Serafina Puchkina clears her throat
Miss Viv and I are pleased to welcome you to the March Aether Salon and know that you will Shimmy! With excitement when you hear this month’s speakers. We sincerely appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community, and we humbly thank you all.
Many fine people have contributed to today’s salon: we are grateful to Miss Ceejay Writer, Miss Breezy Carver, Miss Ahnyanka Delphin, Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the chairs, and to Miss Morgan Kincess of Digital Eyes for the craft. Finally, I want to personally thank my most amazing and talented co-host, Viv Trafalgar.
Unlike other salons, we decided we don’t mind audience reaction/participation during the talk – since burlesque is all about engaging and involving the audience.
As a courtesy to all, please turn off everything that feeds the lag monster: all HUDs, scripts, AOs and so on; Miss Viv will severely be miffed if there is the hint of biting, bombs or weapons. You don’t want to see what I will do if I spy a mullet.
Mark your calendars for Submersibles! in April, Engines! in May, and Fey! in June. After a brief hiatus, we’ll return in September with Airships!, and Haberdashery! In October. We’re keeping a log of things “overheard at the salon” on aethersalon.blogspot.com just in case you’re looking for a good laugh.
Viv Trafalgar: ((and there will be a July surprise, we think!))
Serafina Puchkina: If you would like to join the Aether Salon group and receive notifications of future salon events, click the lower right hand corner of the large brown sign by the entrance. As a reminder, all tip jar donations go directly to the speakers.
Hang on to your hats as I welcome my co-host Miss Viv Trafalgar.
Viv Trafalgar: Ladies and Gentlemen, and Bob… Our esteemed guests this afternoon are Miss Ahnyanka Delphin and Miss Ceejay Writer.
Miss Delphin is the proud owner, manger, dancer and jack-of-all-trades at the New Champagne Rooms, a classy vintage burlesque theater. When she’s not kicking up her heels on the stage, she also manages the Shops outside, where she has her own clothing store called Rhapsody Vintage Fashions.
Miss Writer is a dancer at the New Champagne Rooms, specializing in sassy, silly routines laden with puns and clever wordplay. When she needs to rest her dancing feet, she writes articles for the Primgraph and Prim Perfect publications.
She enjoys long walks, absinthe, and avoiding dunks in the canals, with limited success at the latter.
Without further ado, please put your hands together for the ladies of the New Champagne Rooms.
Ahnyanka Delphin smiles over at Miss Viv and Miss Sera. “Thank you for inviting us to join you today!”
Miss Ceejay and I thought it would be fun to take you all on a trip through the history of Burlesque, the implications of its impact on gender and let you draw your own conclusions about the art form.
Ahnyanka Delphin grins over at Ceejay and gives her a nod.
Ceejay Writer: The 1840s: The term ‘burlesque’ came into common usage, and referred to a broad (no pun intended) range of comical plays. “burlesquing” a play was to make fun of not just the play, but the society it represented. No one was immune. Shakespeare was spoofed, as was the singer Jenny Lind, who was wildly popular in her day.
The 1860s: In Britain, burlesque had taken a decidedly scandalous turn, relying on shapely women wearing tights. This was in a time when women took great pains to hide their shapes with bustles, hoop skirts, and layers of fluffy fabric.
Ceejay Writer gazes out over the room filled with bustles, hoop skirts and layers of fluffy fabric, and smiles.
The late 1860s: Lydia Thompson’s British burlesque travels to New York, where they performed “Ixion” in 1868. Performers wore tights and performed men’s roles.
Ahnyanka Delphin nods over to Ceejay and adds in… “One critic was talking about Lydia Thompson’s British Blondes stating that they were, ‘not like men… unlike women’ ” He was also was quoted saying they were “very pretty, very blonde and very unscrupulously clever.”
They used impertinent humor, irreverent songs, revealing costumes and parodies of the masculine gender to draw attention to the power of female sexuality.
They often “talked like a man but walked like a woman,” effectively using male clothing and attitudes not to impersonate men but to underscore femininity… calling into question accepted gender roles themselves.
Ahnyanka Delphin grins impishly as she sneaks behind the dressing screen, leaving the floor to Miss Ceejay.
Ceejay Writer: 1880s: The first American-born burlesque star, Mabel Saintley forms “Mme. Rintz’s Female Minstrels” and spoofs the male actors of the time.
Ahnyanka Delphin flips the fabric from her bustle over the top of the screen letting it drape across it before the audience. She peeks her head out from behind the curtain for just a moment as she mentions
Ahnyanka Delphin: Character comedy became a popular draw. One performer by the name of Lillian Shaw, used to portray various styles of women in her acts. Examples of her characters ran from flirtatious, well-dressed young French woman, to a bitter, shabbily dressed, immigrant worker.
Her portrayal and approach to women’s roles and sexual values were complex and often contradictory. Her comedy was often sexually aggressive and challenged some of the limits of what was considered “respectable” performance.
Her shows helped erode cultural notions of women as passionless and were often a place where women could come and fantasize about other people’s lives, imagine alternatives to Victorian refinement and unleash anger at the limitations of their own lives… all within the confines of what was termed to be a “respectable and refined” presentation.
Ceejay Writer shakes her head sadly at ‘respectable’ and ‘refined’.
Ceejay Writer: Concurrently, in the 1880’s: Men took over burlesque as managers, and began to suppress female wit in favor of dressing them as scantily as the law would allow. The art of titillating instead of being downright lascivious was refined.
Variety shows became common. These would typically feature a song and dance number with performers dressed formally, and be riddled with gags. Various comedians, skits, singers and other variety acts would follow. The show would culminate with a one-act musical, “burlesquing” a famous play.
Ahnyanka Delphin steps back out from the crowd, dressed in men’s attire and tights. “We thought it might be a good idea to give you an example of how women in men’s clothing could be quite…. enticing, so you can see for yourselves.”
Ahnyanka Delphin giggles as she trips a bit and wanders back up on the stage.
Adding more to what Miss Ceejay was saying, many of these variety acts, especially comedy and burlesque, used the theater as a forum for social criticism.
They were somewhat subversive and intimidating because of the frequent gender bending acts, as well as the upfront and non-timid sexuality of the female performers.
Ceejay Writer nods. “Thus complimenting the audience, acknowledging its sound reasoning and ability to make up its own mind about social issues of the day.”
Ahnyanka Delphin nods and winks out at you, “This is quite a reflection on the times and shows some of the sexual revolution that’s become a large force in our society.”
But not only were women portraying themselves differently on the stage to draw the crowd, male performers were baring more in various acts of athletics and acrobatics. Some claim it was an attempt to attract more female customers.
A reporter in the New York Dramatic Mirror joked about a strongman routine stating, “[His] attire, or rather the scarcity of it, suggests that he might do well to give out, besides his dissertations on how to develop the physique, a few friendly tips on how not to develop pnemonia.”
In a later issue, that same reporter observed that the performance “is applauded for an exhibition that if attempted by any woman would be promptly suppressed.”
Ceejay Writer: “Now see how you all are relaxing a bit, laughing, ‘burlesquing’ and feeling a bit freeer for that, I might guess?”
Redgrrl Llewellyn: nods in agreement
Viv Trafalgar: yes absolutely
blakopal Galicia: yes, yes
Beq Janus nods
Viv Trafalgar: bob is feeling incredibly free at this point
Redgrrl Llewellyn: feels the fervor similar to a revival tent……
Ceejay Writer smiles proudly. “This is what burlesque brings to you. That feeling. That empowerment. That fun.”
Ceejay Writer takes a deep breath and beams a smile to the audience. “We hope you’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the art of burlesque today! Though, we do fully expect you to hoot, holler and whistle at our next show. Please don’t ever become too highbrow for that! We’d be so disappointed!”
Ahnyanka Delphin: Oh so very disappointed!
Ceejay Writer smiles at Miss Ahnya, quite proud of her performance today.
Ahnyanka Delphin raises her hat to tip her cane and gives you all a wink.
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: i have a question!
Viv Trafalgar: anyone other than bob?
Serafina Puchkina: Bob, what is your question?
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: why did ya feel it necessary to use all those long words to talk about girls in their undercrackers?
Beq Janus: to confuse the men
Ceejay Writer chortles. “because it proves we have brains and not just bums, bob!”
Ahnyanka Delphin chuckles and nods, “Ooh…. lovely answer, Miss Beq!”
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: from what i’ve seen you lot can’t keep a decent set of clothes on for more than a minute anyways
Serafina Puchkina: Any other questions?
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: one more!
Bookworm Hienrichs: From what you’ve seen? Have you been sneaking into the New Champagne Rooms, Bob?
Dreddpiratebob Streeter: whys all the blokes sitting funny?
Viv Trafalgar: I have a question
Ceejay Writer: “Ah, the art is in the tease, so we remove clothing very deliberately to exact a certain reaction. In you Bob, that would be abject horror.”
Ahnyanka Delphin: Burlesque has always been known for his witty and insightful commentary on the times.. from both men and women…
Viv Trafalgar: What kinds of political and social commentary might there be in a performance?
Ceejay Writer: You want to take this one, Ahnya?
Viv Trafalgar: and was there any burlesquing related to the recent mayoral race?
Ahnyanka Delphin: Mostly Burlesque is about challenging perceptions and working to modify the accepted gender roles…
Eugenia Burton: There once was a Doctor called O, who wanted the werewolves to go, So he built up a weapon, the magicks to deafen, and dealt supernaturals a blow.
Ceejay Writer: A good parody never forgets its source material, but examines it anew.
Redgrrl Llewellyn: AND showing off your purty undercrackers!
Eugenia Burton: Like that.
Ceejay Writer: Eugenia! You have successfully burlesqued!
Redgrrl Llewellyn: and fighting suppression
Viv Trafalgar: other questions from the floor?
Ceejay Writer: Indeed, and engaging the audience to participate is part of the fun. You are a perfect audience this way.
Elleon Bergamasco: will you be having men in your show soon Miss Delphin??
Ahnyanka Delphin chuckles and nods, “By being willing to flaunt in the face of society… it allowed men and women to explore options and even fantasies of a different society.”
Redgrrl Llewellyn: do you think that the witty banter enhances the effect of the performance?
Ceejay Writer coughs and mutters “Boylesque”.
Ceejay Writer: “Oh, Red, absolutely. The banter is very important.”
Ahnyanka Delphin: As a matter of fact, we will be asking men to join us on the stage!
Ghilayne Andrew: When you say a play was burlesqued… was it a contemporary play, or usually something like Shakespeare? Given some of his comedies, he might have been considered burlesque in his time by your definition… just not called that 😀
Ceejay Writer: Miss Andrew. Anything from Shakespeare to local government laws were ripe for mockery.
Redgrrl Llewellyn: I have found that the more amusing the banter and the entendre the more stimulating the performance…and that is always in fine supply at the NCR
Ahnyanka Delphin blows a kiss to Capt. Red.
Ceejay Writer smiles. “thank you Red. That means a lot to us!”
Ceejay Writer: Any other questions? Please don’t be shy, not around us!
Viv Trafalgar: what did a performer need to own in order to perform? Her own clothing? Or was that provided?
Ahnyanka Delphin: And it’s something that the lovely residents of New Babbage seem to enjoy… so to encourage it, we’re going to open a branch of the New Champagne Rooms right here in your very city!”
Ceejay Writer thinks. “Some performers worked as a troupe, and pooled resources. Others had to arrive with their ‘dowry’ and prove they could supply a full show.”
Elleon Bergamasco: and what level of society were the performers from? did they just need luscious curves or… perhaps high society ladies looking for some…. diversion
Ahnyanka Delphin: We want to encourage the exploration of performance art of all varieties… from comedy to burlesque… magicians, musicians and fire dancers.
Ceejay Writer: “From what I have read, most were middle or lower class folk… but I suspect some rebellious wealthy folk indulged.”
Ahnyanka Delphin nods at Ceejay.
Annechen Lowey: Was the apprenticeship system used in burlesque?
blakopal Galicia: i’d imagine there were some of ‘means’, since it would have been costly to acquire outfits and such
Ceejay Writer looks questioningly at Ahnya. “I have not heard of apprenticing. Have you?”
Viv Trafalgar: and then we’ll unleash the craft
Ahnyanka Delphin: I’m sure it was in some traveling troupes… or “Wheels”. Performers worked from obscurity up to becoming headliners.
Ceejay Writer smiles gleefully.
Ahnyanka Delphin: So they would often work under more experienced actors or dancers until they became a full performer in their own right
Redgrrl Llewellyn: unleash the craft! [chants]
Ahnyanka Delphin grins impishly, excited to unleash the craft box on the crowd.
Viv Trafalgar: we have a doozy this time, thanks to miss Ahnya, the fantabulous leader of NCR and Miss Ceejay, the wittiest dancer on the floor today
Ceejay Writer: Our craft box contains something nice for our …. fans. And, sorry to say, Bob, but there’s a homework assignment in there too! I think you’ll all find this fun, and something you might want to share with those close to you. *Winks*
Viv Trafalgar: this was a great presentation – and a great audience
Ahnyanka Delphin: A fabulous audience! Thank you all for coming today!
Viv Trafalgar: Ceejay, please tell them what they’ve won…
Ceejay Writer: I want to see Bob using his craft box!
Viv Trafalgar: Sera and I want to see everyone at the ball this weekend using these – we can do a salon fan dance!
Ceejay Writer: Yes indeed! You have time to practice before the ball.
Ahnyanka Delphin: I want to thank the phenominal Miss Morgan Kincess of Digital Eyes for donating the fans for you lovely salonistas….
Viv Trafalgar: there’s something else inside the box; there’s a beautiful book provided by Miss Delphin
Ahnyanka Delphin: And I even tucked a little something special into the box for the fellas… oh.. and ladies too!
Ceejay Writer: The book is beautiful, and handcrafted by Ahnya.
Serafina Puchkina: Don’t forget next month’s Salon is Submersibles! which is not related *cough* to this month’s topic. Thank you all so very much for your support
Viv Trafalgar: Exceptional salon – and thank you to such a great audience!
Ahnyanka Delphin: Than you all for having us! You’re darlings. Feel free to stop by the glass in the back if you want to take a photo bathed in champagne…
Viv Trafalgar: We will be giving the Speakers Fund to these two brilliant performers in just a moment – our way of saying thanks so much for a stunning and educational presentation
Redgrrl Llewellyn: when is the NCR opening in Babbage?
Ahnyanka Delphin: The first week in April! Keep your ears out and I’ll be shouting it from the highest roof tops.
Viv Trafalgar: Don’t forget the ball! March 28 – and the April 4th opening of NCR!
Ceejay Writer: If you have a talent… come talk to us!
Viv Trafalgar: We’re happy to give NCR the speakers’ fund of 4775L – with thanks so much from a grateful audience
Ceejay Writer: Wow, thank you all! That’s generous, and will be used 100% to keep the NCR clubs going!
Ahnyanka Delphin: You are all so generous, thank you for being darlings!