~ Written by/interview by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
Bella Bijoux & Flirty Sanchez of Quick Change! (appearing here in Stripped Screw Burlesque’s “Undressed to Kill”) – POC Photo
Flirty Sanchez and Bella Bijoux are bringing an exciting production to the Annex Theater July 5-6. Their two woman burlesque show, Quick Change!, is an inventive new undertaking in the realm of most burlesque formats. The show will feature the pair in 9 acts, 3 solos each, and 3 duets. Video segments will run in between (serving as a sort of narration) featuring Flirty and Bella as senior citizens reminiscing about the trials and tribulations of life and their friendship. The flashbacks and memories will serve as the burlesque acts. “I love the challenge with burlesque because it’s kind of ridiculous to think that two people can do a full show with all the costume changes and make it varied enough that people are interested for 75 minutes and aren’t bored seeing the same two pairs of boobs over and over again.”
As always, I love to get the bottom of people’s burlesque history and take a peek at their creative process. And this is certainly true with Quick Change. On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Volunteer Park, I met with Flirty and Bella. First we dined on burritos from Rancho Bravo, which seems to be a popular spot for these two ladies (they were greeted like Norm in “Cheers”). After finishing our meal and showing them my twerking headstand, I tried to get the low down on their exciting new production and how it came about. First however, a little background on these two burlesquers.
Flirty and Bella are graduates of Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque 101 & 202 classes. Flirty first took the 101 class on a recommendation by an improv teacher who thought it would help with some obstacles she was having in that class. (By the way, I think a lot of obstacles could be overcome through burlesque. Imagine a doctor writing a script or boss giving burlesque leave. Surely it would be a better world). As for Bella’s experience: the first burlesque show she saw was a 2007 performance by The Atomic Bombshells at The Columbia City theater while she was still in grad school. She decided that when she graduated she would take the 101 as a means to get out of her head and into her body. Initially she thought it would be a one-time thing, which Bella now says “was a big fat lie”. Burlesque for both Bella and Flirty eventually became an intense passion.
Bella at a Burlesque 202 recital at West Hall (POC Photo)
It wasn’t until Heidi Von Haught asked both of them to be on the BurlyCon programming committee with Randi Rascal (Randi & Heidi btw are two other fabulous burlesque ladies and BFFs) that they really learned some of the burlesque ropes via their mentoring. “Whether they wanted to be or not,” Flirty says. “Just based on the fact that we spent so much time together and they had so much more experience.” The 2011 BurlyCon programming committee was also where Bella and Flirty met for the first time. It wasn’t long after that the pair became very good friends. Flirty remembers, “I think we had very similar backgrounds, upbringings, and values, so it was easy for us to become quick friends without any burlesque involved whatsoever; and then we also have very similar perspectives on burlesque and the kind of art we want to make.”
Flirty performing at the Pink Door (POC Photo)
“There was a lot to do in the BurlyCon programming – especially the really stressful, layered, complex planning that has to happen – and I just liked the way her brain worked,” Bella adds. “I could see how she responds to stress and complications and being thrown off.”
“It’s by making fart noises with my mouth.” Flirty replies.
They also liked and respected each others’ burlesque talent as they got to see each other perform. “I feel really comfortable doing the ‘sultry sass attack’ and there’s a lot about watching Flirty from the comedy aspect that I wanted to absorb.” Bella mentions. Flirty agrees. “When I watch her slink across the stage I think, ‘oh that’s what it looks like to be a woman’…that’s what sexy looks like.”
Bella as Maleficent in Stripped Screw Burlesque’s Disney after Dark (POC Photo)
Their first act together was for Heidi and Randi’s That’s Fucked Up 3! in February 2012, followed by Stripped Screw Burlesque’s Undressed to Kill (which was reprised in May) and finally in a moving piece for Boobs for Barack back in October 2012. While they were rehearsing and performing in these shows the idea for Quick Change! began to take shape. I asked them more about its origins:
POC: When did you decide that you wanted to do a two-woman show together?
Flirty: I don’t know how our conversations about it started. We joked about being in a two-person troupe because neither of us were particularly interested in being in an actual troupe, so we kind of joked about it that way and then we had this bath bomb called Phoenix Rising. And then decided that was going to be the name of our troupe. So it was just this joke and it became…and I don’t remember when we were talking about it but we were like, ‘no really, let’s do this’.
Bella: Yes. Let’s actually do this…
A recent rehearsal (POC Photo)
POC: Was a two woman show what you always wanted to do together as opposed to a show with you two as primary players with a supporting cast?
Flirty: I was in a two-woman improv troupe and we were performing regularly for 2 years and I loved that format, I loved it. So the idea of doing it in burlesque was exciting because I already knew how a two person troupe operated but I also loved the challenge with burlesque.
Bella: We loved the idea of challenging ourselves to create a full show, something you would want to see where you would see a little bit of everything. You’d see something funny, sexy, silly, ridiculous, sad, political, sparkly, not so sparkly. Like something that would be dynamic enough that you could expect to see in a well put together show and then say how, the hell did you make that happen?
Flirty at rehearsal (POC Photo)
POC: How did you come up with the idea for Quick Change?
Flirty: I was in another improv troupe back in the day and we were supposed to do a show where we were old people at a retirement home and we were going to have photographs and the photographs were going to represent memories. We never did that show but I was very attached to the idea. There was something poignant and relatable about it. And so I feel like that influenced my excitement to do it because that was an idea that was never realized and then I was excited to turn it into a burlesque concept.
Bella: We weren’t compelled by an idea of a Bella and Flirty variety show. That felt like it wouldn’t get us anywhere. I would be bored by that. I remember us having a conversation reflecting on the privilege that we have of creating a life worth living and creating an intentional life and our art is part of what we’re building and so… we’re kind of projecting at future us, but thinking about how you have these opportunities to make magic happen in your life and when we’re old and wrinkly and fabulous, like in our real lives we want that to be what we’ve accomplished. But it’s interesting our characters in this show are not portraying a burlesque life. We’re using burlesque to tell stories about the shit that happens in your life like any normal person.
POC: The acts will be separated by video with the two of you as senior citizens being interviewed about life. Can you tell a little about this aspect of the show?
Flirty: We really just wanted it to be the two of us because we loved the challenge of that, so we decided to not have an emcee and this [the video] was the best way to replace one.
Bella: It has a great opportunity instead of relying on a host to know how to really capture what it is you’re trying to set up for the next act. Our characters get to do that for us. Some of them [the videos] are as brief as thirty seconds and some of them may be more like two or three minute videos.
POC: How has the rehearsal process been going?
Flirty: I think we also have to put on our producer hats at those moments and be realistic about what we want in our show and what is going to be good for the show so there have been certain ideas that have been shot down, lightly.
Bella: Like, ‘that’s interesting but that may not work here’ or ‘I know you super-duper want to send that message but that’s not reading, I can’t tell at all what you’re doing’.
POC: Has anyone else seen the rehearsals or given feedback?
Bella: We’re working with Stell(R) Films [on the video portion], who have been really special.
Flirty: Yeah and they have been good about playing artistic director so they gave us great direction with stuff so we definitely had someone in a directorial position there. As far as our acts go, it’s just been the two of us. We have definitely discussed and agreed that getting outside feedback would be extremely beneficial and intended to do so. I think the reason we haven’t is because we’ve been so overwhelmed with taking care of other more immediately pressing issues…However we have brainstormed ideas [for this show] with other performers in the community and we have given all our acts a lot of thought. And we are 300% confident we are going to bring it on stage.
A recent rehearsal shot of Flirty and Bella (POC Photo)
POC: What does the future hold for both of you?
Bella: I want to travel more and go to more festivals and see what’s happening in other cities. I’m becoming very accustomed to loving our Seattle community and the way it can push and pull and think. You can be sad sexy, you can be a nerd, you can be silly, you can be thematic, you can be classic and we have all of that here. But looking at the bigger picture I want to know what it’s like in other cities.
Bella Bijoux (POC Photo)
Flirty: I feel like we both would love to take this show on the road. That would be a whole new level of challenge though, finding a venue outside of Seattle that can work with our tech needs and hire people in that community to help us with changing and stage managing. Taking it other places would be really cool. But outside of this show I think really what we’re lined up to do is just total world domination… no, I’m just kidding (laughs). I foresee us continuing to work together on stuff. I’d love to do more duets. This will be six duets total for us that we’ve done together with this show and I feel like I don’t think I will ever get tired of doing duets with Bella Bijoux.
POC: What are some of you final thoughts about your show?
Bella: The mechanics of actually trying to figure out how to put together a full length show with nine acts and how to divvy up the work and building a set list and thinking about how to actually do that many quick changes took a lot of crafting. I also like the integration of multimedia, integration of some of Flirty’s clowning and improv work that’s gone into it. You know burlesque being the art of the tease after we take our clothes off for the first time, the element of surprise is revealed. So there’s an added challenge to make the story itself compelling, the reveals, the story within each act…to bring it up a notch.
Flirty: We’re really excited to bring something different to the burlesque scene here. There’s a lot of variety already happening but the whole structure of this show is completely different than any other in recent years. I feel like this show is my wet dream because I constantly seek challenge and taking risks in the stuff that I do. I never want to become predictable, ever. That’s like my biggest fear as a performer and I feel like this show is the ultimate challenge.
Bella: This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt doing something because I’m not just presenting just one side of my performance. We’re showing you kind of everything. You’re seeing things you’re used to seeing Bella and Flirty do, and things you’re not used to seeing us do. There’s a tremendous privilege we have to be able to put this on the stage for our community to see. Some days I wake up in a state of panic and other days when I watch videos of our rehearsals or I look at our costume pieces or what we’re creating and I get really fucking excited.
Flirty and Bella’s two-woman show Quick Change! is July 5-6 at The Annex Theatre at 7:30 pm. Get tickets and info HERE.
Quick Change! (Photo by Witty Pixel)