Singing and stripping with Queenie O’Hart.
There’s a new monthly burlesque revue in Ballard called Revelry, produced by burlesque artist Queenie O’Hart. Queenie, like so many other performers here in Seattle, got her start at Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque back in August 2012. Since then Queenie has been very busy on the burlesque stage, singing and stripping in shows such as Tuesday Tease, Behind The Blue Door, Minxes of Middle Earth, Every Sequin is Sacred, The Burl-X-Files, Better Off Nude and the list goes on. Because I love exploring peoples’ histories in burlesque (especially those fairly new to the scene), I had to sit down with Queenie to find out all about Revelry and her burlesque world.
POC: How did Revelry come about?
Queenie: I was at a rehearsal for Accio (A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter) and it just ended up being me and Sailor St.Claire. We started talking about burlesque in the Seattle area and she started saying that there needed to be more monthly and weekly revues so that more people could do acts that weren’t themed and things like that; so people could get around more. Maybe give the 101 graduates a little more room to move around and see things. And so that’s really how it started. I kind of took that idea and went with it.
POC: So you ended up choosing a Monday night every month?
Queenie: Yes the first Monday of every month at the BalMar in Ballard.
POC: What’s the show like?
Queenie: The whole premise, the way I approach the performers is, “What acts do you want to see more of on stage? What acts do you want more audience members to see?” So you can change each month. You can change it up and do two new acts if you want, or you can do the same two. It’s really for the performers to do the acts they want to do.
POC: Have you performed in them?
Queenie: I haven’t yet. I like sitting back and being able to run everything, so that everything can go really smoothly (laughs).
POC: When you perform burlesque do you sing in every act?
Queenie: I do sing in every act I have.
POC: I was actually at your Burlesque 101 recital back in August 2012 and what I noticed right away was that you clearly had stage time before that. It was obvious in the way you presented yourself. What’s your background on the things you studied (like singing)?
Queenie: I actually haven’t studied singing.
POC: Really? So what was your background as far as performing?
Queenie: I did plays in high school then after I graduated I moved to Boston and worked for a theater company out there called Big Colony Productions, and I did some shows with them and then moved back here. Then I went to massage school and I kind of took a break from theater. I did do a play reading for The Northwest Playwrights alliance but that was about it.
POC: Well where did the singing come in? Were you a natural?
Queenie: My mom said that when I was real young and pretty much up to high school, I was tone deaf. I listened to a lot of Broadway musicals. My dad got me Evita and Sunday in the Park with George on record and I would just sing with those as often as I could and try to pick it up.
POC: Did you have some sort of guidance on how to practice?
Queenie: Bernadette Peters!
Queenie: Oh yeah. Bernadette Peters. Patti LuPone.
POC: So you listened to them?
Queenie: Yes and I’d try to match it as best as I could.
POC: So it wasn’t until senior year in high school that people said “that’s pretty good”…?
Queenie: I was a huge drama nerd in high school. I knew that I had gotten the hang of it when I didn’t want to miss our spring show which was Guys and Dolls and I wanted to audition, so I asked my mom to listen and she said that I actually had gotten much better and that I should try out for musicals.
POC: By the time you took the Academy of Burlesque class, what had you done in the previous few years?
Queenie: I had done some musical theater, a lot of chorus stuff, kind of in the background. I liked to get really drunk and do karaoke so that’s where that started.
POC: What made you take the Academy of Burlesque class?
Queenie: My dad used to watch the “Something Weird” videos of all the old-timey performers, so I had seen a couple of those and I thought those were fun and interesting and then Hattie HellKat [Fall 2011 graduate] actually told me that she was taking the course and so I was just like, “Wow I didn’t know that existed.” So I decided to sign up too.
POC: Had you ever even thought about burlesque before?
Queenie: I hadn’t, but I have zero shame so I used to get naked all the time no matter what.
POC: While singing karaoke?
Queenie: Well that’s a different story.
POC: It depends on how drunk you got.
Queenie: Right. It depends on how drunk I got and how receptive the crowds were.
POC: There’s a couple things with taking a class like this. One is taking your clothes off. Obviously you didn’t have a problem with that…
POC: …but there’s also the other thing, of performing. Was there any type of nervousness, any type of doubt with that?
Queenie: I definitely felt like…I think everyone who takes the 101 class has a moment where they say, “I can’t fucking do this!” and wants to flip a table. I definitely went through that because it was really crazy with the costume and everything…I had Inga Ingénue and Shanghai Pearl [as instructors] and they were really good about helping us get through and talking us down off the ledge. I was doubtful about being able to put it all together. As I don’t sew or do any of that, putting together a costume was really scary for me and definitely just getting up on stage and trying to sing and take off your clothes and remember where you’re supposed to be moving and trying not to have that bewildered look on your face. Definitely interesting.
POC: Did you know you were going to sing in the 101 class right away?
Queenie: Yes. I definitely was not a singer when I was younger and I always really wanted to be.
POC: During the process of taking the class did you think it would be a one-time thing?
Queenie: I kind of figured I’d keep doing it. I got really tired of doing actual theater because let’s face it, some directors can be terrible dicks.
POC: What was the next thing you did?
Queenie: I started with Rock Candy Burlesque. They’re down in Olympia. And then I was taking the 202 [Academy of Burlesque] at the same time. Then I did the October show, Sweet Screams with Rock Candy. First show I did after that was Carnival with Vixen Valentine. Then Captain Royale with Violet DeVille and then it snowballed from there.
POC: What is burlesque to you?
Queenie: I think that burlesque is an art form where you get to be your choreographer, your own musician. You can be all of the things you want in a theatrical production and you can make it your own. You can make your own fucking music video to whatever song you want and you can make it awesome. I love that.
POC: What have been some of your inspirations this past year and a half (whether or not they’re burlesquers)? What’s something that you see in a show and you say, “that’s what I want to do”?
Queenie: Inga Ingénue’s Minnie the Moocher. Every time I see that I get so excited. It’s so amazing. And that is the thing where it’s like: that’s what I want to aspire to be.
POC: And what are some of the things you’d like burlesque to aspire to be?
Queenie: I want it to continue to grow and be this awesome thing and become a little more socially acceptable without people saying, “Oh my god you are so brave.” I want people to do what they want to do and have venues to put on the weird fucking acts that they want to do that aren’t necessarily themed. That’s what Revelry is.
Revelry is every first Monday in Ballard at the BalMar. Next show is April 7th, click HERE for info.