The (R)evolution of Sinner Saint Burlesque continues.
“I asked the troupe what it would look like if we did a show about sexual revolution…” – Diva le Déviant
~ Written and photographed by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
While recovering from the nasty “BurlyCon bug” that everyone seemed to get at the annual convention this year, one of the shows I managed to venture out to was the new Sinner Saint Burlesque production, Revolution. I took some photos and met up with some awesome photographers who were also there: Seattle’s Greg Holloway and Don Spiro from New York City. We had a three-way…um, conversation about geeky photography stuff and the nature of burlesque in NYC and Seattle while waiting for the show to begin. I wouldn’t mind perpetually socializing before burlesque shows or being backstage getting ready for one…but, back to Sinner Saint. The troupe and co-writer/host Diva le Déviant have been striving to find a new voice at Noc Noc with a narrative format- challenging themselves as well as their audience by trying a different approach to their long-running weekly show. It’s been an interesting process for the troupe and their longtime fans, and the format continues to evolve with the current show.
Revolution gives a nod to feminist movements throughout the ages and from across the globe, exploring themes as they relate to sexuality such as beauty, shame, and humor. According to Diva le Déviant, the idea began shortly after 2011’s Beebo Brinker “lesbian pulp cabaret” series (which Diva – aka Sasha Summer Cousineau- co-produced with Lyla la Coeur and Cherry Manhattan). “The Beebo project entertained people, but it also really moved people because they feel the relevance in their lives today,” Diva explained. “So I thought about that idea…something that aesthetically draws people’s attention, but then holds their interest in a deeply personal way. I realized that everybody struggles in some way with sex, gender, and sexuality and that in the year 2012, a presidential election year, there are a lot of difficult and painful conversations being had in very public ways on these issues. So I asked the troupe what it would look like if we did a show about sexual revolution.”
Diva then took a brief hiatus while the ladies of Sinner Saint Burlesque (Jesse, Tatas, Evilyn, Polly, Doña, and Nikola) worked on developing the concept of a show about sexual revolution. When Diva returned, they submitted a list of acts and had sketched out an order in which they felt they should be presented. Based on this framework, Diva came up with a narrative to weave throughout the show. “As I watched these acts become realized in rehearsal, I’m not going to lie…there were moments when I cried,” Diva admitted. “There were moments when I, one of THE MOST POLITICAL people I know, felt a little bit scared that some of the pieces might feel triggering to people or might offend a few audience members. Mostly though, there were moments of feeling a swelling pride. In the process of creating this show I felt lucky to be working with other artists whose values were so like mine and who felt so committed to telling this story right by being unapologetic and truthful.”
One of the most intense and emotional acts of the new production consists of the entire troupe and is performed to a song called “Beautiful” by Me’Shell NdegéOcello. Doña Dei Cuori, the creator of the act, explained its origins were rooted in nudity. “The ‘Beautiful’ act started as a brainstorm about nudists,” she told me. “I played a lot with nudity and as I did more research on being nude, I discovered a few things: one, I have a lot of judgments about nudity. Two, society has a lot of judgments about nudity. I reflected more and more about body image and vulnerability. Eventually what I got to was ‘shame’. We as a society shame the hell out of our bodies and sexuality. The piece became a work to have a personal revolution, by inviting freedom from shame. My hope was to offer the audience a few minutes where they could feel free of their body/sexual shame.”
“I really wanted a way to engage the audience more deeply, so we asked them to give us their secret, their shame,” Doña continued. “We then share their story through movement, and release them of it. I won’t speak for everyone else, but it is a piece that has worked for me, personally, to identify my own shame and vulnerabilities. I loved playing with the embarrassment, anger and disgust all related to shame, as well as the relief, freedom and self-acceptance.”
Catch Revolution every Thursday night at Noc Noc until December 27 (except Thanksgiving) – you can visit the event page HERE.