Fathom Swanson, founder of Keyhole Peepshow, chats about the Wyoming burlesque scene.
A: Casper, the 2nd largest city in Wyoming, 57, 000.
Q: Please tell us a little about the beginning of Keyhole Peepshow? When/where/how? Describe your style.
A: I started the Wyoming shows with no intention of making it a troupe, full time, regular thing, originally. When I did the very first show in July of 2013. It was because a traveling performer I highly respect was coming through my area. So i decided to do a show for him. The show didn’t have any local gals/gents. I brought all out of towners in to do the show. I put in major favors from all my fabulous friends. It was a sold out house and went FAR better then I had thought. So I decided to do another one, with local gals/gents and a few feature performers. To see what would happen, and now, here we are! year later!!! After the first few shows I could see that Casper really needed another art platform for different kinds of artists to express themselves. Something for 18+ crowd. I saw that Casper wanted something more to do on a night out then just bars, bowling alley and the rodeo. I felt it was now not just I, me. . .it was now a WE.
The first several shows we didn’t have an official, jazzy company name. It was just Casper Burlesque. It was the 4th show that I decided it was safe to give it a name and to make it a real thing. My mother, business partner brother, Ryan and I all worked on the name together. We took a few votes from my very close friends. Seeing what rolled of the tongue best. I wanted it to feel very old fashioned, retro. Keyhole felt right to me. My brother created the logo, it all came together. Now the I is a WE with a beautiful group of dancers. All the performers involved couldn’t be more apart. We all look different, different body types. I love how diverse we are. I call them my Keyhole Cuties!
Our style of performing has no limits. I want the dancers and our guests to feel that they can do whatever they like, do an act they normally don’t get to do. We do have more themed shows but the artists can still express themselves how they like.
We do several group numbers in our shows. I, myself, do more classic, Cheescake, cutesy, funny acts. More high energy. The styles range from cabaret to belly dance to ballerinas to rock and roll edgy to classic glamorous. I often say that we are a rag tag group of saloon girls. We welcome all!
Q: Do you have a local burlesque community to speak of? With their being little, if any, burlesque in your town and/or state, how do you stay inspired and how do remain informed of issues/evolutions in the burlesque community?
A: There is none in Casper. With us being the only one, we have to work hard to reach out to new performers and to stay in the know. The Madame of Keyhole travels all over and is continually showing the troupe new material and information resources. we stay inspired by our theme of shows. With each theme, it opens up new ideas and new research. YouTube is a great tool. Websites like 21stcenturyburlesque are very helpful, Burlycon is also an amazing source of inspiration, and Pin Curl magazine is amazing for visual reference! Since we live in Wyoming, online tools have been the best source of knowledge and inspiration.
A: Keyhole Peepshow is working on doing traveling shows during the summer for the first time BUT no, the troupe as a whole, doesn’t travel. The creator/madame of keyhole is the only one who does burlesque full time and travels at least several times a month for events.
Q: How have your audiences responded to your shows? Was it slow growth in audience numbers or a big boom from go? Is there a pattern among your audience (mostly male or female/ age/ socioeconomic class)?
A: As of now, Keyhole has only done 7 shows. So we’re still trying to figure out what works best for us and the audience that supports us. The numbers very greatly. The very first one was sold out. Two after that, maybe 100-150. then we had one with over 300! The next had less then 100. Casper still really doesn’t get burlesque and how magical it is. So that has been tough to get the word really out there to get the numbers consistent.
The people that attend our shows, Glitter Outlaws, is mostly women and couples!!!I love seeing a couple out on a fun date night to see sexy, sassy performers! The rest our working men, oil rig, construction kinda guys. Those are the people we see at every show. The average guy that works long hard hours on the plains of Wyoming. They are our loyal fans.
Q: Is education an uphill battle? Have you had any push-back involving your town at large/venues/ or the law?
A: YES!!! I, Fathom Swanson, am the only one in Casper with any real life experiences with burlesque. so giving the outsiders the tools to understand the glory of half naked glittery people isn’t easy. I teach classes and private lessons but that still doesn’t really show the masses what they are missing out on isn’t easy.
I have gotten several hate mail/death threats about how I will run this town into the grown if I continue to make being a ‘slut’ seem glamorous; that kinda nonsense. I sadly get that ALL the time. and have had to deal with that my whole career.
Finding a studio/space that will let us rehearse is impossible. so living room rehearsals is how we roll, right now.
Venue wise, my area doesn’t have a lot of options for a jazzy stage show like mine. and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to rent. and wants to have our shows there. That’s been the toughest thing. finding a good home, that we can have shows at on a regular basis.
Q: Any interesting blue laws you have to work around?
A: In my area, we have to wear 2 pairs of underwear when going topless. and nothing smaller then quarter size on nipples.
Q: What are the pros and cons of running a burlesque troupe in a smaller town/state?
A:Pro-we are truly one of a kind. We get to open the eyes of people that would normally never get to see this kind of art. We get to inspire a whole new group of people to expand their dreams, view point. Give artist the chance to express themselves when there isn’t an outlet in our area. and the area i live in, the historical, downtown area is amazing!!! with support from local shops, it really is a everyone knows your name feel.
Cons-Being one of a kind! Being the only one doing it, a lot of people have no idea of burlesque is. Because they don’t understand it, it makes them nervous, hateful.
Costumes/supplies for our shows. pain in the butt! We have to go out of town, many hours away to get what we need or order it all online.
Not having options for space to rent.
Q: Do you feel under recognized in the national scene? What are three things you want everyone to know about Wyoming burlesque?
A: Sometimes. But I also understand that Keyhole is still very new and we still have A LOT work to do. For being only a little over a year old, we have made great strides!!! We have had amazing, world class performers grace our stage!!! Like Cora Vette and her VaVaVettes. The Cupcake Cabaret. Vivian MirAnn. Paco Fish. Margo Christie, Frenchie Renard and more!! We feel so very honored every time we get such highly respected artist to come on down to Wyoming to kick it with us saloon girls!!! Each show is so amazing!!!
And with the creator/madame of Keyhole traveling and getting to perform with beautiful artists, like Kitten Deville, Lola Spitfire, April March, Foxy Tann and so on all over the U.S., it helps spread the world. Helps show new people the beauty of Wyoming.
1: Its truly one of kind, where anything goes. Where you’ll see a cowboy on a horse, ordering at the drive through at a fast food place.
2: The sights you’ll see while visiting Wyoming, will take your breath away!
3: Wyoming has such a rich downtown, rich long history. Its really an amazing, place with amazing stories to tell!
A: 1-to take our shows on the road!!!! We are planning a little tour throughout Wyoming this summer to open the eyes of new Wyoming goers to burlesque! We plan to educate Wyoming and surrounding areas about this timeless art form.
2-To iron out details, so that each show we do is successful; to be more polished with each show.
3-To grow Keyhole Peepshow. To get new local gals/gents to become a Keyhole Cutie/ Keyhole Stud!!!