Bechdel Test Burlesque.
~ Written by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
This Friday night Bechdel Test Burlesque arrives for two shows at Re-bar. Hosted by Rebecca M. Davis and produced in association with GeekGirlCon and the “Four Redheads of the Geekpocalypse” (the unofficial name for producers Jo Jo Stiletto, Sailor St. Claire, Scarlett O’Hairdye and Portland’s Sophie Maltease), the show has been a collaborative labor of love. “…It has been a true group effort the whole way! If we’ve had this much fun putting it together, I can barely imagine what’s about to happen on that stage. There must be a word to describe it. Maybe… funrageous.” Jo Jo says.
To understand GeekGirlCon’s perspective, Jo Jo says that she went straight to the source: Jennifer K. Stuller, Director of Programming and Events for the annual conference. “We love strong female characters and we love them even more when they are complex and we believe that performance provides opportunities to tell new, challenging and inspiring stories about our favorite female characters and their allies,” she explained.
Jo Jo Stiletto has already earned some spectacular bona fides as a geeklesque producer (Whedonesque and Burl-X-Files are her biggest successes to date), so I went to her for a little background on the one-off show Bechdel Test Burlesque…
POC: Tell me about this show and its relationship with GeekGirlCon.
Jo Jo: Many people have said they had to look up what the phrase ‘Bechdel Test’ means. This is a good thing. But for the GeekGirlCon crowd it’s shorthand to say “this show is for you.”
POC: I am one of those that had to look it up…(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test)
Jo Jo: First, I’ll speak for myself and not necessarily for my co-producers. This show was born out of the idea that geeky burlesque, despite the naysayers, can be more than a gimmick to attract fan boys. Also, in my research this year I heard many things that made me, privately, very angry. In coded language or said outright, I’ve been told that nerdlesque is ruining burlesque. These people have the best intentions. I respect their opinions. Instead of writing about it or discussing at length, I’d rather SHOW people what I believe in.
Bechdel Test Burlesque, to me, feels like taking the gloves off and throwing down. Oh yeah, ruining burlesque? Well, here is Miss Indigo Blue and her legendary Wonder Woman act. I wanted to show that nerd-focused burlesque can be actually really very good, in fact, some of the best. Let’s not forget fun, sexy, and emotional! Also, just because there are a many misogynistic issues in geek culture, convention culture and cosplay, it doesn’t mean that nerdlesque is also inherently problematic. Al Lykya’s “Duke Nukem “ act takes that head on. We aren’t dancing around it: this is show for geeky feminist women by geeky feminist women who aren’t afraid to show it, all of it.
POC: How did you decide what acts to choose for this show?
Jo Jo: For curation, we brainstormed around the simple idea of what are the best acts that speak to the GeekGirlCon crowd. Which acts speak to us personally? For me, including performers like Flirty Sanchez was important. She once said she wasn’t nerdy enough for all these themed shows in Seattle. Yet her work, in general, speaks to me so personally as the once awkward, bookish teenager. Scarlett was inspired to create a new act when she met the actress who portrayed one of her favorite sci-fi characters. The actress told her that being reasonable was overrated. So, maybe, that’s a bit of our motto for this show. Being reasonable is overrated. The cast of this show is unreasonably good! It might be criminal to put Miss Indigo Blue, Lola LeSoleil (just recently crowned “Queen of the Alabama Burlesque Festival”), the Shanghai Pearl and Iva Handfull on the same stage. But we didn’t stop there. Check out our lineup. BOOM!
Maxie Milieu (formerly known as Lady Laycock)
Sailor St. Claire
POC: Some of you fabulous ladies aren’t just producing and performing in phenomenal geeklesque shows, but will be participating in many of the events at GeekGirlCon this weekend, correct?
Jo Jo: Scarlett, Sailor, Rebecca and myself are teaching a class called Show Me How To Nerdlesque at the conference. Sailor is sharing her expertise on the Geeks with Disabilities panel plus the More Than Skin Deep: Geeky Tattoos panel. Scarlett helped create an amazing book on steampunk fashion, thus she is participating in a Dignified Reading from The Ladies of Mischief and Steampunk Knitted Fashions with the Ladies of Mischief. I just heard word that the Shanghai Pearl will be joining a discussion about race and cosplay with Chaka Cumberbatch.
This is HUGE! I have a feeling this will be the kind of extremely valuable discussion about appropriation and race that I wish could happen at BurlyCon. Oh, and I’m speaking on three panels, Fat Girl, Fan Girl, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Fan Phenomenon, and Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces. Whew!
As Jo Jo says: “No one can accuse us of being fake geek girls.” And that’s absolutely true. Tickets are going fast . Get yours HERE.