Get Haunted (or, How To Inhabit A Character).
~ All photos by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo), text by Jessica (with additional assistance from Jo Jo Stiletto).
Two shows in October proved that becoming possessed by a simple, yet brilliant idea and truly inhabiting a character for a few minutes of stage time often carries an act more than showing a bit of skin (although in burlesque, that’s the delicious icing on a many-layered cake).
First, Portland’s Sign of the Beast & Go Go Rocket Productions brought Black Lodge Burlesque: A Night of Cabaret Inspired by David Lynch to Seattle – an impressive feat for an all out-of-town cast – and knocked David Lynch fans on their proverbial asses with their spot-on interpretations and subtle Lynchian references. The nightmarish phone call scene from Lost Highway was expertly recreated by Vera Mysteria as the creepy “Mystery Man” character, ending with a life size and amusingly nineties-style dancing cell phone. Hai Fleish brought the life and death of Laura Palmer to a vivid conclusion, and Baby Le’Strange played a dual role as Dorothy and Frank from Blue Velvet– complete with an oxygen mask yanked from her skivvies. The show was hosted by who else? The Log Lady (Vera Mysteria once again).
Geeklesque Unites was a collaborative show dreamed up by Jo Jo Stiletto Events and Portland’s Critical Hit. The theme cast a wide net: everything from comics to video games, cult films and role playing games were represented. In structuring the show the producers avoided requesting new acts, instead using the theme as a guide to selecting from a library of already fully-formed (but sometimes rarely seen) acts. The result was the “best of the best” of the geeklesque genre, and probably the most fun, smart, and unabashedly sexy show I’ve seen in a long time.
What made the show exceptional was the obvious passion in the creation of the roles and the way the performers inhabited them. The joy in presenting each character was so clear and creatively executed that even acts whose source material I wasn’t familiar with made for memorable, compelling characters- sometimes the weirder, the better.
Violet Tendencies reprised her role as Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled princess from Game of Thrones, fetishizing her dragon’s eggs with actual hot candle wax poured on her body; Iva Handfull found split second humor as a video game character on ‘pause’, and Randi Rascal made Tetris provocative. Several performers used dual roles to unique effect: Kit Katastrophic played both heroine and monster from Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Infamous Nina Nightshade played both Aughra and Kira from The Dark Crystal (the 1982 fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz). The Infamous Nina Nightshade appeared again as both “Light Lili” and “Dark Lili” from the 1985 film Legend directed by Ridley Scott.
Jo Jo Stiletto explained the collaborative process of curating the acts: “Honestly, we could have made the show much longer with some epic acts from other performers in Seattle and Portland but we thought this was the perfect mix,” she said. “For Geeklesque Unites both Sophie and I wanted to show off how good nerdlesque can really be- to bring all the epic acts together under one roof. We didn’t want to ask anyone to create acts for this either. There really are so many good acts that deserve to be seen again.”
“It was meant to be a nerd cornucopia,” she continued. “…I wanted, honestly, to put out a really tight show… I wanted to really show that ‘Sustainable Nerdlesque’ that was written about earlier this summer. I think this is what sustainable looks like”.
Regardless of the clever catchphrases- geeklesque, nerdlesque, etc. – loving your source material and inhabiting a character is what these shows were about. It’s also what makes a good idea into a great one.
Black Lodge Burlesque @ Rebar October 2012:
Geeklesque Unites @ Rebar, October 2012: