Award winning acrobatic burlesque starlet and pint-sized powerhouse Trixie Little talks celebrating America’s birthday, underboob, going down under, hateful monkeys and the four c’s of burlesque.
Interview: Miss Violet O’Hara
Q. Your wildly entertaining striptease performance repertoire includes acts featuring trapeze, physical comedy and acrobatics. Before joining the burlesque community, you founded a troupe called Fluid Movement. Can you share a bit about this unique adventure with us?
Fluid Movement was a troupe that I founded in Baltimore right out of college in 1998. I studied traditional visual art (painting and drawing) but knew I wanted to do something that connected more with the world than I could just by putting up work in a gallery. I wanted to really affect people with my creativity. The first Fluid Movement show I did was a puppet show with dressed up tofu hot dogs that re-enacted the opera Carmen in under 8 minutes. But what I always wanted to do was water ballet. I loved Esther Williams for combing beauty and athleticism; I was passionate about combing high brow and low brow for comedic effect and I also really believed in populist entertainment as art. That’s what we did…we paired regular community people with a team of artists and staged elaborate synchronized swimming shows in public parks every summer. I was artistic director and executive director of Fluid Movement through six seasons of water ballets and numerous other shows before leaving it to pursue burlesque seriously with Monkey. Fluid Movement is still going strong! I am proud that it was strong enough to survive without me.
Q. The Evil Hate Monkey has been your flipping and stripping partner since 2002 and became your fiancé (onstage during a show!) in 2011. Congratulations! What’s it like to live and work with your beloved? How do you balance the personal and professional aspects of your relationship?
Ha-ha! Well, it’s not something I recommend to people in general! When you’re self-employed and an artist, it takes constant effort to keep love and romance afloat, but we try! Artistically, we are always searching for ways to stay inspired and to allow each other space to explore our own ideas, but we both have a great desire to keep building our body of work together too. We sort of come together…go apart…come together again…it’s an ebb and flow we’re used to by now.
Q. In celebration of America’s birthday, you’re currently touring with ‘Trixie & Monkey’s All-American Burlesque Circus’, featuring juggler Sean Blue, singer Lady Scoutington and circus giant Mr. Gorgeous. What is your strategy when developing a new show and planning a tour? What do you look for when casting performers and booking venues?
We like to produce true variety shows. Since we have a background in circus, we love working with professional jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, hula hoopers and aerialists…in addition to stripteasers! I try to book people that seem fun to play around with and that would be easy going on a 5 hour car ride. We like collaborating on opening and closing numbers and incorporating all their new talents. For this tour, we’re creating a 21-pastie salute and a group jump rope number. As for venues, we just keep going back to the places that seem to like us the most. We maintain our relationships with venues because we need them as much as they need us.
Q. This current tour will stop in Coney Island, Baltimore, DC, West Virginia and New Jersey. Have you ever had to alter costumes or re-choreograph acts due to differing state or city regulations?
The laws are so crazy from state to state! We are really adaptable, so I don’t ever mind.
We’ve had to cover butt cleavage, under boob, and even got fired from a casino once for being too racy when we didn’t even take anything off! Whereas in England we’ve done outdoor daytime performances for kids in pasties and undies. I have to admit that we have been getting quite comfortable with NYC’s comfort with nudity! We do perform fully nude at times at The Box in NYC and love the freedom of it. It feels like an even more heightened expression of the emotion we’re going for in Total Eclipse to end it by collapsing onto each other fully naked as the curtains close. I never thought we’d ever be those performance arty types, but I guess we are.
Q. Congratulations on your win as the 2nd runner up for the title of Queen of Burlesque during the 2012 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend! The coveted trophy for Best Burlesque Duo went home with you and The Evil Hate Monkey in 2006. As a veteran performer and competitor in this annual reunion and fundraiser, can you share with us some of your favorite memories of BHoF’s gone by? Are there any stories that are itching to leave Vegas?
Oh geez! There are too many to list. We’ve attended for seven straight years! I did have the time of my life bowling this year with our fellow Baltimore natives, Mr. Gorgeous and Lil Miss Lixx. We wore matching unitards with the Maryland state flag on them while executing acrobatic bowling moves and ribbon dancing. We really earned our “Most Distracting” and “Fan Favorite” trophies! You can see us on YouTube under “BHOF 2012 Barecats Invitational.”
Q. The festival circuit has grown larger with each passing year in both quantity of festivals and the number of performers applying for them. What advice would you offer to a performer looking to navigate the myriad of festivals happening regionally, nationally and internationally? What trends have you seen developing along with the expanse of festivals and competitions?
My advice is to be humble, work hard and focus on your body of work not on one act or achievement. Apply to everything, work with everybody, collaborate and challenge yourself. I wish newbie’s would talk less though, they would learn more. It took us 3-4 years of attending festivals before we even had the nerve to talk to anyone! We were so shy, we just observed from the outside until people had seen us a handful of times and they started to talk to us. Over time, we became more outgoing as we built confidence, but I feel that we earned it. I get so tired of all the posturing and self-promotion that is inherent in this business. I just want to be with artists that I respect.
Q. Speaking of festivals, this fall you’re booked at two Australian burlesque festivals with your very own hour-long, greatest-hits show, ‘Trixie & Monkey: Flipping & Stripping Down Under!’ What an exciting opportunity to share your talents with a new international set of fans! Which of your signature acts have made it into this special show and why? Will you have any time to take a gander around the outback while you’re there?
Thank you, we are really thrilled to have evolved to the point of holding an hour-long show like this on our own. We’ve done it before, but in a theater setting, where we created every act to fit the narrative. This is a new challenge for us because we’re doing our best burlesque/circus acts which have lots of costume changes, so we had to select acts based on a mix of artistic and practical factors. We knew we wanted to put in “Total Eclipse” because that’s our signature act and we wanted to do our sexual fortune telling act “Gypsy Little” as well as our duo trapeze “Kama Sutra.” When choosing our solo acts, we realized we needed to do a bit of writing and choreographing for some fun transitions, that’s what we’re working on now. We’ll debut the show next month in Baltimore then have another 2 months to workshop it before Australia. One of the festivals we’re doing travels to 3 different cities, so I do hope we get to site-see as much as possible!
Q. In August you’ll be heading to Baltimore to perform a special preview of this show in order to raise funds for the airfare to Australia. Money is a hot topic, and some performers have chosen to create online campaigns with sites like KickStarter to help them fund new costumes, props, equipment, travel expenses and/or specialized training. What are your opinions on this new practice vs. producing a benefit show as you have chosen to do? How challenging is it to fund your traveling expenses in this economic environment and do you foresee an environment in which your compensation would include all expenses?
Well, we usually only go places when the producers cover all of our expenses, but we know that there’s a lot of work for cabaret/variety performers in the Australian festival circuit and have always wanted to be part of it. We’ve been working with a wonderful Australian producer for over a year now trying to orchestrate an opportunity, but it’s very, very difficult when people don’t know who you are! All of the work we get happens because producers are impressed with us live. So, we kind of know the deal now. When you’re trying to bust into a new market, you often have to take some risks. So, for our Australian debut, we organized a benefit show where we’re going to try to raise all $3,600 for our flights in one night and we’ll debut the show we’re going to take over there. We did consider doing a KickStarter for it, but ultimately just decided to do what we do best: put on a show. I know from my Fluid Movement days that people want something for their money- so doing KickStarter almost seemed like too much follow up work (with all the levels of thanks and what not) than would be worth it. It is very hard to fund your dreams, but that’s just part of the creativity. It’s the journey, not the destination, right? It’d be so boring if we didn’t have to work hard to pay for our crystals!
Q. In reference to the burlesque mantra: ‘The Four C’s: Choreography, Character, Costuming and Charisma,’ what are your favorite resources on the web and/or in our community to harness and develop these important C’s?
My advice for all of those is another C….classes! Just become a life-long student and you’ll be fine. I take classes continually and will never stop. This year, I’ve focused on contortion/handstands, screen writing, basic tumbling and ballet.
Q. Now that you’ve been in The Big Apple for awhile, what differences have you noticed in the fans and venues in comparison to Charm City? Do you have plans to stay in New York, or do you see yourself moving onto another city or possibly returning to Baltimore one day?
I was so sad to leave Baltimore, but life is great here! We work four times harder than we had to in Baltimore and are always going-going-going, but I feel like I’m closer to reaching my full potential here. New York audiences are actually great, but they do expect a lot. It’s harder to produce shows, but we work at some great clubs so we don’t have to do everything ourselves anymore. It’s just different. We traded some simplicity and space for complexity and culture. I always dream of having a big artist studio in Baltimore that I can use as a retreat. I don’t see why I have to choose between the two cities I love when they are only about a 4 hour drive from each other!
Q. With 30 different acts and two full length theater shows under your belt, are there any new characters in the works or additional circus skills you’d like to master and unleash on the world?
I’m always working on new things: handstands, a screenplay, new stripteases and new aerial numbers. Our documentary is coming out this year and I also really want to ride on an elephant in a circus before I die. But right now I’ve got 68 days to plan an awesome, relaxed, transcendent and thoughtful wedding with my soon-to-be husband! [See the Proposal]
Keep up with Trixie Little at www.trixielittle.com!
Want more of Miss Violet O’ Hara? Interview with Miss Astrid