Fosse Jack dishes on the metamorphosis of Burlesco DiVino.
When the return of Verlaine & McCann’s Burlesco DiVino was announced this summer, we here at BSP got itchy palms and more than a little warm under the collar. The concept was a charming departure for Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann, and like all of their productions, I seem to love and appreciate them more and more over time. Repeated viewings are something I wait for religiously with each of their shows: there’s always so much to take in…different members of the cast to focus on…exquisite dancers to study and be captivated by…little changes here and there from year to year. Burlesco DiVino, originally a commissioned piece, is now in its third year and the producers and cast have cleverly turned the Italian caper on its head while still managing to preserve the essentials that made the story so charming – and the dancers so stunning – in previous years.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Fosse Jack, who plays the role of Dario in Burlesco DiVino. Any of our longtime readers know I love a good “behind the scenes” feature, and Fosse kindly agreed to write about his personal experiences with the show and its evolution.
Without further ado…the lovely and talented Fosse Jack:
~ Written by Fosse Jack, Special Guest Contributor to BSP
Back in Spring 2012, I received an e-mail from Lily Verlaine inviting me to be a part of a new show that she and Jasper McCann where creating. It was slated to be called Burlesco DiVino: Wine in Rome and was a piece commissioned by the Triple Door for their month long wine event at the end of the summer. It was one of the most exciting e-mails I had received in a long time. I had dreamed of performing in a Verlaine & McCann show ever since I had seen Land of the Sweets for the first time, and now I had the chance!
We started rehearsals a month or so later, and over the summer generated a new show. It was an amazing experience; one part following a script written by Lily and Jasper, and one part a collaboration of some very talented individuals. We gave feedback, fleshed out ideas, and together created something that was at some times high art, and at others cheeky entertainment. While Land of the Sweets and Through the Looking Glass are burlesque versions of existing stories, Burlesco DiVino is a unique creation, and the process of bringing it to life was exhilarating!
That first year was, for the most part, an artistic success. I think there were times that the audience wasn’t quite sure what to do with the material presented, as this show was very different from anything else LVJM had presented before, but they held on for the ride and we got some really good feedback. By the end of that first run, we were all proud of what we had created and looked forward to doing it again in the future.
In 2013 we remounted the show with the returning cast, made a few tweaks to the costumes and dance numbers, and Jasper added a second original song arranged by James Chappelle. I believe that our performances in that second run were crisper, the story (at least the second act) was easier to follow, and the staging was more detailed and vibrant. All in all, I believe this second iteration was better than the first.
Somewhere, between last year and when we started rehearsals this year, Lily and Jasper made a discovery about the show. Over the past two years, we hadn’t created one show, but two! While visuals and themes in the second act of Burlesco DiVino harkened back to the first, the styles and stories were so different from one another that it was difficult for the audience to really connect them. What started as a risqué piece of high art, reminiscent of Fellini’s Satyricon became something like a 1960s musical movie starring Julie Andrews, Danny Kaye and Liz Taylor! (To my knowledge those three have never actually performed together… but you get the idea!) With this discovery in mind, Lily and Jasper set out reconcile the two worlds of Burlesco DiVino and create a single story that spanned the course of the show.
By the time rehearsals started two weeks ago, a new story had been written. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say this. Following the experiences of Babs Lawson (Erika Zabelle), a young American dramatist with her heart set on being admitted to Yale Drama, Burlesco DiVino will take you on a journey of discovery and liberation. Making use of the theatrical device of a play-within-a-play, Burlesco DiVino is also a look at the artistic process; from the tongue-in-cheek point of view of burlesque artists. We explore the seriousness of art, the place of relationships within its creation, and the importance of reaching not only diplomats and art critics, but people in general.
Babs’ journey (and to a lesser extent my own character arc) is about finding a new way of looking at life. It is about learning to laugh at yourself and to really enjoy the present. She starts off a ‘serious artist’ and becomes an individual whose passion and love for life shines through her art. In this sense, Burlesco DiVino really captures those burlesque ideals of laughter, levity, and lust (for life.)
I am immensely excited to be a part of this show, even more so, with this new story. If you have seen a previous iteration of the show, you will recognize all the players, as well as most of the dance numbers. The story will be new, and as it encompasses the entirety of the show, it will feel more like a play than a burlesque show. The characters too will feel fresh, and while you may recognize the individuals, the added layers within the story will lend a more nuanced and dynamic experience of each one. We have spent the last two years honing something that was artistic and sensual. This year, we’re all determined to have fun with it! We hope you do too.
Love & Puppy Paws,
Fosse Jack (aka DARIO!)