Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic.
~ Written and photographed by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
Every time I have been in a funk- you know, one of those “the world sucks” or “nobody understands me” moods or just having a plain old fashioned bad day- going to a burlesque show always makes me feel better. It’s true. As the performer’s clothes fall away, so do all my cares. If I were a therapist I would prescribe a generous helping of striptease therapy to all my patients. This was the case last Thursday, when I saw the lovely ladies of Sinner Saint Burlesque in their new show Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic. (Thanks for curing what ails me).
For about six years now, Sinner Saint Burlesque has been performing every Thursday night at Club Noc Noc in Seattle with many well-known performers having been part of this troupe over that period. Their current line-up is Evilyn Sin Claire, Doña Dei Cuori, Lady Tatas, Jesse Bell-Jones and Polly Wood. Each of these ladies add their own magic to the troupe as well as being fabulous in their other burlesque/performance endeavors outside of Sinner Saint. Over the years they have developed an intern program for up and coming burlesque performers (their current interns are Lotti Glitterati and Nikola Teas-la). The woman who brings it all together on stage is the host Diva le Déviant, “The Bitch in Charge”. Diva took some time to answer questions about their current show and her history with the troupe:
POC: How is hosting Sinner Saint different from hosting other shows…like one-offs, Skinny Dip etc.?
Diva: One of the main differences is the audience. The audience at the Noc Noc is a unique beast and I’m sure just about ANYBODY that has hosted our show feels the same way. Our audience tends to be pretty rambunctious and loud, which is a lot of fun but also a challenge. As an MC I’ve really had to master ways of letting the audience know that I am present with them and responsive to them, while at the same time being entertaining and moving the show forward. If the audience feels like the host is just “filler” between acts they’ll talk quite a bit and there you are, onstage, feeling like you’re performing to a wall of sound. I’ve developed a number of strategies for keeping our audience engaged and the more I perform in that venue, the more I notice the audience really is WITH me listening intently and having a conversation with me.
The other main difference is working with this specific troupe. The principal performers of Sinner Saint Burlesque put so much intentionality into developing their personas and acts and the “brand” of Sinner Saint Burlesque so everything they bring to that stage is well crafted, including the way I talk about them and intro their acts. Yes, I certainly do quite a bit of improv on stage, but how I contextualize them matters to these performers more than any others I’ve worked with. They understand that the way I intro them has the power to add value and layers to the material they’re presenting so they are much more directive and collaborative in the MC process than most performers. I find it challenging and rewarding to be held to a higher standard and to receive critique and feedback from them.
POC: What’s it like working with this troupe?
Diva: It’s fun, sexy, and HARD! We work a lot of hours in order to present high quality entertainment that is smart and sophisticated. I love that this troupe spends so much time together rehearsing, work shopping and critiquing acts, and collaboratively building shows so that the final product is cohesive. They put time and attention into so many aspects of the craft of burlesque performance from their hair, makeup and costumes, to act choreography, and the show’s story arc. It’s an honor to work so closely with artists of their caliber. They are inspiring me to pay close attention to every detail of what I present on stage and are helping me take my own art to new levels.
POC: With other Sinner Saint shows, I’ve usually seen a show with a theme and acts, new or old, based around that theme. With this latest run (Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic) it seems there was more of a carefully constructed narrative than previous runs (though I didn’t see the last one) with completely new acts. Was that something Sinner Saint explicitly wanted to do for this latest run?
Diva: Yes, absolutely. One of the things I have done prior to working as the resident host of Sinner Saint Burlesque, probably most notably with the Beebo Brinker Cabarets, was to write narrative cabarets. I really love doing this because it still allows cabaret artists the freedom of creating and rehearsing their acts on their own, but gives the audience the experience of a more cohesive show that tells a story. So when Sinner Saint approached me about coming on board and we had conversations about my role and what our work together might look like, I asked them if this is a format they would like to try out. They were very receptive to the idea because as a troupe they are always looking for ways to raise the bar and increase the entertainment value of their shows. So we created out first narrative cabaret, Behind the Pasties: A Burlesque Mockumentary, together while they were in London performing at the Brick House and I was here in Seattle maintaining the weekly revue. Since we were creating the show at a distance and didn’t have much rehearsal time together, I wove that story together based on acts each performer already had in her repertoire. The show ended up being really silly and lighthearted, a fun little stomping ground for us to try on this new format together and work out the kinks. We learned a lot together about how to present this format in front of our rowdy audience while staying true to Sinner Saint’s process, values, and aesthetic and I think all the learning we did is evident in the quality and cohesiveness of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic. This show feels solid and grounded…and of course, SEXY. Not all of the acts in this run are brand new, but there was a high bar for making sure we could plug old acts into the storyline in a meaningful way.
POC: How did you first get involved in Sinner Saint Burlesque? (I think the first time I met you was at the show that Scotty The Blue Bunny hosted which was in July 2010-and you were in the audience with me)…
Diva: Wow! You have a good memory, Paul! This is, indeed when you and I first met. I had become a fan of Sinner Saint Burlesque in late 2009 and really loved their host Nicole Lucas. I was a budding cabaret performer at the time and felt like Sinner Saint Burlesque was a venue I’d like to try my hand at. I approached Audrey McManus, who was their producer extraordinaire at the time, and asked if they ever booked guest hosts. She let me know that occasionally when Nicole was sick or had another gig they would hire an outside MC for a night or two and that she’d keep me in mind. Well, it turned out that they needed help stage managing before they ever needed a guest host so Audrey asked me if I might be interested working with the troupe in that capacity. I gave it a try and found that I really enjoyed stage managing. I think Audrey, the smart woman that she is, knew that I had a lot of interest in the troupe so she wisely kept inviting me back to help with various things so my role evolved from stage manager, to guest host, to PR maven. The troupe has been through some major changes in the last two years with Nicole moving to Texas, Audrey stepping out of her role as Producer so she could focus on being an awesome mom, the troupe has now traveled to London to perform twice, and the principal performers have decided to own the Sinner Saint Burlesque brand and make it their own officially licensed business…fast forward to 2012 and now I’m working alongside awesome performers and entrepreneurs that I am also a fan of. It’s pretty rad.
POC: What plans do you all have for the future?
Diva: We’re currently in the process of creating our next run but that information is super-sexy-top-secret at the moment so I can’t tell you what we have up our…ahem…sleeves…
Special upcoming guest stars are:
The amazing Flirty Sanchez on July 5th
And the burlesque mayor of NYC, Jonny Porkpie, July 12th
Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic closes on July 26th. Check HERE for info & tickets.
Here are some more photos from last Thursday’s show: