Pirate’s Ball blends food, music and burlesque for a good cause: Odyssey House

roxie-le-rouge

Roxie le Rouge (Photo by Jason Kruppa)

INFO:
WHAT: Pirate’s Ball 2016, benefiting Odyssey House
WHEN: Saturday (June 4), 7 p.m.
WHERE: Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans, 800 Iberville St.
TICKETS: $50
MORE: Visit event website for tickets

Full disclosure: I’m related to one of the board members.

It was about a year ago when I was watching New Orleans burlesque performer Bella Blue work an audience before a show, peppering the audience with a lot of “Who’s been to a burlesque show before?”-type questions that had me scratching my head. Why was it so difficult to understand?, I thought. But as she began her performance, you could tell several men in the audience, and a handful of women, didn’t quite know how to react, and so came the occasional cat-call. (Those more in the know responded with eye rolls.)

When she performed for the 2015 Pirate’s Ball for Odyssey House, the crowd, though still a little taken aback by striptease taking over the House of Blues’ Parish stage (despite the regular presence there of“Bad Girls of Burlesque”), soaked it up. Hopefully, increasingly, mainstream audiences are getting it: that burlesque has proven to be a vital component of all kinds of entertainment options in New Orleans, from the various clubs around town to Voodoo Fest to, yes, fundraisers for worthy causes.

(Read more: Follow Odyssey House on Facebook)

That’s why it’s so cool to see another one of the top performer-producers, Roxie le Rouge of Big Deal Burlesque fame, serving as one of the entertainers for the Odyssey House’s Pirate’s Ball on Saturday (June 5) at the Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans.

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Check out the best in New Orleans burlesque, circus and sideshow for 2015

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I’ve looked at the New Orleans burlesque and circus scenes for 2015. This was capped off with a series of “best of” polls recognizing the work in several areas. The reasons for the polls were many. It seemed like a nice way to help put a cap on what became for me a year of covering a vital facet of New Orleans’ performance scene. It also seemed like a nice way to shine a spotlight on both the performers and productions throughout the year, both to provide exposure for the scene and to serve as an informal taking of the pulse on what fans were responding to.

The appearance, rollout, structure and even idea of the poll, however, made things more complicated than expected, and the rollout seemed to enjoy all the smoothness of the Obamacare website — a bit of excitement, a healthy dose of confusion, and some fairly heated discussion about its very existence. So there were basically two concurrent discussions — why do it, and why do it in the manner presented?

The first discussion was by far the most complicated, because for many in the scene it raised the possibility of turning what serious, artistic-minded people do into a popularity contest. (More than one performer told me privately it was like being back in high school again, with the prom queen title up for grabs. Some politely requested not to be listed in the polls.) This particular discussion inspired Bella Blue to blog about it with a post titled “Competition vs. Community.” In it, she set up the two notions as a false choice and argued that, in the real world — one that acknowledges that burlesque is also a business — competition can be just as beneficial as community. She went on to point out that burlesque can be about both the art and the commerce; that polls can be fun and motiving; that going for titles (or “crowns”) and striving to be the best doesn’t necessarily have to come at someone else’s expense.

(Indeed, when Bella Blue was voted the No. 16 burlesque performer by 21st Century Burlesque, and Trixie Minx didn’t make the poll, it didn’t seem to hurt her popularity or business or art at all.)

That’s all to say that, as Bella Blue noted, a discussion about polls in particular or competition in general is perhaps something that might have been needed for some time. On a personal level, I appreciate that ambivalence in spirit while firmly believing the overall benefit is invaluable. I’d add that New Orleans has not one but two awards for the music and theater scenes. When someone as legendary as former Meters bassist George Porter Jr. openly campaigns for votes on Faceook in Offbeat’s “Best of the Beat” awards poll, well, it helps put things in perspective.

As for the structure of the poll, there was discussion primarily about which performers and productions initially were placed on the poll, and where everything and everyone belonged — which led to some unnecessary confusion. If this had been conducted in my previous position, it would have benefited from a larger team in place and perhaps a longer build-up and promotion. But being a “one-man show,” so to speak, I went with my knowledge of the scene or scenes — admittedly a work in progress — in creating a core group of nominees for consideration and added names based on reader suggestions. I also took the advice of some producers and divided the circus and sideshow performers into separate polls.

So I moved forward with the polls, with two clearly stated guidelines: Readers were welcome to add their own candidates/nominees, and readers should refrain from voting multiple times for their favorites. Readers were very good, often passionate about the former, but not so much about the latter. So the votes had to be analyzed, and multiple voting was tossed.

But taking that into consideration, I decided to present the results in a more inclusive fashion, with winners broken down into a “Top 10” or “Top 5” list, and listed alphabetically — along with an occasional “honorable mention” to make note of some pretty tight voting in some categories. A first-time poll, and a rather unscientific one at that, didn’t need to focus too heavily on the very top vote-getters.

For me, ultimately, there were few surprises. The balloting, with some notably obvious exceptions, reflects what in my mind is out there: a lot of talented performers who have made their mark, and productions that are establishing a legacy. As for the future, I might offer some thoughts in another post, but for now, let’s enjoy this informal take on the best of New Orleans burlesque and circus arts.

And once again, check out my overview of this landmark year here.

BEST OF NEW ORLEANS BURLESQUE, CIRCUS AND SIDESHOW

PERFORMERS
Best burlesque performers in New Orleans 2015
Bella Blue
Cherry Brown
Leo Danger Lace
Remy Dee
May Hemmer
Roxie le Rouge
GoGo McGregor
Trixie Minx
Charlotte Treuse
Angie Z
Honorable mention: Xena Zeit-Geist

Best circus performers in New Orleans 2015
Chatty the Mime
Guglielmo
Lady Satine
Magic Mike
Ooops the Clown
Honorable mention: Thugsy Da Clown

Best sideshow performers in New Orleans 2015
Kitty Kaos
Dr. Sick
Lydia Treats
Donny Vomit
Kali von Wunderkammer
Honorable mention: Eli Rose

Best burlesque/circus show emcees in New Orleans for 2015
Dante the Magician (Bustout Burlesque)
Chris Lane (Fleur de Tease)
GoGo McGregor
Dr. Sick (Big Deal Burlesque, Bustout Burlesque)
Rev. Ben Wisdom (Dirty Dime Peepshow)

PRODUCTIONS
Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 — annual production
Cirque du Gras 2 (Feb. 13-16), St. Roch Firehouse; produced by LadyBEAST
New Orleans Burlesque Festival (Sept. 15-18), multiple locations; produced by Rick Delaup
NOLA Nerdlesque (Nov. 19-22), Frenchmen Theater at Bamboula’s; produced by Persé Fanny, Vincent Galliant
Snake Oil Festival (June 19-21), Howlin’ Wolf; produced by the Rev. Ben Wisdom, Ginger Licious and Little Luna
Storyville Rising (May 16-17), Café Istanbul; produced by Kali von Wunderkammer

Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 – specialty
“CREAM!: A Night of Decadent Burlesque, Drag, and Cabaret,” at One Eyed Jacks (Bella Blue and Kitten N’ Lou)
“The Demon Boobs of Skeet Street: A Sweeney Todd Burlesque,” at Old Marquer Theater (Picolla Tushy presents The Bluestockings)
“Doctor Who-Ha: A Doctor Who Burlesque Play,” at Eiffel Society (The Society of Sin/Krewe du Who)
“Home: A Burlesque Tribute to New Orleans,” at Republic New Orleans (Remy Dee)
“In Wonderland” (Cirque Copine)

Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 — monthly/seasonal
Big Deal Burlesque, at various locations (Roxie le Rouge)
Bustout Burlesque, at House of Blues (Rick Delaup)
Dirty Dime Peepshow, at AllWays Lounge (Bella Blue Entertainment)
Fleur de Tease, at One Eyed Jacks (Trixie Minx)
Fly Movement Salon, at Café Istanbul (Liza Rose)
Honorable mention: Bad Girls of Burlesque, at House of Blues/The Parish (Rick Delaup)

Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 – weekly
“Blue Book Cabaret,” Saturdays at Bourbon Pub and Parade (Bella Blue Entertainment)
“Burlesque Ballroom,” Fridays at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse (Trixie Minx)
“Vixens & Vinyl,” Wednesdays at Spitfire Bar
“Talk Nerdy to Me,” Saturdays at Dragon’s Den (The Society of Sin)
“Comic Strip,” Mondays at Siberia (Chris Lane, Ooops the Clown)
Honorable mention: “Whiskey & Rhinestones,” Thursdays at Gravier Street Social (Bella Blue Entertainment)

No, seriously, check out my overview of this landmark year here.

Vote for the best in New Orleans burlesque and circus performers, performances for 2015

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(UPDATE: Voting has closed. Thanks for participating. Results will be posted Wednesday, Jan. 6.)

The year 2015 became a landmark year for New Orleans’ expansive burlesque and circus arts scene. Throughout the years, audiences were entertained by new productions from weekly shows all the way up to festivals and specialty productions. (We even saw not one but two Katrina-themed shows). As part of a look back at this banner year for a scene that promises to be discussed in the same breath as the city’s vibrant theater and comedy scenes.

I’ll take a more direct look in that year later in the week, building the coverage I wrapped up while at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. But first, here are some polls to consider in terms of your favorite performers and performances. One rule, and this will probably done on everyone’s word of honor: no ballot-stuffing. Please, one person, one vote, for each poll.

Let’s start with the biggest one: the performers, broken down by burlesque performers, circus and sideshow performers, and emcees. (Please note: The burlesque performers category was so obviously loaded down with talent, for this poll I wanted to A) Focus about the top 30 in my mind, and then let the readers add in any they feel are missing, and then B) Present a “finalist” poll later in the week. The other performers are in small enough categories to remain as is. That said, the burlesque performers category:

And now for the circus performers:

And now for the sideshow performers:

And now for the burlesque and circus show emcees:

Next up: annual productions, which include multiple-day festivals that have become magnets for national touring artists (and a lot of first-timers in 2015):

Next up, we’d like to look at the “specialty” shows in 2015 — shows that also happened once in the year (more or less) but at this point might be considered unique to 2015 (until further notice at least). Some have enjoyed encore/return performances, but the general idea is, they were special to this year:

Monthly burlesque and circus shows have proved to be extremely well attended throughout the year, and help keep interest alive in the scene on a regular basis. (If only they wouldn’t suffer from so much over-lapping bookings, but more on that later.) Here are the favorites:

Weekly shows also do a great show of providing a steady, virtually daily opportunity to enjoy the burlesque and circus scenes in New Orleans, from divey bars to Harrah’s New Orleans Casino:

So let the voting begin, and again, please, one vote per person. The results will be released at the beginning of the year (which is, like, really soon). And please feel free to share with your friends on social media with the hashtag #bestnolaburlesque.