Boundaries and Bra Straps.
Appropriately, That’s F*cked Up! 2! started with below freezing temperatures and a fire truck conspicuously perched next to Rebar. (A handful of beefy fire marshals questioned the bartender about signage pre-show, then disappeared). Regulations and questionable production values aside, Rebar is a fitting home for burlesque featuring half a dozen strap-ons and merkins, a lip-shaped belly bag repurposed as a swollen vulva, and a Klansman. Straight up burlesque wasn’t technically the prevalent genre (though several performers got down to pasties and g-strings); the thirteen acts were more like disturbing solo performance art. “TFU2” was curated differently than its promising but slightly skit-like predecessor last summer- producers Heidi Von Haught and Randi Rascal chose the most challenging ideas from written submissions, rather than pre-selecting all performers. (“It was hard to get people to understand what we meant by ‘we want you to do a number that’s fucked up. No, really fucked up’,” Heidi Von Haught said of the initial process).
Hence the show was a cavalcade of grotesquerie and socio-political strip with a provocative twist. Ben DeLaCreme’s orgy with blow-up sheep illustrated the unbridled hedonism that might befall our nation if gay marriage runs rampant. Queen Shmooquan (in a strap-on and burqa) fed Twinkies to rubber chickens while creepy Christian song “I Am A Promise” hinted at what kind of mess a baby might grow up to be. New York singer-songwriter Sabrina Chap parodied Sarah Palin in a scathing strip-song called “Democracy”, playing keyboard while deep throating a mic.
The most daring was a slippery but well-executed feat of cultural reappropriation. The Luminous Pariah, dressed as a Klansman, disrobed to Beats Antique overlaid with an amalgam of speeches from Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr., and anonymous KKK members. Revealing a body suit painted with derogatory terms, Luminous stripped further to a g-string and impossibly long lashes. “As the Luminous Pariah- a brown-skinned, male-bodied, lady-faced queer- I represent people of all races/ethnicities, sexes/genders, and sexual preferences. It was seemed to me only natural to take on the hooded role of hate in action,” he later explained.
In burlesque, there’s an arguably slower curve for innovation than in other art forms, which means to thrive is to push boundaries as well as bra straps. The second installment of TFU reminded that burlesque artists can capably further their art with performances that stir up strong feelings- whether repulsion, shocked laughter, a boner- or a confusing combination of all three.