These days, burlesque is a term as abused as a stripper's feet at the end of a night in clear heels. Oops, that was a bad comparison -- especially because, dammit, despite all the misuse, burlesque is not, in fact, a euphemism for stripping. In its classical form, the term referred to a grown-up variety show full of bawdy humor, music, and any number of miscellaneous acts. Sure, this included the occasional skin-showing female dance, but that was only part of it. Stand-up comedy as we know it sprung partly from the burlesque circuit of the early 20th Century.
Good Theatre, a one-off event this Thursday at Churchill's Pub,
aims to resurrect that multidisciplinary spirit under the tag line
"adult theater for adult audiences." The evening of performances will be
spearheaded by Billie Bee Good and Izzy Rich of the Glamour Goddesses.
That's a local burlesque troop that not only hopes to revive the art
form's traditions, but also do it with a more colorful and shapely range
of performers than other groups.
They'll be joined by friends Tania Sofia Luna, Angie Z, and Holly Peno of Shameless Burlesque, along with sultry sirens Audrey Hipbone and Isadora Bull, for a collection of skits, jokes, and dances. The musical soundtrack will come courtesy of the Campeones and the Midnight Hour, and early birds can score rum giveaways from 11 p.m. to midnight during a special Malibu Black tasting.
Cultist caught up with Glamour Goddesses founders Billie Bee Good and Izzy Rich recently for a quick Q&A on their troupe, Good Theatre, and the classic art of burlesque.
Cultist: What are each of your dance backgrounds?
Billie Good: The Goddesses have many different dance backgrounds. I studied a little ballet, and worked my way into modern, and swing. Izzy Rich was the captain of her cheerleading team through high school. Missy Idaho was a ballerina and studied tap as well and Lyda Knott studied the best way, on the dance floor!
How did you become interested in burlesque specifically?
Billie: I've had a crush on burlesque since high school. Dita Von Teese was really popular but back then it seemed untouchable because everyone I researched (though they came in every size) were all pallid. And then I found performers like Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Nina Mae McKinney, and the list goes on. Sammie Davis Jr. performed with a burlesque troupe too! I loved the idea of being comfortable with your body and truly loving yourself beyond vanity.
Izzy Rich: I remember going to a show back in Baltimore, where I'm from, when I was in my early 20s and thinking to myself, "These women are strong, beautiful and so confident and I hope to feel that way some day about myself." Ten years later, here I am, embracing my power.
It was never really about the "tease" part as much as it was being able to utilize all of my creative energies, including theater, music, and dance, and have the best of all worlds. And what little girl doesn't want to dress up in beautiful costumes and prance around on stage being admired?
How did you all meet and form the Glamour Goddesses? What made you specifically set out to include a wide range of women? Did you feel that other troupes were limited as to a specific body type or look?
Izzy Rich: The Glamour Goddesses were formed in October 2010 after I attempted to join other troupes in the area. I found that my ideals were not necessarily the same as some of the others and so I set out to start my own troupe. I knew that it would be a lot of work and commitment involved, but it meant more to me to have my vision brought to life than to conform to others' beliefs.
With my new goal in place, I set out to find the members. I enlisted the help of another rising performer, Billie Bee Good, whom I had met while working on another show. Another member Lyda Knott, just so happens to be one of my daughter's friend's parents. This takes "soccer moms" to a whole new level!
We also have Missy Idaho who is a longtime friend of Lyda's and she joined us because of all the amazing stories she would hear from Lyda about our rehearsals and shows. Another soccer mom, check! We debuted with quite the audience during Moonfest 2010.
It was very important for me to showcase a variety of women because that was specifically one of the things I thought was missing amongst other groups. Sure they all had different hair colors, but as a woman with some extra pounds, I started feeling like South Florida was very shallow, even in the burlesque community, where such a thing normally isn't an issue.
Size isn't the only kind of variety I was concerned with either. Ethnicity and age also play important roles. Our lovely goddesses range from 24 to 38! And we love all shades of beauty! All of this diversity helps mold the kinds of shows we produce.
Billie Good: Diversity was hard to find in the local circuit before I joined the Goddesses. Burlesque has evolved throughout the years. Everyone's trying to compete with MTV but burlesque isn't anything like that. To me burlesque is comedy in the form of a skit or musical number. In these performances women would emphasize sexuality, lust or seduction by taking something off. It's like SNL with boobies!
Can you explain the "classical" style of burlesque on which your troupe focuses? What do you think is often missing from other burlesque performances in the area?
Billie: We take the definition right from the book and work from there. It's great coming up with group numbers and crazy sideshow acts. I think what's missing in burlesque performances is a 44-inch waist. We are also missing comedy, not stand-up, but gags and skits.
Izzy: If anyone were to look up the actual definition of "burlesque," one would find that it is not just a show to seduce and undress. Rather they would find that burlesque meant something musical and comedic, with a lot of parody and bawdy humor, and an occasional drop of a skirt or top. If an audience wanted to merely see skin, why wouldn't they just visit their local strip house? It is instead my intention to take the emphasis off of the actual skin display and put it back into the fun of the show.
Where did the idea for the Good Theatre event, specifically, come from? How do you know the other participants and why did you decide to invite them specifically to perform?
Billie: Good Theatre started out as a play. I love musicals and wanted to make one. I figured between me and my friend and prop designer Meagan Peters, I could do no wrong. Unfortunately the story is still sitting in my room unperformed!
I tried again with a rewrite of shorts and then was able to find performers. The performers I found I met through performing at different venues. I liked the theatrics they displayed on stage and turns out most of us are thespians.
You all are based in Palm Beach County. Do you have any other Miami shows lined up in the near future, and what else are you working on in general?
Billie: The Goddesses are doing shows all over South Florida. We do the last Sunday of every month at Stage 84 in Davie; the next one is June 26. We are also performing at the Stonewall festival in a few days, June 19 in Fort Lauderdale. Then the Shimmy Shake Revue July 2, and we'll we back at Churchill's July 3 for America the Boobiful! You can always find updates on our Facebook page.
I want to do Good Theatre again; I'm working on a show I hope to be ready by August. As far as the Goddesses go we are always brainstorming, we have a ton of shows, even some we haven't gotten the chance to use yet. I think that's why it's great to have Stage 84 to perform at, because it gives us the medium we need.
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