Let’s face it: burlesque is the cheeky and sequined underbelly of Seattle. There are several layers involved in burlesque (pun intended), and it evokes equal parts teasing flirtation, smart vulnerability, and amazingly theatrical costumes. Burlesque is empowering, of course, and it can be awfully clever as well.
There’s a long history regarding burlesque, the beginnings dating back to ancient Greek satirical plays. In the 1800’s it was considered the lowest of the lowbrow theater. However, it was also the most accessible. Through powerful and playful movements and scantily clad performers, burlesque is a tantalizing teaching tool, telling stories and consistently challenging the status quo of beauty and sexuality.
In the late 18th century, theater and burlesque collided, forming “literary burlesque.” This type of burlesque often turned popular stories topsy-turvy and asked questions that others feared to ask. Paying homage to history, Noveltease Theatre, a new Seattle burlesque company is taking part in creating lusty literary art. With Sailor St. Claire and Fosse Jack at the helm, this creative duo’s aim is to excite audiences by introducing them to classic literature through the constant transforming art of burlesque.
To start, we asked Sailor and Fosse about their own feelings on burlesque, an often misunderstood and scrutinized form of expression.
Sailor: “I like burlesque because I’m a loud woman, and burlesque is a space that allows women to be loud and take up space. It’s one of the only performance genres that celebrates and showcases identities and embodiments that have been historically considered excessive or abject. Rather than marginalizing women, queer folks, people of color, trans and nonbinary people, and artists with disabilities for being somehow excessive or outside the norms of the white, cisgender, able-bodied heteropatriarchy, it puts these identities front and center.”
Fosse: “For me, it’s about looking at things differently, telling stories in ways that touch the audience in both intellectual and visceral ways, and creating things on my own terms. Also, I believe that burlesque is a transformative art form. It changes you, revealing things about yourself even as you reveal yourself to an audience. Body positivity, sex positivity, intersectional feminism, the empowerment of queer identity through physical expression. I think burlesque, at its best, is the ideal art form to experience the person I want to be.”
In a city where extended eye contact feels like the end of the world, why does Seattle need Noveltease Theatre in their lives?
Sailor: “Seattle is one of the most literate cities in the country, and I believe here, more than any other place, is a place that can wrap its book-loving brain around the comingling of burlesque, theatre, and literature and see all of those things are artistically valuable simultaneously. And we want to be at the forefront of that change.”
Fosse: “At the same time, we are providing our existing fans with new material, offering an alternative lens and format in which to experience a beloved artistic vocabulary (“bump & grind on my mind”). We may also be introducing elements of classic literature, stories, and characters, that our contemporaries may have written off as irrelevant. If so, we are showing that older stories can be reclaimed, and retold by new generations. As an industry that values the legends of our past, I think it is important that we value the stories of the past as well.”
You’re show coming up on April 13th and 14th, Adventure! Marvelous Tales of the Baron Munchausen is from a book from the 1700’s! Is there anything that you can relate back to modern audiences who maybe aren’t familiar with this text?
Fosse: “One of the things that we’ve discovered in adapting the Baron Munchausen tales is that the Baron would definitely be an Insta-celebrity today. He’s all about the next adventure, doing impossible things, and capturing those moments for others to enjoy. In fact, we want to tell EVERYONE about the things he does. We’re pretty sure that Baron Munchausen was the original ‘YOLO’ celebrity.”
Ready to check out Adventure! on April 12th and 13th and get involved with Noveltease Theatre?
Get Adventure! Marvelous Tales of the Baron Munchausen tickets here. Check out Noveltease Theatre and learn more about Sailor St. Claire and Fosse Jack here.
Sarah E. Miller is a freelance writer, dabbler, collaborator, and an occasionally funny lady. She spends her days writing for a wide variety of people, visiting all the museums, helping creative people expand their visions and dream-scheming up big ideas. She is also the Founder and Marshmallow-in-Chief of the Lonely Arts Club.