New faces: The Libertinis
~ Written by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
I always love seeing new performers and troupes in the burlesque world. Although The Libertinis formed in January of 2012 and have had two shows in March and September of that year, their third show Rumpus, which will take place Saturday August 17 at Re-Bar, is what founding member Tootsie Spangles says is “ …like our coming out at our debutante ball. The past year we’ve just quietly been making productions and kind of figuring out how we work together as a group, and what kind of art we want to make. So it’s a chance for us to showcase some of our work”.
The Libertinis are Tootsie Spangles, Hattie Hellkat, Kiki Cosmosis, Miz Melancholy and the lone male member Woody Shticks. The women of The Libertinis all met at Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque 101 Fall Session in 2011. Tootsie met Woody a year earlier when they were both on a children’s theater tour. “Truly, burlesque is children’s theater with a few more tassels and a little less clothes,” Woody adds.
I had the privilege of seeing that Fall 101 recital with the future Libertinis, as well as their second show last September. Their acts were bizarre, funny, original, outrageous, and sexy: Hattie Hellkat’s sexy daredevil routine complete with gold tricycle, Kiki Cosmosis’ beautiful magic mushroom with exploding spores, and Woody Shtick’s impersonation of a sloth are a few acts that come to mind. I definitely was interested in finding out what drives the troupe and what kind of burlesque they want to create. I met up with two of The Libertinis, Tootsie Spangles and Woody Shticks (or should I say they met up with me at my home) for a little background.
Tootsie received her BFA from Roosevelt University’s Theatre Conservatory in Chicago and has taken numerous clowning classes (her clown alter ego is Oopsie Sprinkles). Woody was part of a professional ballet company growing up and took acting classes in New York City. He recently graduated from Cornish College of The Arts with a BFA in acting with an emphasis on dance.
I asked Tootsie how The Libertinis formed:
Tootsie: After we took the 101 class we all decided that we wanted to continue (in burlesque). It first started off as a group that we would just be there to help critique each other and encourage each other to go out into the community and start submissions and continue to perform burlesque. And then we decided that we wanted to create our own work and become producers.
Woody: In the first show -The Libertinis’ Dreams and Nightmares– which went live in the spring of 2012, the lady Libertinis organized a really brilliant event and brought me in very late in the game to act as host and glue and kind of catch all the loose ends in terms of making sure that their performance was phenomenal. That kind of solidified my involvement to the company as primarily producer. I perform less I would say than the other Lady Libertinis, as a burlesque performer. I’m an actor so I perform quite a bit as another self. I think back to the Lady Libertinis welcoming me and taking a chance, and it all being the best thing for all of us.
Tootsie: Yeah we needed a host, someone that’s very funny, that can keep the show moving along and then also someone to clean up our choreography- and then he became a very integral part of the Libertinis.
Paul: So what did you think about the whole burlesque thing as a separate art?
Woody: I found it really exciting; I loved the opportunity especially as a dancer. I found the correlation to be really strong and I think that Seattle is such an interesting place for burlesque because of the variety that exists in this city and the forward thinking that comes with burlesque performers in the city. Rather that the strictly dance based or classical burlesque. So I think my initial thoughts of burlesque were very much tied to a dance-based expression and a dance-based exploration. But then working with Tootsie and working with the other Libertinis and with the community at large, I figured out very quickly that there was an endless opportunity for me as a burlesque performer to incorporate genres that I’ve always wanted to try my hand at. You know as an actor you don’t often get the opportunity to self produce in the way that you do in burlesque. I found the opportunity, the open ended-ness of burlesque, and that kind of ‘sky’s the limit’ mentality to be really exciting…to give me excuses to try some things that I was scared of or excited by.
Tootsie: Burlesque is just another physical theater. That’s how I think our way into it. It’s another form of physical storytelling.
Paul: Do you have a particular style as far as a burlesque troupe is concerned? “This is kind of what we want to do” or “this is what we hope to do”?
Tootsie: We consider ourselves like the love child of a burlesque troupe and a theater company. We fancy ourselves an inter-disciplinary performance ensemble. Burlesque is a huge part of our story telling. We all have theater backgrounds and it was real important to us to have theater as a part of it and creating original narrative works. Stripped Screw [Burlesque], they do a lot of really incredible story telling. It’s very dark, it’s very sexy. Like if Stripped Screw were like black sparkly fringe, I feel like The Libertinis would be like orange dingle ball trim (laughter). We have a lot of elements of clowning in our work as well.
Woody: I think it’s as Tootsie said, a really great balance between the limitless of cabaret but the power of narrative in a theatrical sense so we’re able to blend those things together and find a different way to tell a story than I think any of us have before. And we are not afraid of utilizing text, of utilizing live music, of poetry and dance and cake baking and whatever else we can get our hands on. We have a very active communication in that our company is moving forward even when we’re not performing. So that we are increasing our presence and we’re finding opportunities like this really exciting collaboration with Annex Theater and with other theaters around the country as we continue to spread out feelers.
Tootsie: Yeah we’ve been kind of hibernating and plotting and planning. Actually at BurlyCon last year, Sinner Saint had an incredible panel about troupe management, which was awesome and a lot of the things that they were teaching in that panel we have enacted in our troupe. We have a manual about how we make decisions and who makes the decisions, and how we communicate with each other and how we work with guest artists. Whether they know it or not they helped us a lot figuring out a lot of logistical things.
Paul: Rumpus is a showcase of The Libertinis’ work plus a few works from guest performers in other disciplines that you as a troupe would like to feature in upcoming seasons. It’s also a fundraiser for next year’s ambitious plans…
Tootsie: When we first came on the scene and started out talking about who we wanted The Libertinis to be and what kind of art we wanted to make… The big troupes that are here do incredible work- like we’re huge fans of the Atomic Bombshells and Sinner Saint and Stripped Screw – and we saw what they were doing and we said ‘okay how can we do something that is different from what they’re doing?’ So we wanted to incorporate other disciplines of art and focus on a narrative as well.
Woody: In the true spirit of a debutante ball, it’s a chance to mingle, a chance to get drunk together and a chance to talk about the kind of community we want to continue to create around The Libertinis and Seattle burlesque and it’s important to us to find crossover audiences we can share. So by bringing in all of these multi-disciplinary artists we can say, ‘Hey how can we share the theater community? How can we share the visual art community? How can we share this cabaret community? How can we blend these audiences to give all of us a larger audience base, but also more love. There’s always room for more love.
And to really convince you to go to this show, Tootsie tells me that there will be cupcakes. Click HERE for tickets and info about the Rumpus show.