On July 22nd, 2018 I found myself at one of Atlanta’s iconic venues, Smith’s Olde Bar, to see two awesome bands, Blood Oaks and Last Electric Rodeo.
Season 2 of Clubesque is set to hit the City Winery stage on October 29. What is Clubesque you say? Well it’s a fantastical world of lively interactive entertainment created by Sunni Stephens and company where it melds together a contemporary pop cabaret show that brings together burlesque, drag, singing, toe-tapping dancing that feels like Broadway meets Vegas that will leave you wanting more. There is something for everyone at the show – regardless if it’s date night, girls night or party night you will leave more than satisfied by the experience.
What Clubesque does exceptionally well is highlights the cast’s excellent job of keeping the crowd engaged in every second with their ever-changing costumes, styles of dance, and sets, along with amazing choreography, sex appeal, and energy. The entire cast proved that beauty comes in all colors, sizes, and forms. As they showcased today’s 3-dimensional woman beauty, personality, and soul, Clubesque was what every woman aspired to be and what every man aspired to be with.
Joining Stephens for season two of Clubesque includes a titillating lineup from the worlds of stage, screen, dance and music. Perle Noire and her gems will be gracing the stage along with Nicole Paige Brooks, Tallolah Love, and other surprises are in store for the premiere. Lush costumes, infectious music, dazzling choreography and a gorgeous cast will continue to tantalize the audiences’ senses leaving them wanting more. “It all adds up to a spectacle…in the best kind of way” says Stephens.
Not to mention City Winery is the perfect place for Clubesque to make it’s second season premiere, as they have not only a beautiful stage with an intimate atmosphere, with the room capping at less than 350, but the drink and food selection is mouth-watering. Not to mention here is also a Speakeasy, and seriously, who doesn’t love a good Speakeasy? So it’s literally the perfect night out on the town. You get a show, you can have dinner and drinks, followed by more drinks. Who wouldn’t love that? So grab your tickets, because this is going to be one for the books.
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a big fan of the world of burlesque, vaudeville and sideshow acts, and that is saying it mildly. There is something extremely appealing to me to see the bravery of expression (in whatever form it takes) that comes out in these type of art forms – that the women and men who take the stage to express themselves are fierce and fearless. They are literally willing to reveal everything, not just down to pasties, but parts of their soul for the sake of their art form, and that is powerful to see how the artists can translate what they are feeling to the audience. It is glorious to watch.
This is long overdue, because it took me a while to full process what a impactful show The Glamour Geek Revue at the Sheraton on Saturday night over Labor Day weekend at this year’s Dragon Con was. It literally was one of the hottest tickets, so to speak, to wait for. Lines started wrapping around hours before the doors opened at 11:15 pm for a midnight start. House had to hold the doors until after 12:25 am before everyone would finally be seated and the show could begin. At full capacity of 1,300 people making it one of the largest stages to perform on.
With Talloolah Love at the helm, as producer, performer and emcee, she juggled the hats of titillating geekery to a perfection. With over 90 acts submitted from all over the world, it was a labor of love and process to dwindle it down to 13 performers to compile a lineup with the right feel, from solo numbers to group numbers that rounded out a total of 16 separate acts with no intermission for the 2016 Dragon Con Burlesque: Glamour Geek Revue.
Atlanta’s own Candybox Revue bookend the evening with ensemble numbers. First by starting off with a powerful Game of Thrones inspired number, called the “Dance of Dragons” with Talloolah Love as Daenerys Stormborn and Roula Roulette, Candi Lecoeur and Sin Tillating as her dragons. The “Dance of Dragons” was graceful, elegant and strong to see these women provoke an array of emotions. At the end of the number, Talloolah Love emerged as the emcee for the evening and kept the show moving along at a nice and even clip.
Following CBR, Black Mariah from Dallas, Texas, took the stage over with her first number of the evening. Black Mariah’s “Slave Leia” act was confident, sassy and sexy as hell to watch as she brought an empowering motif to the iconic Slave Leia from Star Wars and made it all her own. Phoebe Nyx made several appearances on the stage, for her own whimsical Muppets inspired acts. From Fozzie Bear to Beaker to Kermit, all of them endearing and delightful as she played along with her ukulele, mixed in part with equal parts comedy and sweetness. At the end we all wanted more Phoebe Nyx and Muppets. Atlanta’s own Atomic Bomb, Nikki Nuke’m was a belly dancing firehouse with her “Fallout” inspired number. The muscle control, flexibility and the ability to make her body move in ways that do not seem natural is what makes her one of the most fascinating artist to watch.
Up next was Fritz Krieg, from Atlanta’s own nerdesque troupe, Hysteria Machines. Fritz performed as Mad Eye Moody from the Harry Potter lore, for his “Mad Eye Pretty” number and was he ever oh so pretty as he pranced, with some shimming of garb removal and in general had really good comical timing. It was a real treat to watch him on the stage as the first boylesque performer of the night, but would not be our last.
Vita DeVoid from Tampa, FL, took the stage as Lucille Ball for her “VitaMeataVegaMin” performance and it was priceless and chuck full of hilarity. Next was Big Mama Dixie Crystal, out of Charlotte, NC. She was mesmerizing as she brought new life into a “Labyrinth” number. Dixie Crystal started dressed up in a big white crystal encrusted ball gown as Sarah for the famous dance scene out of the movie during “As the World Falls Down,” then Dixie morphed into the Jared, The Goblin King. For the final reveal, she transformed into the owl. It was one of the most breathtaking performances of the night.
Atlanta’s own Estella Zorn, another member of the Hysteria Machines troupe took the stage and her Avatar Korra was to die for. She battled the elements with power and grace. Also from Charlotte, NC, Dee Dee Perks brought a bit of Super Mario Bros with “Bowser” balancing striptease, hooping and splits. Dee Flowered, from Athens, GA, graced the stage with a sinister performance as the “Penguin” and she played the supervillain to perfection, monocle and all. Atlanta’s own Persephone Phoenix, the executive director of Hysteria Machines, took the stage for her “Red Right Hand” act that not only made us all want to “Scream,” but was dark and provocative too. Black Mariah graced the stage for the second time with her “Sin City Stripper” act. While the act was highly enjoyable, provocative even it didn’t hit the same cords for me as her “Slave Leia” number.
Up next was Avery Wolf as the supervillain, Two-Face with Coquette du Jour as Sugar and Estella Zorn as Spice in “Razzle Dazzle,” from Hysteria Machines’ production, “Gotham, a Tale of Two Faces” performed on the Dragon Con Burlesque stage. This number was so much fun to watch. The sheer energy and dynamic presence that each of the moving characters created was so intense.
The final act for the 2016 Dragon Con Burlesque was a “Mad Max” inspired commanding anthem that was a sheer force to be reckon with by The Candybox Revue. This was a super intense chair number with six members of The Candybox Revue – Flame Cynders, Kat Asstrophy, Candi Lecoeur, Sin Tillating, Roula Roulette and Desta del Carmen.
For me, along with the other 1,299 people in attendance the 2016 Dragon Con Burlesque: Glamour Geek Revue was a huge success. I can’t wait to see how it gets topped next year.
Dance of Dragons by The Candybox Revue
Talloolah Love as Producer, Performer and Emcee
Black Mariah as Slave Leia
Phoebe Nyx as Fozzie Bear with a ukulele
Nikki Nuke’m belly dancing Fallout
Fritz Krieg’s Mad Eye Moody is Oh So Pretty
Vita DeVoid as Lucille Ball
Big Mama Dixie Crystal brings Labyrinth to Life
Estella Zorn as Avatar Korra was to die for
Phoebe Nyx is back as Beaker and her ukulele
Dee Dee Perks as Bowser
Dee Flowered as the sinister Penguin
Persephone Phoenix made us all Scream
Black Mariah graced the stage again with Sin City Stripper
Avery Wolf as Two-Face accompanied by Sugar & Spice (Estella Zorn and Coquette de Jour)
Phoebe Nyx is back one last time as Kermit with her ukulele
Final performance of the night was The Candybox Revue ensemble piece of Mad Max
Interview by Danielle Boise, Photos Courtesy of Leo Photograpahy
I had the great pleasure to sit down and chat with Persephone Phoenix, the mastermind behind Sexpelliarmus, A Whimsical, Wizarding Burlesque Revue Part 3!! and get the dish on the next set of Harry Potter-inspired burlesque shows that Hysteria Machines are putting on at The Atlanta Shakespeare Company. The first showing will be Saturday, May 21 for a late night viewing starting at 11:30p. The second run of Sexpelliarmus will be on Monday, May 23 at 7:30pm. Each night will offer something new and exciting to see. So if you are fans of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or even Slytherin, then this is the show you MUST see. If you are looking for something a bit geeky, with a side of nerd and a twist of titillation, then look no further because all you need is a good dose of Sexpelliarmus, A Whimsical, Wizarding Burlesque Revue Part 3!! and you can grab your tickets to either night’s show here.
What is the thesis statement behind the production company Hysteria Machines, and how in your opinion, what do they offer that is different than other burlesque troupes in the area?
Hysteria Machines is Atlanta’s Own Nerdlesque and Pop Culture Burlesque performance collective, filled with professional, dedicated performers of all shapes, fandoms, and specialties. Founded in 2013 by Sketch MacQuinor and Persephone Phoenix, Hysteria Machines’ goal was to provide a unique, atmospheric burlesque and variety revue, engaging the audience in an immersive experience while also giving new local talent the opportunity to shine!
Currently, Hysteria Machines is Atlanta’s Own (and ONLY) troupe dedicated exclusively to Nerdlesque and Pop-Culture Burlesque.
For those who do not know what Nerdesque is, can you provide some insight for them?
Burlesque as an art has evolved greatly through the generations. Its origins are in so-called “common man theater,” where the acts consisted of satire of serious literature. In the early 20th century, American burlesque gradually incorporated more and more striptease into the lineup, featuring the artists as principal performers. The terms “burlesque” and “striptease” eventually became tied, and remain so to this day. After fading out of popularity in the 1970s, American burlesque had a revival in the early 1990s with the so-called “Neo-Burlesque” movement. This modern version of burlesque broadened and expanded the classic striptease theme, and included a strong female empowerment movement as well as more contemporary subjects, music and themes.
This is where the term “Nerdlesque” comes in. Nerdlesque merges the classic satirical roots of burlesque with the Neo-Burlesque movement, by parodying current pop culture, geek fandoms and common nerd archetypes. As Atlanta’s Own Nerdlesque and Pop Culture Performance Collective, Hysteria Machines seeks to immerse the audience in this art form, steeped in history and peppered with current cultural phenomenon.
Now down to the nitty gritty. What is the wonderful world of ‘Sexpelliarmus, A Whimsical, Wizarding Burlesque Revue Part 3!!’ and how did the show go from the first inklings of a thought into the ever evolving production we are about to see at The Atlanta Shakespeare Company on May 21 and May 23?
Sexpelliarmus started out with what seemed like an impossible dream. I remember thinking “this is way too big for me to do.” My first brush with nerdlesque was graciously provided by Atlanta performer and producer Talloolah Love when I was accepted to perform a Ravenclaw love potion number, where my character devoted it to Neville Longbottom, on the Dragon Con Burlesque stage in 2013. It was very easy, when further diving into the Potterverse, to see each of these significant characters as parodies of themselves: Lupin peeling to “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Bellatrix swinging her wand and dancing with crazy fervor to “Maneater.” A whole host of silly, sexy acts played out in my head, but at the time, they felt like pipe dreams.
It wasn’t until I got some real production experience under my belt, through various other outside endeavors –some successes, some not-so-successful- that I even entertained the idea. Honestly, at first, I was just hoping to bring some acts to a local Harry Potter party! I had sourced a whole cast worth of people who shared my passion, all ready and willing to perform these acts, putting together costumes, discussing plot, planning meetings. When the party fell through, it seemed a waste to discard all the preparation the cast had done, so with the help of a mutual contact that was scored through my partner in Hysteria Machines, Sketch MacQuinor, Sexpelliarmus found a venue!
The acts weren’t the only big plans that seemed impossible, though I wanted a whole, immersive experience, complete with floating candles, living newspapers, seating by your House, character mingling, food and drinks from the Potterverse. So, with a lot of ingenuity from a cast I consider to be some of the most professional, committed, positive, amazing people ever, most of these things came to fruition. And what started as a small time production quickly had greater demand than we could accommodate in a smaller venue. We then moved to one of the most immersive venues in Atlanta, The Shakespeare Tavern, which brings with it a whole host of new, fun challenges to creating that signature Harry Potter experience.
Now, having one run of this show (and several runs of other shows) under our belt at the Tavern, we are ready to magic the pants off of our audience!
Will each night offer something a little different or will they be the same show, just at different dates and times?
Yes! Saturday will be our opening night, which is always very exciting! Those coming that night will be able to see a ONE NIGHT ONLY performance by none other than Coquette du Jour of Athens, Georgia. Monday night will also have some special offerings, with the house opening early for the Students of Hogwarts to enjoy any one of the Shakespeare Tavern’s many British dishes, participate in a photo booth, or maybe even get to dance a little!
Can you give us any secret tidbits of what can one expect to see, taste and experience walking into the world of Harry Potter at The Atlanta Shakespeare Company, which by the way is the perfect place to see this show, as seen through the eyes of Hysteria Machines’ Sexpelliarmus?
Well, as always, we will have themed adult beverages, including Butterbeer and a special Dragon Heartstring Potion, as well as chocolate frogs and pumpkin pasties. You will be surrounded by fully-costumed characters, epic Harry Potter music, and decor, including living newspapers, banners, props and more. We really go out of our way to make the experience magical for everyone. This is, of course, not to mention the awesome BRAND NEW acts that we’re bringing for this show.
What is your favorite thing about producing a show of this magnitude?
There is something really magical (and I hate to keep using that term, but it’s accurate) about walking out into the lobby or the house of the Tavern, with the audience in their costumes, characters mingling around, music piping in through the speakers, with decorations all about. Literally the experience of that is what I find the most gratifying. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
There are multiple options of how one wants to experience a show, from full immersion of a VIP experience to more of a laid back approach for those that may be a little more timid. What can you offer as advice for first timers coming out to a burlesque show as what to expect, especially from this particular show, as it is layered with such an intricate storyline? Also, is there encouragement to dress up as your favorite character, like Hermione Granger or rally behind say one’s favorite house, for instance say Gryffindor?
Yes, there are a lot of options on how you can experience this show. Tiered seating, for instance, comes in three levels: floor, which are tables and chairs to fit your party on the main level. Box, which is on the perimeter of the main level, with tables and chairs. Or balcony, which overlooks the entire event from above, with counters on which to eat or set your drinks or wands. VIP, however, is a whole other level entirely! You’re super close to the stage, you’re included in the show throughout, the table is littered with goodies, signed posters, and you get themed drinks! Our VIPs receive a really neat experience. Also, if you can’t do a whole VIP table but still want some of the experience, we offer upgrade goody bags and themed drinks.
My best advice for those coming to this show as their first show: expect to laugh, and be prepared to become a student at Hogwarts, if even only for the night.
Geek is the new chic, do you think that’s half the fun of putting on a Nerdesque show?
Geek is definitely in right now, so riding that wave is no small contribution to our success. But truthfully, my biggest love of this genre is transporting people out of the real world for a few hours.
Finally, what is the one thing you want viewers to walk away from an experience of ‘Sexpelliarmus, A Whimsical, Wizarding Burlesque Revue Part 3!!’?
I want them to leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling, which is a potion consisting of excitement, humor, and nostalgia. I really want the audience to EXPERIENCE this production, and not just WATCH it.
I personally have been lucky enough to see each rendition of Sexpelliarmus, and let me tell you it’s so worth the ticket price. There is comedy, lots of laughter, inside jokes and you get to immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter for a couple of hours, with lots of laughter and a bit of naughtiness. What’s not to love about that? I know I do. So you should come out and check out one of the shows. So grab your tickets, because this show will sell out and you don’t want to be left out in the dark all alone, by yourself, now do you?
It was a sight to behold, as all the sinners dressed to the nines came out to play on Palm Sunday. Calling out from the rafters “Dita, Dita, Dita,” the audience at the beloved Tabernacle marveled, to witness something truly awe inspiring and breath-taking. Dita Von Teese‘s “Burlesque: Strip, Strip Hooray” tour made its final stop at the Tabernacle in Atlanta on April 13, 2014.
With more than 1,300 people in attendance, including some who traveled from one side of the country to the other in order to see the undeniable Queen of burlesque herself, Dita Von Teese: this was truly the biggest night and highlight for everyone who attended.
Every type of person one could imagine, including virgins to the world of burlesque and entertainers themselves showed up to become part of something truly remarkable and special. It was a fitting tribute to have the most recognizable name in burlesque since Gypsy Rose Lee, take the stage at what was once a Baptist church, now a mecca of entertainment in downtown Atlanta.
When asked if they had ever been to a burlesque show, responses from the audience elicit either a yes or no with eager excitement, like children in a candy store, with some knowing exactly what they are getting into or others overly excited and couldn’t wait to see if it’s more than just a striptease.
The second question had a bit more of a bite to it. I asked what does burlesque mean to them. For Chelsea Hancock it meant “hot girls, stripping, old school music…pinup stuff.” For Sunshine Devine “it’s all about the tease, it’s an actual art form for us (stripping). So it’s about telling a story.” Alice Undead believed that burlesque is “a classy, teasing, artistic strip.” The one common theme from everyone I spoke to was the epitome of burlesque is about confidence in one’s self.
“It’s a great way to get dressed up and feel sexy,” said Kat Kitchen. “I like the fact that my company (The Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company) empowers both men and women of all different sizes and stripes to feel sexy and confident, not only on stage but in life too.”
Dita Von Teese’s “Burlesque: Strip, Strip Hooray” tour definitely knew how to build up a tease with a continuous flow of retro music echoed in the once hallow halls of the “Tabby,” which intensified and enticed the excitement in the air. You could taste the tingles in the air, in the anticipation of that magic moment when the music would lull and the curtains would open to commence the beginning of the night’s glamour start.
Von Teese started the night off for the first of her four numbers with a smoldering cigarette in her mouth and full pantsuit with black rhinestone top hat that she shimmed out of every so seductively. Von Teese took her time, drawing the crowd in with each step and ended up splashing around in a supersized martini glass with a simmering smile. The entire time that Von Teese was on stage, you literally could not take your eyes off of her; it was utterly impossible, since she encapsulated the audience with a sense of wonderment that was contagious.
Von Teese personally picked each performer was personally picked by Dita herself, making it a night I know no one will truly ever forget. Murray Hill from Brooklyn was the Master of Ceremony for the night. Hill kept the crowd on their toes as his sarcastic wit kept pace with the night.
What I think I love most about burlesque is that ability to embrace on every level everyone for whom they are, no matter the shape, size, age or sexuality. It truly is about acceptance. Each performer came with their numbers and shined bright. Dirty Martini made the stage her own with each striking move, even popping a pastie by the end of the performance. Catherine D’Lish ensnared the crowd in her web of seduction, as she danced across a spider web. Lada Nikolska, from Crazy Horse Paris, did a special rendition of the Parisian lips number, which was very femme fatale and exotic. Perle Noire, who in my opinion, stole the show away with her Josephine Baker inspired banana dance number and her high energy, toe touching, split dropping performance. And what show wouldn’t be complete with a little boylesque as Monsieur Romeo got the crowd all hot and bothered under the collar. Every number was unique and a site to behold, truly showing the spectrum of what burlesque has to offer from some of the best performers. Of course Von Teese ended the night with her “Opium Den” number, dripping in red and black encrusted rhinestones with a fantastical hands-on geisha fantasy.
Every number was unique and a sight to behold, truly showing the spectrum of what burlesque has to offer from some of its best performers. The entire evening is not one I imagine anyone in attendance with forget anytime soon. Dita Von Teese’s glamorous world is one to behold and relish in with all the sparkle and shine. I know I cannot wait to dip into her fantasies once again.