For Lydia Treats, heading for World of Wonders sideshow tour, “I was always the weirdo”

Lydia Treats

Sideshow performer Lydia Treats of Covington Cabaret.

Step right up, folks, and catch the daring Lydia Treats this weekend! Watch her eat fire! Watch her swallow swords! Watch her pound nails up her nose! All before she pulls a disappearing act and fulfills a childhood dream.

The performer will host her regular “Covington Cabaret” show Friday (April 15) at the Green Room in downtown Covington and then perform at the weekly “Talk to Nerdy to Me” show with The Society of Sin on Saturday (April 16) at the Dragon’s Den, and then she’s off to join the carnival.

Looking back, it was only a matter of time before she would run off to Ward Hall’s famed World of Wonders in Gibsonton, Fla., for a national sideshow tour. She remembers, as a kid growing up in New Orleans, watching old film reels of the legendary early 20th century sword swallower Edith Clifford. Her favorite “X-Files” episode is Season 2’s “Humbug” (1995), the one set in a carny town in Florida and featuring such real-life sideshow stars as Jim Rose and the Enigma.

“I was always the weirdo,” she recalled, adding that she was “even surrounded by other weirdos.” This was when, as a young woman, she’d hang out in Fat City at Cypress Hall or later in Metairie at Zeppelins. By the time she’d graduated at NOCCA back in 2000, New Orleans was becoming a popular tour stop for sideshow performers such as Jim Rose, Blockhead, Eric Odditorium and other performers.

“All of the old sideshow working acts fascinated me,” she said. “In fact, the ones that freaked me out the most were the ones I had to learn and pick apart and perform. Blockhead used to make me want to hork. Sword swallowing terrified me. It still does.

“I had a dream a few years ago where I performed it, and it was the same as dreaming of having a fountain Coke. I had to have it. The ‘fountain Coke’ thing happens to me a lot.”

It also happened with booze. Not long after graduating from NOCCA, as a growing desire to perform kicked in, she found herself pregnant, and working a dreary job at a corporate medical company while trying to be, in her mind, someone else’s version of herself. “I crawled into a bottle every night,” she recalled, and quickly graduated from beer to liquor, going into and out of treatment. This was in 2012.

Then, suddenly, something clicked. Even though she’d left Odyssey House due to a relapse, she started to focus on her recovery, and sought treatment at Townsend in Metairie. Within a month, she got up onstage, serving as a stage kitten for the Rev. Spooky LeStrange’s Billion Dollar Baby Dolls’ annual “Banned Books” burlesque show.

Around this same time, she recalls, she started taking classes at Bella Blue’s New Orleans School of Burlesque, and met performer Remy Dee at a club, which led to the “Banned Books” gig.

Getting into performing at any club became instantly problematic for a recovering alcoholic, as she learned soon after offering to help out on the Baby Dolls’ next show, “The Night Circus Burlesque Show” at Siberia. Glancing at all the beer taps and the bar against the wall, she panicked.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I am in a bar! What do I do?!” she recalled saying to herself. “Because the institutionalized side of me instantly went to ‘If you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’re bound to get a haircut.’ So I freaked out and texted my sponsor. ‘I’m in a bar.’ ‘Are you drinking?’ ‘No. I am drinking a Monster (energy drink). At a bar!’ ‘Ok, just don’t pick up (a drink).’

“It was a simple program for complicated people,” she explained. “That’s when I learned it isn’t that guy or that girl or that non-binary person’s disease, much less the entire city of New Orleans. It it is my disease, and that if I refrain from picking up, I don’t get loaded.”

Soon after, Lydia Treats the sideshow performer evolved, especially after befriending local performer Sideshow Matt, who helped introduce her to classic sideshow acts including fire eating and sword swallowing — the latter of which, obviously, required intense concentration. Now more than ever, booze was out of the question, and after having been sober for several months, she felt ready to give it a try.

It didn’t “take” at first — it rarely does, she noted, given the often painstaking process of getting over a gag reflex.

“I’d started a couple years ago and was making no progress,” she said. “It wasn’t until after I moved to the Northshore that I found my coat hanger and said, ‘What the hell?’ and started trying again. It went down! Past my throat! For the first time ever! I think I made a little more progress each month — top of chest, cardiac sphincter, solar plexus, into stomach.” As late as last year, though, she still suffered the same potential pitfall of every performer when she had to visit the emergency room after suffering a perforated esophagus.

Her well-received debut sword-swallowing performance in The Society of Sin’s “Pulp Science Fiction” show, in front of 400 people, in 2015 further confirmed she was on the right track with her career. The itch to perform onstage that had emerged at NOCCA finally was getting just the right scratch for the weirdo, who along the way had her tongue split and often wears kooky contact lens for an added weirdo effect.

She can’t put a finger on one particular reason for the thrill of these performances — whether it’s the simple ability to do it, the ability to shock the audience, or simply for audience approval.

“All of that,” replied Treats, who was voted among the five most popular sideshow performers in New Orleans in my 2015 poll. “The fact that it can kill me at any time. The rapport I share with other sword swallowers. The long history it has. Being a sword swallower, I feel connected to the pioneers of the art as well as the rock stars who perform it today.”

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Lydia Treats performs. (Photo by Bob Moose Kustra)

Over the years she’s performed regularly in nerdlesque shows with The Society of Sin (including “Talk Nerdy to Me”) and with Remy Dee (“Nightmare Before Christmas Burlesque”) along with performances at BUKU Music + Art Project and House of Shock.

She’s cultivated her own act but also as that of a producer by starting up the “Covington Cabaret” show in 2015, which she says has played to standing-room-only crowds thirsty for something different on the Northshore. She’s invited several of her New Orleans burlesque friends to come perform, including Bella Blue, as well as Xena Zeit-Geist bringing the “Vice Is Right” burlesque game show to the Green Room.

“The Covington show has been going amazingly, much better than I anticipated before getting it started,” she said. “It has a great support network and a lot of locals in the community have become regulars, I’ve gone on the radio over there twice with a sort of open invitation to go over and do the radio spot whenever I wanted because it’s been fun.”

Friday’s show will feature comedian (and regular) Corey Mack, Lolly Gagger, Ri Dickulous and Tsarina Hellfire.

The 34-year-old has done all this while raising two children — a daughter, 14, and a son, 11 — both of whom have shown the kid of creative spirit their mom hopes to cultivate.

Performing alongside the World of Wonders sideshow artists will not only give her a chance to showcase her work with other peers, but will fulfill a childhood fantasy stoked early on by peeping at those early Edith Clifford videos.

“I have wanted to run away and join the carnival since I was a little kid,” she confessed. “This was a dream come true to be hired by them — to work with living legends of the sideshow, to actually travel, build the banner lines, the tents, sleep in the bunkhouse.”

After all these years, Lydia Treats feels comfortable in her own skin — onstage, as a weirdo, offering a little shock and awe to her audiences. Beats office work.

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“Freakeasy” and “Vaude D’Gras” turn Mardi Gras into a weekend of circus and sideshow Carnival

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“We were all going to be here, anyway. These are people I just know and love. We figured we’d throw it all together,” says Noah Mickens, who as William Blatty helps run Wanderlust Circus out of Portland, Oregon. He’s speaking on his cell phone from an Uptown café, arriving in New Orleans on a trip that originally was supposed to simply be a Mardi Gras vacation.

But once he realized who else might be taking advantage of the Carnival season, and what New Orleans circus and sideshow performers were around and available, Mickens thought, why not just turn the weekend into another kind of Carnival?

And so we have a handful of circus and sideshow performances this weekend, highlighted by the four-day “Vaude D’Gras” from New Orleans circus artist-producer LadyBEAST and many of the gang from last year’s “Cirque du Gras” (Feb. 5-8) at Happyland Theater in Bywater.

(Read more: Circus arts in New Orleans)

Then there’s “Freakeasy,” featuring members of Wanderlust Circus, Philadelphia’s the Squidling Brothers, Gale Force from Seattle’s Super Geek League, and New Orleans performers including Tsarina Hellfire — all coming together Sunday (Feb. 7) at Café Istanbul.

The weekend actually kicks off with the Squidling Brothers’ “Clowns and Queens” on Thursday (Feb. 4) at Mag’s 940 on Elysian Fields Avenue. The lineup: Jelly Boy The Clown, Matterz Squidling, Eric Odditorium, William Batty, Hermie the Clown, Velvet Crayon, Fibi Eyewalker, Helios, Shaina, and Princess Stephanie.

So yes, it’s safe to say the circus has come to town, which makes sense given the way the varying circus and sideshow scenes intermingle from around the U.S.

“There’s a real national community of underground, independent circus,” said the 42-year-old Mickens.

He’s watched circus and sideshow grow from the kind of ground-level street-performer scene of the late 1980s where he got his start as a 13-year-old into a more performance-art style in the 1990s, and then a growing, vibrant scene that found a home in nightclubs for indie performers.

This was pretty edgy, punk-rock stuff, evidenced nationally by troupes such as the Bindlestiff Family Circus and locally by such troupes as the Know Nothing Family Zirkus Zideshow.

(Read more: Alison Fensterstock’s 2001 profile of the scene in Gambit Weekly)

Now, Mickens says, it’s everywhere.

“All these aerial and circus schools started to pop up that made it accessible to learn how to do all this stuff,” he said. “I learned how to juggle from an old homeless man. To learn how to be an aerialist back then was your mother and father and your brother and your sister — you were in a circus. It was a secret knowledge you had to find from somebody.

“Then schools started popping up 2000 or 2003, then by 2010 it seemed like every city has an aerial school and has created an infusion of all this new talent of people who know how to do tricks and have skills of all kinds.”

Mickens is excited about performing again in New Orleans, and reconnecting with burlesque performer Charlotte Treuse, with whom he performed back in Portland with Cabaret Babylon.

“I’m not going to waste my time,” he said with a laugh. “Now I have three shows. I’m incapable if chilling out and just enjoying myself.”

For Tsarina Hellfire, the New Orleans performer, this represents a few different types of reunions both with the scene she left and returned to a few  years ago as well as reuniting with Mickens.

“I just got back home to years ago; I took break from performing for about 10 years,” she said. “It would’ve been silly trying to get back into my visceral gore whore burlesque sideshow stuff, and have known Noah Mickens on and off since Convergence 2006. I’ve always been a big fan of and have known a lot of sideshow circus people around, and want to just have a big family get together. I’m getting my paws wet, getting back into doing events backstage managing and performing and trying my hand at producing.”

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.

A look back at New Orleans burlesque, circus and sideshow in 2015

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The year 2015 in New Orleans burlesque, circus and sideshow entertainment might go down as one of the more memorable in a scene that might be approaching a turning point. As producers sought more ambitious shows and performers sought greater exposure, the scene felt by year’s end like it was on the edge of something bigger.

Four of the top burlesque producers were emblematic of both the growth and challenges of the industry. Bella Blue, who in January was voted the No. 16 burlesque artist in 21st Century Burlesque magazine’s popular readers’ poll, was able to do the unthinkable and stage a weekly burlesque show, “Risq,” at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino. Trixie Minx, whose Fleur de Tease gave Bella Blue her start, launched her “Fantasy” show for an adults-only cruise. (She also ruled as the “Queen of the Insane” for krewedelusion and used the year to help promote the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.)

Both Minx and Blue enjoyed notable performances outside New Orleans — Blue as the featured performer at the international Boylesque Festival Vienna, and Minx (with Piper Marie) in “The Burlesque Show” at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City in late December.

Roxie le Rouge continued to build on her reputation as the most consistent exporter of the form by taking variations of her Big Deal Burlesque across the Southeast while continuing to perform with Fleur de Tease. Her Big Deal shows enjoyed increased attendance to the point of sell-outs.

Rick Delaup’s two regular shows — Bustout Burlesque and the 2014-launched Bad Girls of Burlesque, at the House of Blues and its Parish room, respectively — continued to draw large crowds. (Stupid Dope tabbed Bad Girls as “the most dope show in town.”) He marked Bustout’s 10th anniversary in 2015, and his 7th annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival broke attendance records while crowning Miss Stormy Gayle as the Queen of Burlesque. It came after the Bustout Burlesque regular’s return to New Orleans after spending the past few years in Los Angeles.

Even Miss Exotic World, the competition held at the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, featured New Orleans connections. Former New Orleans performer Perle Noire, who earlier in the year finished second in the 21st Century Burlesque poll, finished as first runner-up. (A former Bustout Burlesque regular and Queen of Burlesque winner, she also returned to New Orleans to perform at Bella Blue’s “Risq” show.) Dallas’ Ginger Valentine, a frequent guest performer with Bustout Burlesque and who’s recreated the famous “Evangeline the Oyster Girl” act, repeated her 2014 finish as second runner-up.

But there were some challenges. Bella Blue’s attempt to bring drag and burlesque together on Bourbon Street hit a snag when news of the dismissal of performer Ruby Rage (presumably over her weight) from the “Blue Book Cabaret” lineup at Lucky Pierre’s led to Bella Blue ending her relationship with the club. Lucky Pierre’s closed later in the year. “Blue Book Cabaret” wound up at Bourbon Pub and Parade and remains there. She was successful with another burlesque/drag mash-up with “CREAM!” at One Eyed Jacks over Southern Decadence, inspiring her to do a similar show, “Touché,” at the Joy Theater for this year’s Mardi Gras.

Her weekly “Risq” show was shelved at Harrah’s over the football season, though there remains a chance it will return in 2016. Also, she found a permanent home for her New Orleans School of Burlesque inside the Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue. And as popular as the New Orleans Burlesque Festival has become, one African-American performer, Chicago’s Jeez Loueez, expressed concern after her experience as emcee for the “Bad Girls of Burlesque” show at the House of Blues. In a YouTube video, she discussed everything from the traditional aspects of the festival to the use of such black-culture dance forms as twerking — and the lack of performers of color. (This was in keeping with related issues raised by New Orleans performers right before the festival.)

And by year’s end, some performers complained about a lack of work in town, which could either be a blip or an indication the scene might be hitting another peek.

Still, 2015 remained a year of major highlights. Other aspiring producers brought a flood of new and possible annual shows to the stages over the course of 2015. Blue Reine’s seasonal “The Roux: A Spicy Brown Burlesque Show” became so successful that she announced on Jan. 1 that it will become a festival in September. This underscores Reine’s reign as New Orleans’ main host for shows featuring performers of color. Another performer, May Hemmer, launched her first-ever New Year’s Eve party, “A Gatsby Affair.”

Kali von Wunderkammer brought two new festivals, the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny and Storyville Rising, to town, while the Rev. Ben Wisdom teamed up with Little Luna and Ginger Licious for the wildly popular Snake Oil Festival at the Howlin’ Wolf. (That festival will return in 2016.)

Von Wunderkammer and Remy Dee each produced Katrina-themed shows in August — Dee with her “Home: “A Burlesque Tribute to New Orleans” and Von Wunderkammer with “Broken Levees, Broken Hearts” on Katrina’s 10th anniversary, Aug. 29.

Both The Society of Sin (led by Xena Zeit-Geist) and Picolla Tushy presented a flurry of themed shows throughout 2015. The Society of Sin tapped into nerdlesque with narratively driven shows such as “Dr. Who-Ha,” and Picolla Tushy created such literary-minded shows as “Summer Lovin’.” (“Dr. Who-Ha” will enjoy an encore performance at this weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con, Jan. 8-10.)

As burlesque continued to establish its foothold in the scene, the circus arts enjoyed a stronger presence as well, most notably through the work of producers LadyBEAST and Liza Rose and their tapping into a wide variety of performers. They were notably featured in LadyBEAST’s Cirque du Gras 2 during Mardi Gras and Rose’s monthly Fly Movement Salon, an incubator of circus arts performers. The pair also formed the all-female troupe Cirque Copine, which presented the popular “In Wonderland” show in Bywater.

(Bella Blue wasn’t the only performer to go international, either. Circus performer Clay Mazing performed overseas for Syrian refugees, first with Clowns Without Borders and later with his own Emergency Circus. And Magic Mike, the Fleur de Tease regular, competed in the 2015 FISM World Championship of Magic, held July 6-11 in Rimin, Italy.)

LadyBEAST and Rose plan more larger-scale productions in 2016 as the circus-arts performers and producers stake out a larger claim of territory in the wide and often hard-to-define world of variety performances. Stay tuned for more from them.

So what else to look for in 2016? Bella Blue promised a big announcement at her “Touché” show on Jan. 28, so there’s that. Trixie Minx always has something up her sleeve, as does Roxie le Rouge. Rick Delaup’s New Orleans Burlesque Festival will probably continue to be the biggest show in town.

But what should happen for New Orleans’ burlesque and circus scenes in 2016? What would it take to get burlesque mentioned in the same breath as, say, the city’s venerable music and theater scenes? What defines a successful burlesque scene? Regular work for its performers, or at least enough to keep them in New Orleans, might be a nice place to start. Performers, while on social media, constantly question whether they can keep doing what’s fun when they’re faced with mounting bills. Only a handful of the city’s burlesque artists do it as a full-time concern, and a vast majority of them spend a lot of emotional capital on moral support for one another. Musicians face a similar challenge, but when you’re literally bearing your body along with your soul onstage, it seems somehow different.

I’ll save my thoughts on what might make for bigger and better burlesque and circus scenes for a future post — mostly, frankly, playing off what the producers and performers might like to see. But based on private and on-the-record interviews, it would be nice to see, among other things, a scene with producers and performers working more collaboratively, both outside and within. I was reminded of comments by J.D. Oxblood, co-creator of Burlesque Beat magazine and frequent New Orleans visitor: “What’s most exciting about the New Orleans scene is the crossover with the drag community and recent attempts to move into traditionally tourist-dominated spaces. But like many cities, New Orleans seems to be dominated by just a few producers — who may be amenable to out-of-town performers, but less welcoming to outsider producers.”

It would be interesting to see how the scene plays out in 2016, and whether it continues to grow or suddenly plateau, but one thing is certain — growing exposure of what’s happening in the city can only benefit its performers and producers. That said, here’s a look at the “best of” in these two scenes.

Read the results 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.