Jo Jo Stiletto and Theatre Off Jackson Bring the Whedonverse to Seattle.
– Written by Madeline Rider (Contributor, Seattle)
When most girls were covering their walls with pictures of their favorite male pop stars pulled from the latest Bop magazine, the bare white plaster of my childhood room was buried beneath meticulously Scotch-taped photos of Buffy Summers. Unlike my peers, it wasn’t a dream boy I admired, but a dream girl, a strong and independent young woman who persevered through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood as well a regular onslaught of demonic activity. Throughout my early adolescence, I lived with my father and younger brother and had very few examples of female adulthood available to me. As the series progressed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer proved to be much more than a cable television sensation, as writer and creator Joss Whedon artfully illustrated the intricacies of not only the female experience, but the universal human experience as well. Whedon’s characters were beautiful and imperfect and gave me hope that I could be, too.
Last weekend, co-producers Jo Jo Stiletto and Theatre Off Jackson brought Joss Whedon’s clever characters and tricky twists to the stage for a two night run of Whedonesque Burlesque. With his talent for writing from the female perspective and his gift for artfully displaying emotional truths through camp and satire, the Whedonverse naturally lends itself to the burlesque genre. The sentiment emanating its manifestation was clearly printed within the evening’s program as personal statements from both Edward Ward, owner of Paper Windows Booksellers, and Miss Stiletto herself. In the chilly basement theater off Seventh and Jackson in Seattle’s International District, I sat reading of Mr. Ward’s own experience of growth and the role Joss Whedon had in facilitating his own healing. It became clear to me that the production value of Whedonesque Burlesque exceeded quantitative measure.
My fellow patrons conversed around me, the less learned asking each other “Who are those three blue women with fans and why did they hand me a yogurt bar?”, others confessing, or perhaps touting, the depraved levels of fandom they had sunken to, “I hadn’t realized how long I had been watching Buffy until I realized my body was starting to hurt from sitting.” In his opening number, boylesque performer Billy Corazon pays tribute to the tempestuous and sometimes obsessive relationships fans have with Whedon’s television creations, something everyone in the audience appeared to relate to. The high energy number immediately electrified the room and set a positive note on which the rest of the evening resonated. In a discussion I had recently with performer Wiggy Stardust, I asked her why she felt that fandom of burlesque and science fiction tended to overlap.
“Burlesque is just as much about the creation of fantasy, the willful suspension of disbelief, and approximating the dream state. There is an eeriness and uncanniness in science fiction and fantasy that a short live performance mirrors.”
Burlesque and science fiction generally provide escapism in the same fashion. We dive into a gritty novel, television show, or movie; we climb the stairs of Oddfellows to West Hall. We leave this world, with its limits, boundaries, and constraints- and we enter another, where our fantasies, either sexual or supernatural, are just as real.
With over twenty performers throughout the evening, the skill level varied from newbie to seasoned veteran. Polly Wood and Heidi Von Haught, who gallantly showed off a pair of pipes, brought a terrific number straight from the infamous musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Once More With Feeling.” Other standout displays of showmanship came from Rachel Jackson and Paul Velasquez of Puppet This, whose peek into the life of Joss Whedon under the tyranny of the Fox network executives, proved to be one of the more intelligent and humorous numbers of the evening. Despite a few performances where inexperience was clearly evident, the production as a whole was exceptionally successful in providing the audience with the opportunity to marry three actualities into a fabulous evening of entertainment: the Whedonverse, the world of Burlesque, and the reality in which we live in.
To help benefit more genius collaborations at Theatre Off Jackson, keep your ears open for details on Puu Puu: A TOJ Party and Fundraiser slated to happen October 26th. And most excitingly, further your female geekdom at GeekGirlCon on October 8th and 9th in the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms and the EMP Museum.
“GeekGirlCon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and celebrating the contribution and involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related Geek culture through conventions and events that emphasize both the historic and ongoing contribution and influence of women in this culture.”
Passes are on sale now at www.geekgirlcon.com.