Minneapolis Burlesque Festival or How I Learned to Love the Tater Tot.
by: Kisa Von Teasa Festival Photos: Dennis Driscoll
The Professor and I, being so excited to head to a new city, arrived a day early. We took this opportunity to turn this trip into a bit of a vacation. After a 4 hour flight delay we finally arrived early afternoon, picked up our rental car and headed to our host’s house. There we were greeted by the lovely Avinlea Falen and her beautifully large and loving Great Dane Trotsky; such a lover boy he was. That evening saw us being escorted to a place called Bulldogs by the ever charming Tre Da Marc. This is where I had my life changing tater tot experience. It was half the size of my fist and filled with my favorite cheddar cheese. We also proceeded to order white truffle oil tots and plain just for science. I can tell you in all confidence that tuna tartare tastes like heaven on a white truffle oil tater tot.
Opening day of the Festival! I am so excited to see old friends and meet some new ones. One of my favorite things about festivals is being able to see so much of the local community in all its various forms and shapes take the stage. At this festival the performers got the chance to see all the shows at the Lab Theater for free; we got a balcony just for us! I really do appreciate a festival that tries to give back to the performers that have traveled out of town. The night was circus themed with no MC, just cards. The show was set up into two sets with pre-show and intermission having circus vignettes, aerials, strong men, and, characters walking throughout the crowd to set the atmosphere. It was an intriguing innovation on the standard show format, but it made it very challenging to leave one’s seat to fetch a cocktail or sneak a smoke, though it was hard to want to as the scenes were so engaging. The main events were a cornucopia of artists with a sprinkling of burlesque, a tantalizing foreshadowing of the nights to come. A light and fun Mario Brother’s themed number by Queenie and Sweetpea counterbalanced by the deeply thoughtful performance art number of DangrrrDoll’s 1984, giving those in attendance an idea of the range of possibilities that this burlesque festival would offer.
My turn! Tonight is the night that I get to peel my way across that lovely stage. Backstage was backstage, laughing, fretting, glitter, and sweat; everything that I love! Oh, and the Green Room spread, kudos to that! This night was hosted by Jonny Porkpie. Sadly I missed most of the first act as I had to get ready, but I did get to catch bits and pieces. Tila von Twirl’s Mary Jane number; you know she owned that. Mynx d’Meanor and just her bed sheet- It was so simple, vulnerable, and luscious. Peacock Showgirls and their Blue Velvet number- I can’t describe it to do it justice, you just have to see it, and trust me, you WANT to see it. Then the first act finale, Jeez Loueez’s Big Boa Act. Her face, her timing, THAT boa! When I watch Jeez on stage I feel fierce and powerful.
Now it’s time for the second act, I make my way back to the dressing room for final touches to my costume and head backstage to take my place in the wings. From the side I get to watch Foxy Tann sing Champagne Tastes to a live band, which was quite the treat, and then witness the wonders that Fargo, ND had to offer. The Blue Belle’s Burlesque group fan dance… well now everyone I know needs go to Fargo. Then onto a little ditty about Jonny Porkpie’s particularly diminutive asset and, boom, it’s my turn. I’m not going to write anything about my performance except to say I am still basking in the feedback that I received from my peers. Off to the dressing room I rushed to get into something for curtain call and group pics. I wish I could have made it back in time to watch Sweetpea’s solo, but I did get to watch Medianoche painting the stage in sex. That hairography, it’s near and dear to my heart, and she has some of the best that I have ever seen.
Show number 2 Friday night. I know right!?! Two shows in one night. It worked though, both were just long enough. What I found most impressive was that there was a different crowd for each show. Of course there were a few that purchased all the tickets for all the shows, my Professor being one of them, but to see the theater fill up twice in one night with a different crowd each time tells me Gina Louise, Elektra Cute, and their tireless crew are definitely doing something right. Hosted by Foxy Tan, the second show started off with bang, a Viking bang. Celebrating the Scandinavian heritage and paying homage to the local football team all in one glorious opening group act. I got to watch this in rehearsal with Bazuka Joe and RedBone leading the choreography and I’m glad I got to see it in action to open the second show.
As I was now lucky enough to perch myself in the performer balcony for the entire second show here are some of my highlights. Sizzle Dizzle brought the Granny I love.There was not a dry eye in the house after Victoria DeVille’s “Bright” act. Accompanied on guitar, Victoria sang to her partner while decked out in a cosmic fantasy dress complete with planet caught in that lovely sweep of hair. It was an extremely moving piece. Musette in her feisty 20’s inspired look tearing it up with wink and growl. Frenchie Kiss with her 60’s mod GoGo, ending in her signature tassel twirl. RedBone, ahhhh RedBone, whom I am admired since seeing her on stage at BHoF with Foxy Tann and the Wham Bams. She just eats that stage, and her working that skirt over her head while in a split, perfection. The show was once again brought to a close with the Headliner Medianoche flowing like water across that stage. There were more performers that I didn’t mention, but each brought their own energy and laid it out, making for two outstanding shows on Friday. Being as I was still in sightseeing mode I opted out of the after parties, even though the rumor of a hot tub was extremely tempting. Don’t think I didn’t head home and eat leftover tater tots.
Saturday Oct. 3rd.
This night I was lucky enough to sit in the VIP section as my Professor was kind and surprised me with a ticket. This night I got to enjoy the show in my face. Hosted by the Queen of Costume change, I seriously do not know how she does it, Victoria DeVille. The Saturday show was once again at the Lab Theater. The show opened with Diva La Tap, who had also performed on Thursday night. These ladies are smart, polished and I loved the creativity of their numbers. Dangrr Doll and her Destroyer of Worlds, those wings made for some beautiful cape work.
Now I need to take a moment and tell you about the number that made the biggest impact on me. I will carry this number with me the rest of my life. It was one of those numbers that change you a bit; leave a permanent mark. I have seen a few. Po’Chop’s is one of them. Diversity in regards to performers of color has been a big and much needed discussion in the community of late. As an ally I have tried to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. Po’Chops number, the raw rage, pain, beauty, and strength of her struggle, of the African American struggle; this was heady stuff, powerful. This number needs to be on every stage in every festival and regular show, from theater to dives. It’s a number that reminds us that we are human, shakes us out of the burlesque box that we have a tendency to find ourselves in, an opens us up to issues bigger than just us. My words cannot do it justice.
Since I cannot for the life of me compose a sufficient segway, I’ll just dive back in. So how do you follow up something that intense on so many levels? A foul mouthed lady singing and playing the Ukulele, of course. Mimi Le Uke had us gasping and laughing quite skillfully. I enjoyed every dirty moment. Then Elektra Cute cut her way across that stage in a controlled panther like stalk to Feed Me Diamonds. While Vigilantease Collective brought the first set to a close with their Badass Pussycats. In case you were wondering… yes, yes indeed they were. Intermission and mingling was had, and then we rushed back to our seats for the second set.
Gina Louise and the Lady Slippers, their act brought me to mind a Greek goddess and her handmaidens. Then came the delight of Minnie Tonka being fabulous to Adam Ant in her hometown, followed by Bazuka Joe and his puppet, a number that I have dying to see live. Ophelia Flame in the most creative and stunning phoenix costume set the stage on proverbial fire with her strength and focus. A Foxy Tann and Wham Bam number that I have not seen since those years gone by at BHoF, yay for me! Jet Adore working a chair and working it well. There were so many more performers that I have not named, once again laying out their souls and bringing their “A” game. Was every act perfection? No. Were there costumes fails? Of course, but from newbie to seasoned professional they did their very best in that moment and that is beautiful.
The Saturday after party I got to see the Minneapolis performers shine. Held at Hell’s Kitchen, it was broken up into three sets and brought all the hosts back together, Foxy, Victoria and Jonny. It was full of whiskey, laughter, and community. I cannot promise you that I saw every act as there was much socializing to do, but I saw enough to know Minneapolis has some damn fine performers. From Anytime Jones, who is actually from Fargo, ND, and her “Vietnam Showgirl” act to Mona Montague and her Darkwing Duck, I thought of you the whole time Tiger Tangerine. The second set held Fanny and her Ronald McDonald, never have a wanted to run away, yet laugh so much all at once. To the perfect confetti dump that hung just like blood should from the rafters as The Bloody Marys celebrated the trials and triumphs of the menstrual cycle, to Queer Ass Folk having the final Flawless word in the third set.
I want to say something about each and every one of them; I want to tell you about every big and little piece of beauty that I saw, every conversation that I had, and each performance that I watched on those stages. I want to tell you that Tre Da Marc worked his full time day job and rushed to the theater to work his ass off as stage hand every night, while also carrying Medianoche, literally, off the stage after every one of her performances. The entire crew that sweated, cleaned, carried, ran sound, lights and the million other jobs that are required to run a successful festival. I wanted to tell you about the open arms that I was met with by everyone, and the gracious and welcoming warmth of Gina Louise and Elecktra Cute. Was everything perfect? No. It’s a festival people, tempers flare, stuff goes wrong. It is the nature of the beast of producing live art on a large scale. I love it all, I learn from it all. I am thankful that I took the advice of Foxy Tann and Jeez Loueez and applied it. So I will leave you with this, my advice. Apply to this festival, go see Minneapolis and her bridges at night and her water falls during the day, eat all the tater tots, and bring an empty suitcase because you are going to want to go shopping at S.R.Harris. It’s a performer’s costume dreamland with prices that fit our pockets. But most importantly just go to Minneapolis. She has some wicked talent to share with you.
Kisa von Teasa, the 2013 recipient of the Phil Slomksi Memorial Artist of the Year award, is a performer, producer, educator and MC. Kisa started her burlesque career in 2005. In 2008 she co-founded Knoxville, Tennessee’s own award winning and world-renowned Salomé Cabaret, and reigns reluctantly supreme as the troupe’s loving but firm Adminastratrix. Kisa also co-founded Salomé Cabaret Burlesque Academy to help her spread the love of this art form to her home town. She has taught and performed in shows and festivals both nationally and internationally, from BHoF to New York, Colorado, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Jamaica, and Vancouver just to name a few. She has hosted and performed with countless tours, including the Party Tour in 2009, Dangerous Curves on the Go-Go in 2010 and 2011, the Grab My Junk Tour in 2011, Strip Club Time Machine tour in 2012, and traveled cross country with the Tease ‘n Tassels Tour 2012. Kisa enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy with a nice tumbler of rye whiskey, exploring her obsession with the colour purple and believes that she is a Unicorn.