Saturday, October 29, 2011

STAGEright Presents G&S Pirates of Penzance

Gilbert & Sullivan must be rolling in their graves with hysterical laughter thanks to STAGEright Theatre’s current production The Pirates of Penzance! My own response was no less dramatic. The spell weaved by the cast; crew and director of this raucous parody of a sarcastic satire moved me to silence and stillness. Enraptured in a cacophony of G&S music, pop culture references (and appropriated snippets of pop songs), over the top physical humor, brilliant actor “business” and more, all I could do was sit, watch and grin like an idiot.

For those of you who have never seen a G&S production (like me until last night) don’t expect much from the libretto, or plot for that matter. The lyrics are cute but silly, and the plot absurd.  As for the music, it is pretty, and parts are down right beautiful, but its number of superfluous notes make Mozart's busiest concertos look conservative. During the lifetimes of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan the show’s commentary had some serious bite, but as much as the G&S Society would like us to believe, that dog lost its teeth long ago; at least until last night. Director, Brendan Mack took this classic and in the spirit of its creators turned the traditions on its head.  As Bob Fosse did with the musical Cabaret when he directed the film, Brendan Mack "destroyed it to save it."

Drawing from dozens of pop culture references, and parodying of pretentiousness in our own society, this production is a play in burlesque form. A cast of 11 actors, most double and triple casted, play all the roles usually worked by a cast of two dozen or more. On top of that, each actor has created their own personas

The show begins well before the first chords of the scores are played. Actors in unique “hipster” personalities mill about stage, play games, and carry out stories. These relationships resurface throughout the play adding a wonderful, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, layer of complexity. For example, Sophia Federighi the young woman who plays the Pirate King (did I mention this show includes gender bending?) and Paul Linnes who doubles as music director and the Major General spar both as their characters and as their “actor” personas.

Each member of the cast brings something special and unique to the show. Ashley Coates’ ability as an over the top character actor is brilliant and contrasts beautifully with Jordan Melin’s pretty boy pomp and stiff heroic ego. Jordan and Arwen Dewey beautifully rock the score as Frederick and Mabel (respectively), and Katherine Kuntz is one of the most talented young physical comedians I’ve seen in a LONG time!

I could go on and on about how much I really did love this show, but it wouldn’t do it justice. You have to see it to really get it, and even then it might take a little bit of time to let it all sink in. It is play in burlesque form. It takes a concept, strips it down, says something about it, puts its back together with tassels twirling, and through it all there is a storm of proverbial glitter, feathers and fans. There is a LOT to take in friends, but you should seriously try, and if one viewing isn’t enough STAGEright’s “repeat offender” policy will give you the opportunity to see it again.

STAGEright’s Production of The Pirates of Penzance plays through November 19, at Freehold in Belltown on Fri-Sat evenings at 8:00pm. For more information check out

It’s a Fosse Jack MUST SEE, so I hope you get the chance!


~ Fosse Jack

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Behind the Scarlet Curtain:: Burlesque 202 (Sneak Peak!)

Without giving too much away, I want to give my readers a little sneak peak of what is going to come out of the Academy of Burlesque in another two-three weeks. Last week I started Burlesque 202 with Waxie Moon. What makes this class unique is that it is almost entirely a “boylesk” class! Myself, Sir Eddie Van Glam, Piston Chambers, Rip Curl, and Man Johnson make up the bulk of the class. Seattle’s newest import, Summer Lovin from Chicago will provide the sole aspect of burlesque femininity to the class, and she a cutie too!

If you are a familiar with at least two of these performers you can get an idea of how varied the acts are going to be. Piston Chamber’s campy, high energy, boyish charm contrasts beautifully with Sir Eddie Van Glam’s mature, metrosexual aura and robust masculinity. Rip Curl’s geek-chic concepts and goofball stage presence, and Man Johnson’s unabashed kink factor and shy slutiness will add some serious humor and definitely up the level of “sick” awesomeness. Finally, Summer Lovin’s classic burlesque beauty will provide the essential “hard points” for the audience to grasp on to.

As for me? Well, as always I will strive to add my own flare and style to the show. There will be some fun dance moves, some sultry attitude, and like many of my shows some sort of anthropomorphic animal. ;-P

As a teacher Waxie Moon has been incredibly encouraging and supportive, and his insights to our numbers have been amazing! I am so excited to get pushed to my limits as a dancer and as a burlesque performer in this class. I am also very excited by the insights and feedback others in the class have been providing. I must admit that I talk WAY too much, but it is nice to have the opportunity to contribute, and my classmates have yet to tell me to shush up. Of course there are two weeks left (yikes! Only two weeks left!) so we might get to that point soon.

A few words and phrases to tease and tantalize your imaginations: milk bottles, celebrity crushes, marching band, vacuum cleaner, “Occupy…” and my “special sting.”

The recital is on November 12th, with performances at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. You can purchase tickets from students in the class for $10 each. Let one of us know if you need tix and we hope to see you there. It’s gonna be all sorts of sexy.


~ Fosse Jack

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fosse's Journal; Burlycon 2011, Thursday

And so Burlycon 2011 begins; or rather it did at noon-Ish today, Thursday October 20th, 2011. Like many good theatrical presentation on opening night it was not a perfect opening. With computer systems down, the staff scrambled to manual check people in. Attendees took it in stride however, and it didn’t take long to get the events rolling.

I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Jo “Boobs” Weldon. Her passion for the story and purpose behind the museum (and pageant) of the Burlesque Hall of Fame was an excellent mood setting for my initial Burlycon experience.

Afterwards I spent most of the afternoon working alongside burlesque composer and performer, EmpeROAR Fabulous!!! as one of the Con’s merchandise hawkers. It was fun watching people look over the tee-shirts and rhinestone encrusted tank-tops, and marvel at just how small a “women’s large” is nowadays. (I don’t blame them, those tees where pretty tiny!)

The evening would eventually lead to the “Vintage Meet & Greet,” a crowded get together in the Hospitality Suite. It was fun to see everyone together, but to be perfectly honest it was a bit overwhelming. After making my rounds, sampling a few of the delectable snacks provided by Zephyr Paquette, and trying in vain to remember any names I had tried to hear during introductions, I retired to the hotel lounge for a burger and martini with fellow performer (and Burlycon roommate) Ella Titsgerald.

My hunger sated I find myself drifting into a state of pseudo exhaustion; the sort of weariness that comes from working 10-days straight before diving into a fun but rather intense series of social events. So instead of attending the peer reviews this evening, I felt it would be better to actually decompress just a little and maybe, just maybe be well rested enough to make it through these next exciting days.

To any performers being reviewed tonight, I apologize for not support you. It is, I assure you, nothing personal… I’m simply beyond my capacity for the evening.

Dear Burlycon and all of my friends and compatriots attending this weekend, I am immensely pleased to share these days with you and I hope we make some very fond memories together.


~ Fosse Jack

Fosse's Journal; Burlycon 2011, Friday

Day two of Burlycon draws to its close. Still the evening is not yet spent, for I will shortly leave the relative comfort of my hotel room and head out to the evening’s Peer Reviews. I am particularly excited for this.

Today I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the educational activities of the Con. I began my day an 8am with a workout and dance session with DANCEBELT members Ruby Mimosa and Inga Ingénue. The class was fun, and a good way to get going in the morning.

From there I went straight to the day’s history class. Scott Ewalt, a man who has been involved with burlesque since he was twenty and fresh faced in NYC, shared his passion for the art form and in this particular case for the male aspects of burlesque. I didn’t realize that the male side of the art form had such a rich history, dating back to the 1890s and Henry Dixie! Scott’s slideshows and his intimate knowledge of the subject were intoxicating, and immensely challenging. I could have sat there for hours more, and I have MUCH more to do.

After a shower, and a light breakfast would be a PANEL on Touring Shows (very informative) and a class taught by Miss Rosie Bits (gosh, she is just adorable!) about Getting Sponsorships (very encouraging!), followed by a bit more time helping out the Burlycon staff at Merch.

The Keynote address, attended by a large portion of those at the convention brought Indigo Blue, Scott Ewalt, Miss Astrid and living legend Ellion Ness. There were moments of tender remembrance for those performers who have been lost recently, and a great deal of encouragement given to those in the hall. Ellion was particularly touching as she got all flustered with joy. It is so amazing to me to see the legends that are still with us. Our fore-mothers and such, those who have helped to truly define the burlesque art form.

Tack on a VERY crowded class photo, and a fun and rather raucous parade to the pool (through some very confused hotel patrons), and you have the bulk of day two. The crowds would slowly make their way up to the canteen on the pent house floor and soon after begin to disperse. Very shortly now some will gather to review colleague’s performances and act in progress, and I am very much excited for this.

Well friends, I’m off. I fully intend to end up at Denny’s tonight so I will think of you when I am killing myself with chicken fried steak. :-P


~ Fosse Jack

Fosse's Journal; Burlycon 2011, Saturday

It is Saturday night and in the room above the bulk of the Burlycon attendees prepare for the evening festivity, the Neon Party. I find myself inclined to spend my evening in the hotel lounge, my netbook in my lap and spending some time in reflection. It’s not that I don’t like a good party, but I am fairly certain that the combination of neon-clad burlesquers and thumping dance music may be more than my sensually saturated psyche. ;-P

Today began with an excellent class by Waxie Moon. The exercises he showed us were simple acting tools about physical energy points and ways to ground ourselves. I have used similar exercises in acting before, but it was great to put them to work as a burlesquer. In fact I think these exercises an even more useful in non-verbal performance like strip tease. In any case, it was a lot of fun and an excellent refresher course.

From Waxie’s class I moved into the vastly crowded session with Kate Valentine AKA Miss Astrid. In a jam packed room we got to here from one of the movement’s best emcees. She echoed various sentiments that I have actually developed, which was encouraging. She did so in a fantastically matter of fact, and witty fashion. Just listening to her teach I can see why she is such an excellent emcee. She knows her job, does her job, and is not afraid to speak her mind, and all the while she is the model of professionalism.

From Miss Astrid’s class I moved back to the Burlycon merch table where I proceeded to struggle against insetting lethargy, while chatting with Ruby Mimosa, J Von Stratton and other vendors. It was an entertaining afternoon, if a bit slow.

I got to visit my favorite ladies, Sinner Saint Burlesque at hospitality with Lady Tatas made me feel terribly naughty by giving the Eucharist in her sexy-Madonna, Mother of God, outfit. There may have been some shirtless time among a handful of the boy-lesk boys, instigated by David Bishop (the Bishop of Burlesque), and maybe some naughty pics with a bunch of “Virgin Marys.”

Lydia McLane’s class on book keeping was extremely informative and made me realize just how disorganized I am as a business person. I got to know Lydia a bit more as we worked together on blowing up balloons for tonight’s party. Finally I stopped into peer reviews and caught a few acts before my need for supper drove me to Jack in the Box.

All in all the day has been excellent. I am tired, but in a good way. Tomorrow I will wake up early to catch Dancebelt’s next class and then it on to class and some final work time at the merch table. I look forward to posting my “journal” entries when I get home tomorrow, but even more, I am excited to spend just a little more time with the friends I’ve made these past few days.


~ Fosse Jack

Fosse's Journal; Burlycon 2011, Sunday

And so Burlycon 2011 is complete. I could sit and talk all about how wonderful and amazing the experience was, but that will have to wait for another entry. For now I shall I continue with my simple journal entries.

The day began with Dancebellt’s Madonna workout, where we learned Vogue. Okay, so I didn’t enter pop music till the late nineties so I missed a lot of Madonna, and I hope I won’t be stoned when I say the first time I heard Vogue was at this workshop. :-P Anyway, Ruby and Inga were, as always, awesome teachers and I very much enjoyed the show and have some new choreo to play with!

After this I skipped across the hall for the first bit of Waxie Moon’s dynamic staging. I couldn’t stay for the whole thing as that class period was the only time I had to pack before working merch that afternoon. Still what little I sat through was just amazing! I love seeing tools I learned for other art forms being applied to burlesques, but as Waxie said burlesque is just dance, acting and sex so it makes sense that acting tools are so easily applied!

After this I packed my bag and lugged them to the vendor rooms. Aside from a few crazy bursts, the afternoon was fairly slow so I got a chance to bond with some of the vendors; Ruby, Jamie, Foxy Tann and the others.

Then it was off to the Closing Ritual, a moving event that was both sentimental, reverent, silly and truly touching. In a phrase it was “bittersweet and frosted.” (Imagine a DARK chocolate cupcake with pink caramel icing.) I won’t go through the details, sometimes you can only understand by experience, but I will say I got to share some beautiful intimate moments with some amazing performers. At the end I walked away with encouragement to continue my work as a performer and perhaps more importantly as a producer. The need that was I was given by one of my peers was the need to provide opportunity to performers, and perhaps in other ways to put myself out there and perform elsewhere as well. I am motivated!

Then I joined the staff and remaining volunteers to breakdown Burlycon. Breakdown had the sense of making the bed after an amazing night of passionate love making, and snuggling with you lover… tender and satisfying. I parted ways with Burlycon after many hugs and thanks and smiles, and I will always treasure this weekend and work my hardest to live up to what the community needs of me!


~ Fosse Jack

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Burlesque, Autumn 2011, Recital

Last night saw a new class of performers graduate from Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque. As per the course, some of these performers will simply move on, post their diplomas on their walls and giggle when they remember it, others will continue on and join the active ranks of Seattle’s burlesque community. Whether they go on to perform elsewhere or not, each of these performers should be proud of their performances last night.

I could go through the list and recap the entire show, but honestly considering the size of this particular class that could constitute an entire series of articles. Instead I will focus on the “honor students” and their performances.

The first I want to mention is Aurora Airyolas, the performer I will lovingly dub “Class Clown.” Her act to Brick House by The Commodores was by far the most fun of the evening, and reminded me of something you might have seen on Pee-Wee Herman’s Playhouse… only not creepy, and ridiculously sexy.

Unlike other performances I have seen to this song, Aurora provided a literal interpretation, and for the first third of the act was actually a dancing brick house in bellbottoms and platforms… imagine a disco version of Baba Yaga’s Hut. Her choreo was crisp and well executed, and her energy fun and over the top. It was ridiculous in a Saturday morning cartoon way and I loved every moment of it.

Performer Blithe Night earns Fosse’s Fan-Boy Honor of “Salutatorian”. Her act was slow, drawn out and she held the audience (and Mis/ter Waxie Moon!) rapt. I am not typically interested in “gore-lesque” but Blithe’s serial killer act was pretty awesome. I love it when performers take their time, and really dominate the audience and that is what Blithe did.

Every move was calculated, and there was nothing superfluous. Her choreography was simple but well executed and the images she evoked were chilling. The innocence of the blonde in white, the world “Velma Kelly” esque brunette in black silk, and the washing of the hands gave the whole things the feel of Dexter meets American McGee’s Alice. Loved it!

The honor of Fosse’s Fan-Boy “Valedictorian” goes to performer Nikola Tease-La. Aside from having the cleverest name in the class (in my opinion), Nikola had the stage mastery and polish that bumped her to the top of the class. Her timing and choreography were spot on, and though her sexy science experiment was nothing new conceptually her execution was one of the best I’ve seen.

On a side note, she also had a fantastic recovery on stage, after falling off one of her heels, she rolled through it, continued the number and deftly kicked her remaining shoe off when appropriate. Turning a potential dangerous accident on stage into a part of the choreography takes talent and I was super impressed. (I only know it was a accident when comparing first and second performances, but brava diva!)

Honorable mentions have to be made as well. Angelina Allure’s performance to Maneater had the best revel of the evening and Crimson Royale’s popcorn number was the kitschy-est and Crimson herself had some of the best audience contact moments.

Again, every performer last night should be proud of their work, and of the standing O they received at the end of the second show. Know that your tutors were glowing with pride last night (gotta love seats next to the teachers!)  To those of you who go on to work as performers in Seattle and beyond allow me to wish you a heartfelt “Merde Mes Amis!”


~ Fosse Jack

PS: I LOVE Miss Indigo Blue as a Emcee.  She is so good!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Burlesque Social Club @ Velvet

Last night brought the inaugural session of the Burlesque Social Club at Velvet! It was an intimate affair with Velvet owner, Michelle, Fuschia FoXXX, Piston Chambers, Kitty Baby, Sir Eddie Van Glam and myself. Two others, Karen and Autumn showed up later. It was simple, low-key, low-stress and a lot of fun. We got cozy on a comfy couch, sipped wine and PBR and munched on popcorn while watching Kitty’s pick, The Producers (the musical re-make with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick).

The opinion at the end of the night was summed up by a unanimous, goofy grin, and considering the emotional state the event was intended to evoke, I would call the Club meeting a success. Fuschia, Michelle (and myself) are hoping that the club will take off, and grow. Velvet is ideal for intimate events but the unique atmosphere of the space channels energy in a positively intoxicating way. The more people we get together, the sweeter the buzz!

The meeting also provided a chance for some informal networking and for some industry education. Kitty Baby shared her connection with a burlesque Legend, Novita. We watched a clip of Novita’s very first burlesque number; a b&w film of a night club floor show. It was fascinating… and a little funny. Floor show chorus girls are rarely Follies caliber. Notvita however was splendid and I am thankful to Kitty for introducing me to a bit of burlesque history. Awesome!

So ladies and gents, let me just say that I hope you get a chance to attend the Burlesque Social Club. For now we are planning to go ahead and meet on a weekly basis (hosts' schedules and time permitting), and so the next opportunity you have is NEXT Monday night. I’m not sure what the film du jour will be but I bet there will be a couple of options! Whatever it is, it’s gonna be a lot of fun! (And I'm going to make cookies!)

Hope to see you at Velvet!

~ Fosse Jack