Not Fade Away.

•11/03/2014 • 1 Comment

Red Final

It is with a heavy heart but an incredibly optimistic spirit that I wanted to announce that after nearly five years of weekly blogging, Burlesque Seattle Press will be going on a little hiatus, as they say in the entertainment industry.

As a writer and lover of burlesque, the friends I’ve made and the many, many artists and photographers I’ve met over the years have influenced me in more ways than can be counted.  I’m a better writer and a more keen observer of all types of arts because of it.  (Not to mention that ever since I first became associated with burlesque-folk, my natural proclivities for flashy jewelry and makeup have been given full reign).

Burlesque Seattle Press has provided some incredible opportunities that I would not have had otherwise: multiple interviews with personal heroines such as Jo “Boobs” Weldon, paulanow (formerly Paula the Swedish Housewife), Lily Verlaine, Dixie Evans, Joan Arline, and Dita Von Teese among them. I can honestly say that in my freelance writing, burlesque stars have hands-down been the most creative and passionate artists I’ve profiled.

And I hope to continue to do so, just not in the medium of weekly blogging.

As other demands in my life have increased, I’ve realized that a weekly blog format that is constant, vital, and filled with quality writing is harder and harder to maintain.  And in that situation I believe, as the song goes, that “it’s better to burn out than fade away”.

I’ve had some amazing regular contributors along the way: Rayleen Courtney, Madeline Rider, and most importantly,  the great minds and huge burlesque hearts of Paul O’Connell and Crystal Tassels.  You should continue to follow Paul and Crystal HERE and HERE to see where they’ll be popping up next.  I love and respect those two more than words can say.

I would be remiss not to thank The Shanghai Pearl, Indigo Blue, Kitten LaRue, Lily Verlaine, Jasper McCann, paulanow, Jo Jo Stiletto, Violet Tendencies, and Bettie Beelzebubb and Olympia’s Own TUSH! Burlesque for their support from the very beginning.

As for me, I’ll still be writing…  COUNT ON IT.   See you around.

XO Jessica Price

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Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone launches this week.

•10/07/2014 • Leave a Comment

SSB-Inheritance-web-handbill491x500

I had a chance to catch up with the passionate and perpetually on the go Sasha Summer Cousineau (aka Diva le Déviant) in the busy weeks leading up to the much talked about launch of Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone (which kicks off Thursday, October 9 at the Theater Off Jackson).

After taking a little time away from her previous post as Creative Director with Sinner Saint Burlesque, the troupe approached Sasha about a concept they were brainstorming called Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone – cabarets exploring female archetypes in their various forms. The idea, stemming in part from acts developed in Sinner Saint’s politically-charged run called Revolution, would be a brave new departure for the troupe. The concept of the show – and the bridge between the female archetypes of maiden, mother and crone- appealed to Sasha’s creative and feminist spirit, particularly in light of the very personal loss of her own mother around the same time. The troupe extended the invitation to continue working with Sasha in whatever capacity she was able to contribute; not long after, a series off one-offs at Can Can began to take shape exploring each feminine role individually.  Unlike a typical burlesque show (but not unheard of in community theater), the cabarets concluded with post-show “talk-backs” in which performers and audience could raise questions, commentary, or dialogue and open up the concepts for wider discussion.

The response to the talk-backs was better than expected, sometimes resulting in spirited back and forth conversations that lasted until Can Can was ready to close. The response was so good in fact, that the troupe realized they wanted to do more with the material. Soon the push to launch a full-scale production at Theater Off Jackson was under way.

“What we’ve done is use the concept of ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone’ – of those three archetypes – as sort of an organizational point for our thoughts. Any exploration of women subdivided into those three categories is going to harken certain archetypes; we actually sort of use these to explore the lived realties of women and girls,” Sasha explained.

“We have an inheritance; as female-bodied people in the world –  we’ve inherited some things,” she continued. “From culture, from history, from religion, from our families, from the earth, from various places. Some of these things are really rich, they’re beautiful and wonderful and deserving of honor and celebration. We want to share them with the world and we want other people to experience them as well, and we hope that these things we’ve inherited can become our legacy. But there are other parts though, where we call bullshit,” Sasha laughed. “We’re like ‘yeah…that’s toxic, that’s unhealthy, that doesn’t suit my mental/physical/spiritual/emotional well being’, or OUR well being. And so we’re pushing back on that, and we say NO.”

Near and dear to Sasha and the troupe’s heart is the concept of a long term, sustainable, healthy way of being for young women and girls: mentally, physically, spiritually, and creatively. “Historically women have had very little space for protest, it sort of goes against everything we’re trained to be, right? BUT… where I think we differentiate a little bit from a lot of feminist performance art with this show is we say we DO protest certain things, and then we go on to envision how we might do it differently, “ Sasha continued. “So we’ve kind of gone a la carte with what we’ve inherited, and then in terms of our legacy, we’re trying to craft a future.”

How do these lofty and admirable concepts translate into what the viewer will experience at Inheritance? “A burlesque show. Sinner Saint Burlesque is a burlesque troupe, so people are going to see what they expect to see in that way: a production with skilled performers, thoughtful, sexy, edgy, harkening back to some of the raw territory that came up during the Revolution show at Noc Noc. It was the most overtly political thing they’d done as a troupe. With this it picks up where Revolution left off. We take it even a step further…it’s not political in terms of Republicans and Democrats, it’s political because the personal is political. Really what this comes from is stories. Drawing from stories and using burlesque as a platform to tell stories. Some of them are really sexy, some are really funny, some are hard and edgy and you’re going to see some hurt feelings. But we’re trying to fuse them together.”

“We really are trying to build community- in the Sinner Saint Burlesque way, we’re trying to build a movement,” said Sasha. “If you look at the momentary feminist women’s micro-campaigns that have happened recently in social media, and larger women’s rights campaigns, we wanted to also lend our voices and participate in the conversation. It hasn’t been the easiest way to produce a show. It’s been challenging and often uncomfortable to do a show this way, but…we’ve all become better people for it. Burlesque is so right for this show…because it’s all about our bodies.”

Another by-product of the weighty material and the intense buildup to the finished production has been a whole lot of quality time examining the contents of their heads – both as troupes and individuals.  “Maybe next year we’ll just bring sexy back,” Sasha laughed.

Theatre Off Jackson and Sinner Saint Burlesque present
Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone
October 9 – 19th at 8pm
$25 – $40

All Sunday performances are 13+, all other performances 21+

Get tickets HERE.

 

Rhapsody in Blue: Burlesco DiVino, in photos.

•09/30/2014 • 1 Comment

~ Intro by Jessica, Photo preview by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)

It’s almost here…Verlaine & McCann’s freshly restructured Burlesco DiVino opens October 1 at Seattle’s gorgeous, subterranean Triple Door.  Last week Fosse Jack (who plays the character “Dario” in the production) contributed a special guest feature on the show’s transformation from its commissioned debut to its third and current incarnation; this week we bring you another sneak peek through the expert eye of BSP’s POC Photo.

Yes, we’re biased…we love our POC…but the photos for Burlesco DiVino are cheeky and dashing and JUST SO GLORIOUS.

Here’s a selection of POC’s favorites from the sessions (catch more of his work over HERE):

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Burlesco DiVino, October 1-4 at the Triple Door. Get tickets HERE!

Fosse Jack dishes on the metamorphosis of Burlesco DiVino.

•09/25/2014 • Leave a Comment
Burlesco DiVino returns to the Triple Door October 1-4

Burlesco DiVino returns to the Triple Door October 1-4 (POC Photo)

When the return of Verlaine & McCann’s Burlesco DiVino was announced this summer, we here at BSP got itchy palms and more than a little warm under the collar. The concept was a charming departure for Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann, and like all of their productions, I seem to love and appreciate them more and more over time.  Repeated viewings are something I wait for religiously with each of their shows: there’s always so much to take in…different members of the cast to focus on…exquisite dancers to study and be captivated by…little changes here and there from year to year.  Burlesco DiVino, originally a commissioned piece, is now in its third year and the producers and cast have cleverly turned the Italian caper on its head while still managing to preserve the essentials that made the story so charming – and the dancers so stunning – in previous years.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Fosse Jack, who plays the role of Dario in Burlesco DiVino.  Any of our longtime readers know I love a good “behind the scenes” feature, and Fosse kindly agreed to write about his personal experiences with the show and its evolution.

Without further ado…the lovely and talented Fosse Jack:

******

~ Written by Fosse Jack, Special Guest Contributor to BSP

Back in Spring 2012, I received an e-mail from Lily Verlaine inviting me to be a part of a new show that she and Jasper McCann where creating.  It was slated to be called Burlesco DiVino: Wine in Rome and was a piece commissioned by the Triple Door for their month long wine event at the end of the summer.  It was one of the most exciting e-mails I had received in a long time.  I had dreamed of performing in a Verlaine & McCann show ever since I had seen Land of the Sweets for the first time, and now I had the chance!

We started rehearsals a month or so later, and over the summer generated a new show.  It was an amazing experience; one part following a script written by Lily and Jasper, and one part a collaboration of some very talented individuals.  We gave feedback, fleshed out ideas, and together created something that was at some times high art, and at others cheeky entertainment.  While Land of the Sweets and Through the Looking Glass are burlesque versions of existing stories, Burlesco DiVino is a unique creation, and the process of bringing it to life was exhilarating!

That first year was, for the most part, an artistic success.  I think there were times that the audience wasn’t quite sure what to do with the material presented, as this show was very different from anything else LVJM had presented before, but they held on for the ride and we got some really good feedback.  By the end of that first run, we were all proud of what we had created and looked forward to doing it again in the future.

In 2013 we remounted the show with the returning cast, made a few tweaks to the costumes and dance numbers, and Jasper added a second original song arranged by James Chappelle.  I believe that our performances in that second run were crisper, the story (at least the second act) was easier to follow, and the staging was more detailed and vibrant.  All in all, I believe this second iteration was better than the first.

Somewhere, between last year and when we started rehearsals this year, Lily and Jasper made a discovery about the show.  Over the past two years, we hadn’t created one show, but two!  While visuals and themes in the second act of Burlesco DiVino harkened back to the first, the styles and stories were so different from one another that it was difficult for the audience to really connect them.  What started as a risqué piece of high art, reminiscent of Fellini’s Satyricon became something like a 1960s musical movie starring Julie Andrews, Danny Kaye and Liz Taylor! (To my knowledge those three have never actually performed together… but you get the idea!)  With this discovery in mind, Lily and Jasper set out reconcile the two worlds of Burlesco DiVino and create a single story that spanned the course of the show.

By the time rehearsals started two weeks ago, a new story had been written.  Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say this.  Following the experiences of Babs Lawson (Erika Zabelle), a young American dramatist with her heart set on being admitted to Yale Drama, Burlesco DiVino will take you on a journey of discovery and liberation.  Making use of the theatrical device of a play-within-a-play, Burlesco DiVino is also a look at the artistic process; from the tongue-in-cheek point of view of burlesque artists.  We explore the seriousness of art, the place of relationships within its creation, and the importance of reaching not only diplomats and art critics, but people in general.

Babs’ journey (and to a lesser extent my own character arc) is about finding a new way of looking at life.  It is about learning to laugh at yourself and to really enjoy the present.  She starts off a ‘serious artist’ and becomes an individual whose passion and love for life shines through her art.  In this sense, Burlesco DiVino really captures those burlesque ideals of laughter, levity, and lust (for life.)

I am immensely excited to be a part of this show, even more so, with this new story.  If you have seen a previous iteration of the show, you will recognize all the players, as well as most of the dance numbers.  The story will be new, and as it encompasses the entirety of the show, it will feel more like a play than a burlesque show.  The characters too will feel fresh, and while you may recognize the individuals, the added layers within the story will lend a more nuanced and dynamic experience of each one.  We have spent the last two years honing something that was artistic and sensual.  This year, we’re all determined to have fun with it!  We hope you do too.

Love & Puppy Paws,

Fosse Jack (aka DARIO!)

 ******
Burlesco DiVino, October 1-4 at the Triple Door. Get tickets HERE!

Fosse Jack as Dario in Burlesco DiVino (POC Photo)

Fosse Jack as Dario in Burlesco DiVino (POC Photo)

Losing My BenDeLaCreme Virginity.

•09/23/2014 • Leave a Comment

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~ by Crystal Tassels, BSP Contributing Writer

Last Friday night, I lost my virginity. I sat at a VIP table at Oddfellow’s West Hall on Capitol Hill, drank two glasses of water, and let the glitter rain down. Curve-hugging sequined leotards, clever songwriting, and possibly the best contouring makeup I’ve seen all year made my head spin. BenDeLaCreme made eye contact with me from the stage and I think I might be smitten.

I don’t own a television or a Hulu account and have never watched a full episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. (I know this is no excuse since they screen it regularly at Julia’s, but still.) DeLa’s reality TV stardom was not what got me in the door. Instead, her allure caught me the old-fashioned way, by word of mouth. As a member of the Atomic Bombshells, DeLa’s reputation precedes her. Sitting in the front row and watching her bubble and prance around in a glittering tear-away skirt, she was, as the show’s title suggested, terminally delightful.

For all of the show’s glitz and glamour, the most interesting aspect of the performance was DeLaCreme’s humorous, though probing exploration of identity, duality, and character. I learned at the show that DeLa had been criticized on Drag Race for her indelible cheerfulness and for not adequately expressing the person “behind the drag.” In response to this critique, which seems utterly ridiculous coming from a contest based on creating larger-than-life characters, DeLa staged video calls from her fans and detractors to address their commentaries. Impressively, each character was played onscreen by DeLaCreme herself, nearly unrecognizable in various riots of makeup and hair.

Some of this commentary was very specific to Drag Race, so lacking that background made some of these segments seem a bit tedious and even defensive. But one of the repeat “callers” was actually Ben himself, DeLa’s barefaced, male alter ego. After several instances of DeLa answering the phone to discover a silent video of Ben on the other end of the line, she spiraled into an identity crisis. Suddenly there were three DeLas on stage, each in identical pink sequined leotards (played by Kitten LaRue and Lou Henry Hoover). Things got wacky.

After DeLa regained her composure with a gracious, sighing, “Well, that was weird,” she rounded out the show with a goosebump-raising number about her early experiments with drag. The song, a reworking of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” describes a closeted teenage outcast creating her own identity while sitting at the mirror and perfecting her makeup. It painted a vivid picture of the star’s vulnerability and the strength she created by establishing her own sense of self.

This is serious business. Putting that face on was not an escape from reality, as her critics on Drag Race assumed. DeLa is the source of her own power, a concept that has real import for anyone that takes on a self-made persona. In a culture that obsesses over authenticity (like Facebook’s current war on stage names), whose right is it to decide whether someone’s chosen identity is more “real” or “natural” than their naked self? Our identities are only as “authentic” as our experience. Furthermore, whose right is it to separate those personalities into two mutually exclusive compartments, layering them one behind the other?

As performers that often keep our showgirl and showboy selves separate from the rest of our lives, we live out our identities in the form of many truths. To make assumptions about which one is “real” is to make light of our versatility and depth. I salute BenDeLaCreme for being brave enough to expose herself so candidly, and for taking her reveals much further than just exposing the body beneath her sequins.

 
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