Well, I’ve been writing about dance and theater for more than 40 years, and my first blog for Firehouse Forum is about a genre I have never seen before. I have, of course, heard about burlesque, but I’d never been to a burlesque show. So, let me share my impressions of my experience attending “NativiKitty 2: Burlesque Right Meow Searches for the True(er) Meaning of Strip-Mas” at Firehouse on December 16, 2018.
Preconceptions: Prior to attending the show, my preconceived notion of burlesque was that it is a theatrical form that involves comedy and striptease.
Definitions: Standard definitions include words and phrases like “literary, dramatic, or musical work,” caricature, exaggeration, skit, farce, parody. Some definitions equated a burlesque show to a variety show, and only a few mentioned that striptease was often included.
What I Learned: At the beginning of the show, host and emcee Ego Von Hubris introduced us novices to the basic rules of “Burletiquette.” First, consent is mandatory. In his own words, “My Christmas gift to you is the offense of your delicate sensibilities.” Second – and last – applause, catcalling hooting and hollering are encouraged. Officially, “We need to hear from you in an audible manner that you enjoy it.” Most of those in attendance at Sunday evening’s show were already familiar with the genre and the expectations of the audience.
My Advice: Burlesque is not the place to take your church-going grandma. If you looked at the flyer, you would know that and avoid an uncomfortable situation. The “search for the true(er) meaning of Strip-Mas” promised all-new levels of blasphemy, and with acts like Hot Virgin Mary and Stripper Jesus they more than delivered. There were several scenes in which the baby Jesus was drop-kicked, much to the delight of the audience.
Impressions: First, the positives. One big take-away is that burlesque is very empowering for women, and there is no room for body shaming. All shapes and sizes are welcome. Performer Gordita Maricona is billed as “the big-bellied Boricua” and introduced as “fat and fierce.” Stage Kitten (which is what burlesque stage hands are called) Selene Noire proudly strutted her full figure in black fishnets and an open front teddy or leotard, generously sharing her assets with the audience as she picked up and placed clothes and props for each act.
The range of acts was remarkable. Sally Stardust was the picture of innocence, wearing red and white onesie pajamas. Eventually she stripped down to a holiday themed green string bikini and threw in a bit of classic bump and grind before opening a Christmas present to find that it contained the dreaded Elf on a Shelf, which she sent flying across the stage in a fit of pique. Scarlet Starlet was awesome as a renegade Elf who, upon receiving three candy canes as a Christmas Bonus went on a punk rock rampage, ending up by slashing a blow-up Santa. Ellie Quinn’s Christmas Shark hilariously glided out on a skateboard in order to achieve a sense of swimming through the ocean. Dancing to “All I Want for Christmas is You,” she inspired a veteran audience member to add an unexpected coda, “Sexy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”
Now, this is where it gets tricky. I must be honest and at the same time honor my commitment to theater in all its many forms. The two acts with the greatest potential to send all attending straight to hell were the sexy Virgin Mary with a light up halo, performed by Callie Pigeon to the accompaniment of Jimi Hendrix’ “The Wind Cries Mary,” and Stripper Jesus, in which Gordita Marconi, wearing a dark wig, beard, and at the end a crown of thorns, gyrated and twirled her pasties while lashed to a crucifix. This seemed to be an audience favorite, and while I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and I have seen a wide range of performance art – including, most memorably, a dancer who urinated on the floor to set a small paper ship a sail – this was, to put it politely, outside of my comfort zone.
Blasphemy seems like such an archaic word, but it is totally appropriate here. For some, it is a warning to stay away; for others it is an invitation. Be aware or be warned.
Final thoughts: Would I attend another burlesque show? Chances are that I will, but not any time soon and not another one with a Christmas or Easter theme. I love comedy and variety shows and costumes, and I am not easily offended. I enjoy learning about all the theater community has to offer, and fully support your right to perform, but everyTHING is not for everyBODY.
Burlesque 1; Julinda 0. Until next time.
(I wish my partner-in-crime, John Porter, had been in attendance. I would love to hear his views on this show.)