights, or Tyler Perry-like. I wanted to bring Black entertainment that isn’t those three things. That’s why I did my musical, Passing Strange, back in 2019. I wanted to do this show and go on tour and do it at different Comic-Cons in Michigan. So now I get to bring it back, and I’m excited.” 

Flintside: As your life and Harvey’s Cartoon Cabaret evolves and expands, what do you want people to know and recognize about you and your work?

Harvey: “I want people to know that I care because I love it when Black people are doing stuff that they say Black people can’t do. I’m trying to have the capacity to create things in Flint. On this episode of Insecure, Issa Rae threw this big block party, and somebody asked her, “So what do you do?” She said she was a culture curator, and I said that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to put on these shows all over.”

You can find out more about Harvey and follow her social media endeavors on Facebook and Instagram. Harvey's Cartoon Cabaret is performing live on July 30, 2021, at 2402 Nolen Drive in Flint. You can donate to Harvey’s Cartoon Cabaret funding using the Cashapp id $HarveyBunny.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.