The Truth Is Down There: Jo Jo Stiletto on The Burl-X-Files.

•08/12/2013 • Leave a Comment
Mulder & Scully (The Shanghai Pearl and Jake Groshong) Photo by Jules Doyle

Mulder & Scully (The Shanghai Pearl and Jake Groshong) Photo by Jules Doyle

~ Written by Jessica Price

Three weeks from the launch of her brand new show The Burl-X-Files, the effusive dynamo that is Jo Jo Stiletto was cool as a cucumber when we met on a warm summer day to talk all things Mulder and Scully. At that point in the process the acts were steadily pulling together, along with the buildup of anticipation for Jo Jo’s next major event after the successful Whedonesque and Geeklesque Unites productions. But the actualization of The Burl-X-Files has been a long time coming. Nearly two years ago Jo Jo’s nimble brain began to fixate on the idea of a show inspired by the long-running, paranormally-obsessed television series The X-Files. While wrapping up a presentation at Nerd Nite in Seattle, Jo Jo made an offhand remark about a possible next show paired with a slide from the series; to put it mildly, the crowd went nuts.

The X-Files first aired September 10, 1993, but like the “dream of the nineties” (as Jo Jo lovingly refers to it) the series had fizzled out and lost most of its fanbase well before its final episode on May 19, 2002. The blame was placed on everything from audience viewing preferences post-September 11 to more plausible issues with cast changes and increasingly poor writing. (There were questionable X-Files films in 1998 and 2008, one of which this writer will personally defend, but I digress). For a very special stretch of the 90s when American pop culture was swirling with a heady mix of conspiracy theories, internet chat rooms, rumored alien abductions, cyber punks, and government suspicion, the show was a thrilling weekly indulgence. Even The X-Files’ opening sequence contained paranoid, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it messages: Trust No One. They’re Watching. The Truth Is Out There.

Meanwhile in the Northwest, a pre- “Stiletto” version of our future producer Jo Jo first caught the series while attending the University of Oregon. Connecting with the spirit of the show (and in particular, with 90s heartthrob Agent Fox Mulder and strong, brainy female lead Agent Dana Scully), Jo Jo began organizing viewing parties in her dorm. With cropped red hair and a thrift store version of Scully’s FBI-appropriate business suit, Jo Jo found both a new circle of friends and a welcome distraction in geeking out on The X-Files. For a time Jo Jo entertained ideas of becoming a forensic scientist until journalism and theater eventually won out over the prerequisite chemistry and science she knew went with forensics territory. “Gotta know your strengths, and that was not one of them,” Jo Jo recalls. “I think I didn’t want to be a forensic scientist; I wanted to play one on television.”

Jo Jo Stiletto and "David Duchovny" in the 90s (Photo courtesy of Jo Jo Stiletto)

Jo Jo Stiletto and “David Duchovny” in the 90s (Photo courtesy of Jo Jo Stiletto)

After college, Jo Jo moved to Seattle and distanced herself from the faltering show, (not unlike David Duchovny did at the time, taking a large part of the show’s audience along with him). Exploring her newfound adulthood while embarking on a career in advertising, she became involved with Seattle’s fringe theater scene and eventually fell in with the tough broads of Rat City Rollergirls. She also came across Seattle burlesque troupe the Gun St Girls, and within six months had signed up for Miss Indigo Blue’s Burlesque 101.

But as any true obsessive can attest, though the action figures, dioramas, and other badges of fandom may be temporarily stuffed into the darkest corner of the closet, they never truly leave their “host” (to use the parlance of The X-Files). By the time Jo Jo started producing shows, the burlesque that she naturally gravitated to was born of fandom and a “new” hybrid of pop culture-referencing striptease called nerdlesque.

Following her hugely successful Whedoneque Burlesque (inspired by the works of Joss Whedon), it was time to finally come clean about her love for The X-Files. Paying homage to a twenty year old show without being obscure would be tricky as well as deeply personal; Jo Jo realized the way to develop the show was to call in the professionals (i.e. trusted associate producers and close friends dubbed ‘The Syndicate’). The idea began to take shape that The Burl-X-Files should feel evocative of both “monster of the week” and myth arch episodes with visitations from some familiar characters, but a brand new story would weave the acts together. Though spoilers are carefully guarded to keep things interesting, Jo Jo will say that the show is framed by Mulder and Scully investigating paranormal activity in a burlesque theater. “To some the show will feel like a bit of a genre spoof, trying to capture the tone and feeling of a conspiracy/horror/drama/sci fi shows from the 90s and beyond. To others it will be a walk down memory lane,” Jo Jo clarifies.

The Lone Gun Ladies: Scarlett O'Hairdye, Tootsie Spangles and Sailor St. Claire (Photo by Jules Doyle)

The Lone Gun Ladies: Scarlett O’Hairdye, Tootsie Spangles and Sailor St. Claire (Photo by Jules Doyle)

The Smoking Man, played by Bolt Action (Photo by Jules Doyle)

The Smoking Man, played by Bolt Action (Photo by Jules Doyle)

Casting the show was relatively easy once Jo Jo landed on the lead roles (a process which at one point involved paper cutouts arranged in different combinations). The Shanghai Pearl was quickly cast as Agent Dana Scully, and Jake Groshong as Agent Fox Mulder. Though there were specific act submissions, The Syndicate kept a few performers on board in a “blank slate” capacity until the story dictated what types of acts were needed. Rehearsals took the form of all-cast brainstorming sessions and a series of drop-in workshops for feedback. All of which adds up to a uniquely collaborative new narrative.

The Shanghai Pearl (Photo by Jules Doyle)

The Shanghai Pearl (Photo by Jules Doyle)

When asked how society looks back on The X-Files and what holds up from the 90s, Jo Jo unsurprisingly has given this a lot of thought. “Strong female characters,” she says is what the show’s lasting legacy is. “Scully, Buffy…Wonder Woman. Nobody now has that role.”

“Rewatching it has been really interesting,” she continues. “Its greatest strength and greatest weakness were these overarching stories…because they got so convoluted that you had no idea what was happening. You were watching for the moments of humor or the moments of connection between two characters that literally had no sexuality…their relationship was so angst-ridden, that that became the fun. You were waiting and watching for that one little touch…a chaste kiss…”

The real Mulder & Scully

The real Mulder & Scully

It's chemistry, Mulder. (Photo by Jules Doyle)

It’s chemistry, Mulder. (Photo by Jules Doyle)

“There’s been some great articles I’ve read looking back on the idea of Agent Scully and why was it so important to have a character like her that wasn’t defined by her sexuality…[but] wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got to see her, maybe…as a full human lady, with all the different parts of female sexuality? I mean she had a fucking kid- but we never got to know how or why?? That’s the ultimate betrayal right…you watch the show for so long, and wait…they had a baby? Even the actors joke about it now,” she laughs.

“That’s what has been fun about taking this into a burlesque realm,” Jo Jo says. “Now we get to explore some of the things the show didn’t share with us. But also do it in a way that is respectful to the show. We want to fulfill some expected fan fantasies while also holding some things back because that’s The X-Files. It’s about what’s seen and what isn’t seen. It’s about revealing some truths and then not revealing. It’s perfect for burlesque, if you think about it. You don’t reveal everything, you must hold something back. Things aren’t explained. Things are mysterious. Things are magical. And to me, that is burlesque”.

*****

Visit Jo Jo Stiletto Events for more information, and purchase advance tickets HERE.

Jo Jo Stiletto Events in Association with the Theatre Off Jackson present:
The Burl-X-Files: The Truth Is Down There
Burlesque Inspired by the X-Files

August 23, 24, 29, 30, 31st
DOORS 7pm. SHOW promptly at 8pm

Starring
The Shanghai Pearl as Agent Dana Scully
Jake Groshong as Agent Fox Mulder

Featuring:
Rebecca M. Davis
Bolt Action
Queenie O’Hart
Sailor St. Claire
Scarlett O’Hairdye
Seraphina Fiero
Tootsie Spangles
Trooper
Jesus la Pinga
Lady Drew Blood
Eva Fairwood

Associate Producers/The Syndicate:
Rebecca M. Davis
Scarlett O’Hairdye
Bolt Action
Sailor St. Claire
EmpeRoar Fabulous (not performing)
Mercury Troy (not performing)

Get tickets now.

Get tickets now.

New faces: The Libertinis

•08/09/2013 • Leave a Comment
The Libertinis (Photo by Jay Nuske)

The Libertinis (Photo by Jay Nuske)

~ 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.

Hattie Hellkat (POC Photo)

Hattie Hellkat (Photo by POC)

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.

Woody Shticks (Photo by POC)

Woody Shticks (Photo by POC)

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.

Miz Melancholy (Photo by Danielle Moug)

Miz Melancholy (Photo by Danielle Moug)

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.

Hattie, Kiki, and Tootsie

Hattie, Kiki, and Tootsie (left to right)

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.

Kiki Cosmosis (Photo by Jay Nuske)

Kiki Cosmosis (Photo by Jay Nuske)

Tootsie Spangles (Photo by Amanda Jane)

Tootsie Spangles (Photo by Amanda Jane)

And...there will be cupcakes.

And…there will be cupcakes.

Gone but never forgotten.

•08/04/2013 • Leave a Comment
Dixie Evans 1926-2013

Dixie Evans 1926-2013

As word spreads quickly around the international burlesque community, most of you have heard that Dixie Evans has passed away at a Las Vegas assisted-care facility after suffering a stroke earlier this year. It is with great sadness that we report the news – it’s already been a very sad week at BSP as I have recently lost a personal friend (back home in Texas), and naturally have been doing a lot of reflection on the incredible importance of cherishing the moments we have with those we love, while we have those moments to enjoy.

I had the extreme pleasure and privilege of spending some time with Dixie while interviewing her in Seattle back in early 2011 when she appeared at The Swedish Housewife’s Gypsy Centennial. Despite her somewhat frail condition at that time, I found her to be an extremely sunny personality. ‘Sunny’ and ‘light-filled’ being the first two adjectives that come to mind. Our conversation ran way over the allotted time we were given, but she had so many stories and so much to say it just didn’t feel like an interview; it felt like a guided tour through Dixie’s reminiscences of her long and unconventional life. I was sitting on a sofa across from Dixie for the first part of our talk, but as we began flipping through her photo book I curled up with my legs tucked under me at Dixie’s feet. And that was how the rest of our conversation went. Me, listening intently at the feet of this lovely, elderly glamour girl, and Dixie moving back and forth from subject to subject, memory to memory, in a flood of words so brisk that it was almost hard to keep up.

As a result, the transcript from our interview was an incredibly long and unwieldy thing; but ripe with many pearls of Dixie wisdom and Dixie observations. She was funny, she was pensive, and at times she was a little melancholy about the passing of time and life on your own out in the desert. It was a moving afternoon. I remember when we said goodbye, she was stepping into an elevator with Laura Herbert at her side. As the doors began to close, Dixie turned back to face me and suddenly she grinned mischievously and gave me a secret wink. It was a bona fide showgirl gesture and it made my heart skip a beat.

I hope to once again revisit that long and winding transcript and share a little with you all in the coming weeks. Thank you to Dixie for that memorable afternoon, and for a memorable life.

A little gift from Dixie.

A little gift from Dixie.

A very ‘Festive’ showcase; the return of The Log Lady.

•07/30/2013 • Leave a Comment
Wanna meet the man, the myth, the legend?

Wanna meet the man, the myth, the legend?

This week a person near and dear to our hearts at BSP – partner in crime Paul O’Connell of POC Photo – is the focus of an artist-curated display of photography over at Tigerlily Salon. Featuring a selection of iconic images of Seattle’s vibrant burlesque community, the show will also include a little star power in the form of live models The Shanghai Pearl, The Luminous Pariah, Wiggy Stardust, Seraphina Fiero, Cherry Manhattan, and Miss Kitty Baby.

Violet Tendencies of Stripped Screw Burlesque dreamed up the idea for a showcase recognizing Paul’s work and dedication to the performers that he photographs, envisioning a collaborative event between photographer and muse(s).

“I’ve had a few photo shows before, but this the first time I’ve had a show like this where the subjects in the photos (who happen to be fabulous burlesque performers) perform for and interact with the crowd, so I’m excited to see that,” Paul explained. “I wanted to show a variety of photos in terms of the style of the photo, color treatment, lighting etc as well as the subject in the photo; how they’re posing, their expression, costume, etc. And of course these photos are some of my favorites.”

You can read about Paul’s background in a previous feature called “What’s His Problem?” here at BSP. If you’d like to attend the party, please inquire with Violet Tendencies at my.violet.tendencies@gmail.com for invite availability and info. “A Festive Showcase featuring the Burlesque Photography of Paul O’Connell” takes place Thursday, August 1 (6pm-10pm) at Tigerlily Salon (2241 15th Ave W, Seattle WA 98119, next to Victory Studios in the Interbay area).

Here’s a few images that may make appearances – only way, way larger? You’ll just have to see…

Seraphina Fiero (POC)

Seraphina Fiero (POC)

Cherry Manhattan (POC)

Cherry Manhattan (POC)

Hai Fleisch (POC)

Hai Fleisch (POC)

Mercury Troy (POC)

Mercury Troy (POC)

*****

Also coming up this week- it’s the much-anticipated return of Black Lodge Burlesque: A Night of Cabaret Inspired by David Lynch. The brilliant production kicks off at Re-bar August 2-3, and heads to the producers’ home base in Portland August 8-9 at the Star Theater.

My log has something to say too.

My log has something to say too.

Vera Mysteria on Black Lodge from Marcella Joshlin on Vimeo.

In case you missed the show last time around, here’s a sneak peek:

Laura "wrapped in plastic"- and Bob, played by Baby Le'Strange (POC Photo)

Laura “wrapped in plastic”- and Bob, played by Baby Le’Strange (POC Photo)

Hai Fleisch as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks (POC Photo)

Hai Fleisch as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks (POC Photo)

Portland's Lady Stockholm as the Elephant Man

Portland’s Lady Stockholm as the Elephant Man

Burk Biggler as "The Arm" (POC Photo)

Burk Biggler as “The Arm” (POC Photo)

Baby Le'Strange in dual roles as Dorothy/Frank from Blue Velvet (POC Photo)

Baby Le’Strange in dual roles as Dorothy/Frank from Blue Velvet (POC Photo)

Picks of the Glitter: SeaMen at the Rendezvous.

•07/24/2013 • Leave a Comment
Mod Carousel performs Thursday July 25 at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater

Mod Carousel: Thursday July 25 at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater

This week’s top show pick is a no-brainer for sheer manpower alone. The spectacular three-headed monster that is boylesque troupe Mod Carousel (featuring the unparalleled talents of the Luminous Pariah, Paris Original, and Trojan Original) lands at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater on Thursday, July 25 at 7:30pm. The press release promises to deliver “a salty adventure full of muscles, mustaches, and striptease”- a heady cocktail if ever there was one. The masculine/maritime puns are plentiful- but the talent these lovely gentlemen possess is as serious as it gets.

Sydni Deveraux, who recently pocketed a shiny, sizeable, and well-deserved trophy for “1st Runner Up: Reigning Queen of Burlesque” in Las Vegas, will host this performance. (Incidentally, to see Sydni- and her constellation of tattoos- perform next locally you’ll have to attend the annual Seattle Tattoo Expo August 9).

Sydni Deveraux (Photo by AKoch Photography)

Sydni Deveraux (Photo by AKoch Photography)

Go-Go Harder will join Mod Carousel as a very special guest. A little more about Go-Go:

Go-Go Harder’s special brand of Boylesk is theatrical and irreverent, campy and comedic, and most especially glittery and gritty.

The love child of Liberace and Tom of Finland, Harder has been showcased nationally in New York City, Key West, Minneapolis, and even in his home state in Fargo, North Dakota. Harder also shakes his Boylesk booty abroad including Warsaw, Poland for the 2010 Europride Celebration and in London where he headlined the 2011 All Male Boylesque Show for London Burlesque Week.

Go-Go Harder was also crowned “Best International Performer” at the World Burlesque Games in London, May 2012. Harder continues to perform, teach, and produce Boylesk in New York City, spreading his love of leather, glitter, and of course, g-strings, wherever he can.

Go-Go Harder (Photo by Hugo Harley)

Go-Go Harder (Photo by Hugo Harley)

SeaMen: A Maritime Boylesque Revue
Date: July 25th, 2013
Time: Doors 7pm, Show 7:30pm
Location: The Rendezvous Jewel Box Theater – 2322 2nd Ave – Seattle, WA
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door

For tickets and more information, click HERE.

And…speaking of Mod Carousel…and Sydni…and Caela…have you seen this???

 
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