There is a pervasive notion that in order to be a true artist you must be poor and suffer. As if as an artist you should be living out some sort of Kerouacian fantasy life in a squalid flat, subsisting on red wine and a loaf of bread. You’ll ideally be tormented by some romantic yet deadly 18th century tubercular disease that brings sparkling eyes and a luminously pallid glow to the complexion. That’s how you know you’re committed to your art, right? A true artist does not care about money. An artist is always poor. To put something so indelicate as a monetary value on your work somehow diminishes its artistic value. Let’s slay this notion like the many-headed beast of bullshit it is.
MisRed Delicious, Rachel Rouge and Sugar Spanx
with Amourous Ava
Few things warm the cockles of a feminist’s heart more than seeing women pursuing their goals, running successful businesses and being rad bosses. The following is a conversation with performer/producers MisRed Delicious, Rachel Rouge and Sugar Spanx concerning the art of being a producer and the production of burlesque and variety shows in New Zealand. May or may not involve feminist themes.
AA: How did you all individually get into producing? What pushed you to take that step from performer to producer? (or vice versa?)
MD: I got into producing so I could perform. At the time there were very few shows in New Zealand and only one regular show, which had just started in Wellington. I knew if I wanted more stage time I would have to produce. This also gave me the opportunity to start networking and meet other performers.
SS: I got into producing burlesque events for a few reasons. Firstly, I was tired of dealing with musicians (having been managing bands), but really enjoyed the event management side and saw a gap in the market with burlesque. Secondly, there were a few shows around in the area, but not a lot of opportunities for new performers. The idea behind The Rock n Roll Circus was to give new performers stage time and networking opportunities, which is still upheld today. Along with seasoned performers we always welcome rising talent to our shows.
RR: I started Dr. Sketchy Wellington because I wanted to draw performers while in a bar, while listening to great music and drinking... and there was no Dr. Sketchy in Wellington at the time. Producing Dr. Sketchy got me back into performing again (I had been in Africa for two years and hadn’t performed while there). I really enjoy producing. I think I may even enjoy it more than performing. When I decided to move to Christchurch I also decided to start up The Menagerie as 50% burlesque and 50% variety. But I ended up moving to Wellington where there already are several good burlesque/cabaret nights, so decided to create a variety show. I love variety shows, and I really love creating my own.
One of the attractions of burlesque lies in how it allows us as performers to show female sexual agency on our own terms, when the public display of an unclothed female body is still somewhat controversial, and displays of female flesh on or off stage are often criticised as either ‘sluttish’ or un-feminist. At the same time, burlesque is somewhat unique in the performance arts, in that it does not insist that performers adhere to mainstream forms of beauty. The engagement between the burlesque performer and the audience becomes less about being looked at, and more about the performer communicating power, control, desire and autonomy.
Burlesque allows us to play with tropes of what is considered ‘feminine’ (qualities that are traditionally ascribed to women), and what is considered ‘sexy’. Finding what being sexy means for us personally, and how we manifest that aspect of ourselves in our performance is part of finding our individual style as a performer. In terms of my own performance practice, this entails creating characters that are very strong, very humourous, very weird, and often have a tremendously wiggly butt.
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Pastie Politics, a zine/trade journal about burlesque and feminism in New Zealand.
It might seem at first glance to be contradictory to connect feminism with a field that frequently involves taking your clothes off. For many performers though, burlesque is a way to creatively express some aspects of our feminism. This publication does not try to insist that burlesque by its nature is a feminist art form, but to instead suggest that there are ways in which performers create and perform that can make it feminist.
This publication aims to contribute positively to the development of the New Zealand burlesque community by showcasing writing and artwork created by New Zealand performers on the theme of burlesque and feminism/gender in New Zealand. Pastie Politics is inclusive of all genders and is designed to cater to the current community of burlesque performers, our neo-vaudevillians and Artists of the Striptease.