Jo Jo Stiletto lets her geek flag fly with the Summer of Nerdlesque.
~Written by Jo Jo Stiletto, Special Guest Contributor
It’s time to slowly pull your comic books out of their dust jackets, polish the Dalek and moisten up your joystick: it’s the Summer of Nerdlesque! More than just an emerging trend in neo-burlesque, Nerdlesque is a bona-fide “thing” and several Seattle producers are shamelessly letting their geek flags fly. It’s the nerd rapture! All your boobs are belong to US!
Since the beginning of the modern burlesque movement, performers have been creating lone geektastic acts- like our own Miss Indigo Blue and her well-researched Wonder Woman tribute. Now, around the world, nerdy themed troupes and shows are boldly going were few geek shows have gone before. They are selling out quickly, drawing fresh attention to the burlesque scene and helping transform the image of the nerd as a basement dwelling, sexless outcast.
New York, which has a short history of geeky themed shows, is currently home to successful nerd-focused troupes including Epic Win Burlesque, D20 Burlesque, Nerdlesque Burlesque, and Storybook Burlesque. Gorilla Tango Burlesque out of Chicago has an endless glittering stream of shows inspired by Super Mario Brothers, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, even Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. (In fact, they were just voted Best Burlesque Troupe of 2012 in a Chicago Reader poll). Here in the Northwest, Portland’s Critical Hit Burlesque recently celebrated a one year anniversary of exceptionally popular and well-produced shows like Burlynomicon or Geeklesque: Destroy All Humans.
Nerdlesque shows go beyond cheeky pop culture references and dive deep- very deep- into the heart of fandom. Fandom so pure and absolute in devotion that I feel these shows are doing what the burlesque community has been struggling with for years. They are bringing in new audiences excited by the idea of seeing their favorite fan obsessions tantalizingly brought to life. I sat down for a drink with a few producers after attending the recent sold out production of Behind the Blue Door: A Dr. Who Inspired Cabaret. Our conversation focused mostly on the genuinely happy and enthusiastic audience reaction and how many “non-scene”, aka new faces, were in the audience. Score. Two points to the nerds!
Last year I had the extreme pleasure of producing a little show called Whedonesque Burlesque. It would be an understatement to say I did not expect the response we received. A few years ago a production focused entirely on cult-television shows like Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer likely could have spelled certain doom for ticket sales in Seattle. Luckily, like many other producers around the country, I was delighted by the experience of a fast sell-out plus a cast and audience filled with so much damn glee I thought we might burst. The entire cast was later invited by GeekGirlCon to perform at the EMP/Sci Fi Museum as part of their first annual convention. While women in geek culture are struggling to find a voice, it seemed momentous and indicative of the strength of the growing trend of nerdlesque: a feminist nerd convention took a bold stand, embracing both burlesque and the notion that nerdiness can be sexy AND empowering.
There are three shows this summer in Seattle I’m particularly excited for, all being co-produced at the lovely Theatre Off Jackson. First, from the devious minds of Wiggy Stardust and Madeline Rider (aka Varilee Faux) we have FauxDust Presents Stark Naked: A Nerdlesque Tribute to A Game of Thrones. More than a live fanfiction, these producers are one hundred percent dedicated to exploring their love of both the HBO television series and the George R. R. Martin fantasy novels. I fully expect it to be a head-rolling good time.
The following weekend GeekGirlCon is hosting a night of video-game themed burlesque acts in a fundraiser aptly titled JOYstick! While I’ve personally only ever enjoyed playing Galaga and that weird DuckTales NES game, I’m still intrigued to see what happens when you mash together extreme love of gaming and sexy funtimes. Host Vanadium Silver says he wants the audience to remember gaming is “not the outfits or breast physics but the adventure one takes.” I’m still hoping they throw in an act based on the board game Settlers of Catan.
Finally, as the not-so humble producer, I’m terribly excited for this summer’s all new installment of Whedonesque Burlesque, which at the time of this writing is entirely sold out. I’ll not boast or brag about how amazing the cast is going to be. Instead, I’ll briefly pontificate on what nerdlesque means to me:
It’s brought back that shy nerdy part of myself I shamed into hiding. It’s allowed that girl, the one that made dioramas out of X-files action figures, to imagine that the world might actually be a better place with the Burle-X-Files. It gave me the opportunity to show a convention full of women that they can express themselves sexually and safely on the burlesque stage. Once, Wil Wheaton tweeted ME. Finally, it’s giving me reason to travel to the top of my new nerd mountaintop: the Whedon Studies Association’s Slayage Convention to hear a bona-fide smarty pants scholar present a paper on our little show. Say it with me: I’m a nerd. I’m proud. I can’t wait to show you!