Process : Proposals

I was afforded a bit of tumult and relief this month in the realm of submissions and proposals that is typically both the bane and life force of a contemporary artist’s existence. On one hand, I’ve done the dirty deed of selling myself so many times over, appropriating my intent to fit the needs and desires of arts presenters. The other hand, now duly washed, has happily waved goodbye to the tedious task of exposing my soul in the hopes that it may be interesting enough to make some cold hard cash for somebody else.

Case(s) in point:

I’m officially vehemently opposed to exposure of the words “however” and “unfortunately” (the former more than the latter). It is commonplace for writers to loathe certain words for one reason or another – particularly because of spelling or phonetics (heightened even more so by polyglots). These aforementioned atrocities are derivative of that necessary constant onslaught of rejection that comes from accosting resources with which to show your work.

We appreciate the opportunity to read your work. However, after careful review of all submissions, we are unable to include your piece in our Spotlight series this year.

While we loved reading your play, we have decided not to move forward with it as part of our series. However, we would be happy to consider your work for future productions.

HOWEVER, your work has been deemed as “very promising”; we would love to acclimate you to the Festival and the panel as an attendee.

I want to flip the bird at the word.

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There’s so much work and research (and disgusting mathematics) that goes into writing a proposal that you are so exhausted afterwards that you feel as though the grant or opportunity or residency or whatever it is you’re applying for should be awarded to you just for the amount of extraneous effort you’ve exerted. But that is not ever the case unfortunately.

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At the beginning of the month I received a record 5 rejection notices within the span of 48 hours. It wasn’t that devastating of a blow considering the fact that I made a consorted effort to spike the number of proposals I would draft over the past few months in order to broaden my chances of getting produced sooner than later.

This was also cushioned by a rather favorable acceptance letter into the long running LGBT HOT! Festival at the reputable Dixon Place in lower Manhattan, a famous arts incubator that allows a platform for works-in-progress. I’ll be doing a staged reading of another twisted horror play of mine entitled The Prize come July 20th.

the prize 003

I was also informed that the Hearts on the Wall Artist Collective sponsored by Dark Matter Productions recently gained a residency at Dixon Place – and after being accepted into their program during their inaugural event where I did the first staged reading from my The Annals of Sharon series (an episodic theatre piece about polyamory), they invited me back to do present another work.

It was a nice break to bypass the whole proposal process – another feat I was afforded last month when I was asked to once again take part in Exquisite Corpse Company’s Drunk 24. It’s a fun festival where writers are paired together, given a theme and the directors and actors have 24 hours to stage each play written – and furthermore, the audience has the opportunity to offer shots for the actors that they must incorporate into their performance. I had already written a proposal for them this past fall and worked on a piece about witches, this time I co-wrote a period piece melodrama dealing with the theme of “water cooler confessions.”

As much as I adore persuasive writing, I very much look forward to making a name for myself so I’m invited rather than trying to make a list. No longer will I have to make grandiose statements that attest to my abilities such as:

My dance composition inspiration stems from the techniques of Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, Matt Mattox, Alvin Ailey and Bob Fosse. Fluid old school Jazz and Modern Dance is juxtaposed with contemporary technique, utilizing extensive isolations and lateral movements and stretches. Combined with natural movements inherited from autonomic reactions to changing environments, vaudeville inspired sexy burlesque, “club style” dancing (with special attention to voguing motifs), my choreographic works tend to be relatable and innovative in their execution, revealing the pith of the story at hand. Elements of my quirky style also include animal movements to depict the overall themes associated with the carnal topics I love to embrace. Having a background in theater and writing, I enjoying using text along with movement indicative of the work of Pina Bausch. Domestic violence, racism, sexuality, discrimination, stigma, bigotry, misogyny and the marginalization of class/social systems are frequent themes of my dance theater work.

I recently visited an old friend (a painter) who was amidst another artistic breakdown – tears running down her face and she explained to me “No one understands.” She eluded to the fact that she was having so much of a hard time trying to get her non-artist friends to understand her turmoil, how not easy it is to create something wonderful on a regular basis and how impossible it can be to believe in yourself let alone rely on the acceptance of others.

I said, “When we are ‘successful’ and we create a good work of art, we don’t ever allow ourselves the chance to enjoy it. The SECOND it is finished we wallow in that chasm thinking to ourselves that we’ll never do anything again and that nothing we ever did mattered. We live in that pocket of uncertainty when we are not creating – and it is a wretched place. Never do we celebrate or become optimists about the things we’ve done or are going to be doing – it’s only when we are in the moment is our time well spent.”

She shook her head and cried some more. “See! You know exactly what I’m talking about!”

It’s been a gift to be accepted with having already proven myself. These last two presentations I felt free and unfettered by the whole am-I-good-enough clause. They knew me, they wanted me, and they celebrated me for me. I got to spend more time with the work and the tremendous talent I’ve been fortunate enough to solicit, making sure the merit was intact the way it was intended, and that is worth everything to an artist.

I haven’t written any poetry in awhile

I am the black jelly bean in the bag;
Be, be, see – who you want me to be…
Everyone tries to scrape off the burnt toast,
And shake off the soot from the chimney.

Am I alike the darkness that blankets you in the night?
Can I compare to the untrusted lack of light?

I am not The Angry Black Man,
I was born with bitter blood in hand
Inherent of my affected ancestry,
Against the will of willingness decreed.

When the flesh is completely gone –
It is not the color of licorice or tar
Or the remnants at the bottom of the barrel,
It’s closer to you and yours by far.

So I pine to try to disagree…

If you don’t see color –
You don’t see me.


Process : Collaboration

It happened on a Tuesday and by the time I peeled myself out of despondency on Friday, I knew that this horrible news would be good for me. No, No, No November sparked the start of the first of many a Yes I had thought would maybe never happen again.


My search and submit process had been waning and then I saw a posting searching for playwrights to contribute to a 24 Hour play festival. My interest was initially piqued because I thought it would be a very demanding exercise. On top of the time constraint, the writers would be paired up and have to write a play based on a topic picked out of a hat, and the actors performing would have to drink a certain amount of shots of alcohol  bought by the audience during the play.


I thought I was open minded and completely ready for the challenge – I really wanted a new and different experience working with someone rather than for someone or others working for me. I’ve produced/directed so much of my own work and I’ve been fortunate enough to seek out and choose the folks I’ve worked with. I thought that this would be a valuable experience adapting to a collaborative environment randomly chosen.


We were all a bit grim and jubilant at the meeting. We all wrote down possible topics, voted on the best (The Wrong Party) and we were off.

I was paired with a young man working on his MFA.

He was the exact opposite of me in almost every way.

He wasn’t much of a note taker or an outline maker and he was more of a big picture guy than a detail oriented one. He liked to just write without much planning, and initially suggested that we take turns writing dialog from virtual locations utilizing a Google spreadsheet.

I swallowed heavily.

He was more plot driven – I’m all about characters…but in the end, I was proud of our piece.

He was a big old nerd, so we had that in common. He wanted to write about witches – and that was great because that’s my geek genre.

I decided to be the dramaturg/editor, like I always am, because at one point I was making him a little claustrophobic with all of my incessant demands on specifics.

I took some notes while he wrote some dialog:



Theme: Comedy – Certain discomfort that the third party is feeling when approached by two others to join a specific group.


2 people competing for one spot.


Animal Rescue workers – community service..


Main character indulges in stereotypical representation of witches.


Time: Present Day

The Place: Sue’s Backyard in the suburbs of Michigan.


The Scene : Two Chairs, One Table


Props: Plant, Bowl of Water. 4 Candles. Bowl of Salt. Incense. Small Knife.


Dramatis Personae:


Lilith – Main Witch/Priestess – Cat Rescuer – Owner (has roommate cannot host witch rituals)


Sue – The Other Witch – Rescuer (host of witch parties/second hand woman to Lilith)


Joanne – The Volunteer/Intiation – “Works in Development Office” – really a telemarketer. “You can’t buy single tickets, only subscriptions. Used to be a dancer. Takes classes there. Works at night.



Max – Joanne’s cat.


The Place : Sue’s Back Deck Outside


Rebecca, Rachel, Renee The Bitch Witches


Culmination: Joanne Realizes Discomfort -???


Resolution : ???


Conflict: ???


How they met: At the Cat Rescue where they work/volunteer.


Party: Witchy Party/Ritual – Potential


Background/Exposition: Joanne has lost a cat/finds comfort in helping others adopt.


Suburban Michigan


Lilith & Sue + Joanne


Cat death anniversary


She has it in her she’ll be on board – you’ve seen the way she’s talked to (cat’s name) – and the other day, the way (cat’s name) and her were getting along.


Pass me the salt – hand me the candles – spit in this. That dirt – plant over there


Pet Cemetery reference


Did you bring the object we asked you about?


Dedication ritual.


Replacing the 13th witch


Recruiting Joanne for the coven.

New coven??? Can’t place craigslist ad.


Abandoned old coven??? Starting new one?


Bitter about the other coven – need to do magic/spells…to change the world? Help the cats?


Lilith was kicked out because she


I didn’t have an R name. Vendetta against them – and is vengeful.


Rival business in town trendy Cat café.




Backyard of Sue’s place – LILITH and SUE and they looking at the moon. – waxing for dedication ritual.


Perfect timing! Death of cat.


Reassurance – “you’re not nervous are you?” – it’s all going to work out.


This will be really good for Joanne. What time will she be here? She said – ???


(get ready – preparation)


Remember the plan. We’re just here to help her through this hard time, to support her in the grief of her loss. Blah blah blah.


Yeah – I know.


This is so exciting. We’re going to have our own coven, finally,


(mention bitch witches???)


(minimal dialogue before entry – with exposition)


Blessed, be my dear. Welcome. It’s going to be a very special night.


We’re here for you.


Glad you made it – found it okay.


It’s a little bit chilly out tonight.


Yes! The coolness is divine. Great for this sort of thing.


Did you bring the object we asked you about.


Yes, this was (cat name) favorite toy. I remember the day when I bought it for him. As soon as I brought it home he –


Well, yes yes, that’s nice. Could you do me a favor and pass me…


Talking about the cat????


What’s that? It’s called an athame.


Do we have to sacrifice something to bring Max back?


No no – nothing like that. It’s just a tool to summon…don’t worry about that.


I purify you o earth (air/fire/water) in the blessed and mighty names of the spirit of the God and the spirit of the Goddess.


Bring forth the reborn in exchange for our mighty blessings as children of the Earth and starry Heaven – fill the void with your magic energy. Bestow us with your enchanted gifts, we beseech you


I say so be it and so it is.


I say so be it and so it is.


I say so be it and so it is.


Blessed be o mighty Gods. We invoke thee – we invoke thee – we invoke thee.



By the end of the 2-3 hours we worked on it I was exhausted. I was trying my best not to be too much of the bitchy boss, but for some reason that’s me at my best.

The play went over well, and the actresses did a bang up job. It was a fun festival to be a part of – and I got to flex some writer muscles I don’t use on a regular basis. I also learned a lot about myself in the process.





The Berlin Years

Much an impossible chapter to close in my life – I’ve made great strides to at least archive most of the visual art projects of my yesteryears from my European stint.

When I arrived in Berlin for the first time in 2010, I was an American. Before long I became an expat. And then I was an artist – hearkening my suffocated passion, and I found myself in a dance studio again, teaching. I learned quickly that Modern dance was outdated in Contemporary driven Berlin – and so I forged a path to invade the landscape by delving into multimedia art.


From “The Pursuit of Happiness : Berlin 2011 – 2014”

I had already started my Self = Portraits project when I returned to Berlin in 2011, and after Art Connect Berlin caught wind of it and it was presented at their grand opening event, I decided to do more film work. It all started with the first film of the series entitled “Banana” that secured me my Josephine Baker Moment.


I was also actively using my smart phone and laptop computer for projects satirizing social media and involving social experiments. And when a photographer friend I met allowed me to borrow his SLR for a few projects, I ended up with several visual art presentations that I’m now putting to rest. That ran the gamut of fine art inspired pieces, doing video portraits (inspired mostly by Tyler Shields) and technique inspired landscapes and compositions. My film work encompassed so much of what I wanted to express in writing and dance, but with much more abrasive force like so:



Many photos of this series were taken by a friend in Charlottenburg – an actress who I spent a lot of time with sitting at a fountain, clumsily rolling cigarettes, crying and celebrating our woes and wins together.

“Can you take a picture of me?” is not such a foreign phrase – though it is, especially in a city that mostly survives because of its tourism. I’ve never documented the differences between when I asked my friends to take the photos and when I asked strangers – though I will say that I gave explicit instructions for each photographer to try and get a shot of me when the smoke was coming out of my mouth and covering my visage. The strangers were less frustrated by this request than my friends.

See the full collection here: Up in Smoke


Many instances of love were transient entities who were powerful, fleeting members of my story. This particular bed was were I felt the most comfortable and heartbroken.

There was a large variety of places where I woke up in Berlin. I documented them.

See the full collection here: Morgen


This is the very first apartment I rented just steps from Nollendorfplatz. It was the beginning of…

I also took photos of buildings that served as monuments where very monumental activities took place.

See the full collection here: Old Haunts



This was a place I visited many many times. I learned a lot about myself here.

The most difficult to publicize is the most raw collection of photography that started off as a collection of pictures taken pre and post coitus (and sometimes during). I narrowed down the vast selection to a few snapshots that were the highlights of my experiences in this realm.

See the full collection here: The Pursuit of Happiness

I have always steered towards taking portraits of the body rather than the face. The face (while it tells a longwinded expository story) is too complicated for me and as a choreographer I’ve always read people through movements. Of course many of the portraits I took of artists were scoffed upon by the subjects for obvious reasons, but this perspective gives a very vicarious point of view of how I am inspired by them.

See the collection here: Lebenskünstler 


Though I haven’t been able to finish editing the biggest project that I started, a film entitled Muse, due to my old MacBook Pro crashing – I still have some of the rough cut edits in the following films.

I was setting out to find some editors to review and edit the footage artistically and juxtapose them together for a gallery showing, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. Each actor/artist in the films was an extremely special person in my life who influenced me to keep creating during my time in Berlin.






I’m really proud of all of these works though I really hate editing (as duly noted in my Cubist style layering in my film work) and I never do any retouching or editing of my photography.

Perhaps if I can find a cinematographer and an editor – I’ll get back into filmmaking again, but I will only be doing it with a pen and paper. The camera is not my best tool, but I made the most of it and it kept me afloat as a relevant artists while I was in Berlin.






Process : Directing

I’ve met a bevy of artists since I’ve come to New York in November.

They are not hard to find. When not on stages, screens or crisp white lit walls – they are serving cocktails, slinging trays, walking dogs, burping babies, selling stilettos, teaching teenagers and so on and so forth.

It is no wonder then that I’ve met new impressionable and inspirational talent through one of the several hospitality jobs I have to survive in the Big Apple.



Acute Reflections performance at “With This Ring” event at Punto Space in April – where I met several artists from a reputable catering company.


I am always looking for that special something – and after having lost all of my muses in Philadelphia and then Berlin due to relocation – I knew very well it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge on the account of my desperation and desire to find new ones. Furthermore, to be in this epicenter of creativity was my primary motivation (if not instinct) when I came back from Europe. I had the crème de la crème of artists at my disposal when I was across the ocean, so my burgeoning palette became hungry for better, more, perfection.

When I first saw Phillip – his smile was infectious. I wanted to bring the dark side out of him. Not one to harp on emotive proclivities, our introduction was brief and I spent much of the rest of the evening keeping a peripheral eye on him, going through my mental Roladex of scripts wondering what characters he might fit into or if there were any ideas on my back burner he’d be appropriate for – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

We were working a catered event for about 100 luxury cruise line professionals. They were a spritely, boozy bunch, and I was of course surrounded by a plethora of front of the house professionals slash artists, but there was something about Philip.

All of us were talking about film and television and theater, like the art nerds that we were – and the adrenaline of competition versus camaraderie was leaving a sweaty stench in the air. We told the forever-the-same tales of the woes and wins of New York Shitty, and how no matter how hard it gets, there is no option to bail out.

Philip and I (along with a few others) ended up huffing it to the subway instead of splurging on an Uber we couldn’t afford, as true artists are prone to do. Like a good writer, I had some Polish Vodka in my bag and started to swig to quell and coerce the creative energy brewing inside of me.

When we were the last ones to transfer off and away from the borough of Manhattan. We got to talking about or respective and specific passions and he had mentioned to me that his past primary project was a web series he wrote and starred in entitled “Planners”. I asked him to take a picture of me (this weird affectation of Narcissism artists sometimes get when they haven’t gotten any work in awhile) before he left. “I hope to see you again,” he motioned with a wave “so long”, as he too transferred off to another train with another hundred people.

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The next day I took a look at his web series and then found my way to his other work and I knew that there was something there…

Previously, I had already declared a perfunctory muse. She’s run the gamut with me in varying velocities of interaction. She works with me at my primary gig – a bistro restaurant on the Upper West Side that is famous for the entertainment elite it caters to.

The staff is made up of a cast of characters, mostly actors and the writers who adore them. I’m lucky in one way to be surrounded by so much drama, as exhausting as it is – but more than that there is this precious dichotomy of feeling like you’re on the wrong side of the equation. You can’t help but iterate those classic show business adages about making it on Broadway and singing those musical songs in your head as you serve expensive omelettes and steak frites to Tony winners. It’s better and worse than you can ever imagine.

There, I met Stephanie. A veritable chameleon that has a special draw not only for her unique and amicable visage, but her demeanor strikes you as coming off as the perfect blend of sweet angel and little devil.

She too told the story we all share about New York and her dreams and the struggle and the victories – and I was enthralled. She spoke openly (like a soliloquy) about her passions when I asked, and I mentally took notes on her diction, intonation, inflection, projection, physicality, emotional slants, her gait – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

I told her I wanted to work with her some day. Her oblige wasn’t so much of a blush but rather a figurative wink. It came in the form of a nod and verbal agreement; I knew we were a match.

About a month ago after seven months in New York, for the second time, after a slew of proposal and application writing – one of my works was chosen for a new artist collective entitled Hearts on the Wall from Dark Matter Productions.

I sent Phillip the script that was chosen and he said he was interested. Two of the actresses I had in mind (whom I met through other catered events) were indisposed, and eventually Phillip suggested that I get in touch with his acting class partner, Jamie.

I met Jamie for a meeting/audition/rehearsal – though after reviewing her work, and being turned on by the idea of working with two actors who work together regularly, I knew she was already my girl. We got along swimmingly. She sat next to me at the café where I typically meet everyone, where by chance there was another meeting/audition/rehearsal going on right next to us.




I focused intensely on Jamie, noting that she must’ve been a dancer by the way she used movement as an expressive tool. I also watched her eyes, the muscles on her face, the nature of her personality, the tones of her voice, the weight of her hair, the concentration of her spirit – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

The logline and synopsis of the play was as followed:

“Bed” is a brief exhibition of an intergenerational interlude
Workaholic Sharon and her much younger lover, Bill, are holed up in a hotel room together fighting over business versus pleasure. Not until a rousing discovery of a secret is revealed do they come to a compromise.  

I had a casual couch rehearsal with Philip and after we dug into the character, we conferenced in Jamie via Skype and read through all together. I am a big fan of using technology for working in the arts, many times I record rehearsals and send links so my performers can study virtually.



I sent notes and references to the entire cast and went through the costume requirements. I was always taught to wear all black at auditions, and I prefer actors to do this during readings so you can have a “clean slate” visually, though we did go through what I call The Parker Posey Method of Acting. I once saw her in an interview say that the first thing she does when she is playing a role is pick out what the character would wear. I added a bandana and glasses to the characters’ accessories.

And then we met on the day of the show at the aforementioned café and I nearly shit a brick of glee having finally attained 3 malleable actors to paint my piece.

One of the biggest challenges for me as a Director was that I only had 3 weeks to put the pieces together. It was a staged reading, but me being me, I was very zealous about making it a performative piece as much as possible, though the actors were to stay on-book. I typically do not like the actors to get too involved or familiar with the text before the first rehearsal, but time did not permit that and I had to make some changes to the script posthaste.

I asked them all the same questions about their characters – and I eagerly acclimated myself with their contributions. I even made the narrator of the play an actual character, to further the complexity of the presentation.



I do get a little sadistic when directing, and I believe that that is the true mark of a great artist. It comes from the passion but also to instill discipline in my performers (perhaps that comes from my pious upbringing, my families’ military background, my stint with athletics, and from being trained in dance).

I got out of them what I needed, but not what I wanted. This was in fact a work-in-progress, so there was room for error, but make no mistake, they all impressed me and I consider them to be high caliber actors. The material was engaging not only to the audience but to the readers, and I knew this dynamic would be fun to navigate.

Here are my notes I sent to the actors:

-Remember to project!
-Make the most of Happy Accidents, that’s what drama is all about! Especially at readings/rehearsals, this gives you the opportunity to give the playwright/director a new perspective and perhaps make viable changes to the script/production.
-Typically comedy needs to be FAST – hit them hard with the punchline. When working with tragicomic material, the tragedy comes slow and easy. This cadence was just a little bit missing in the performance.
-Relish in audience reactions! 
-Keep digging and being awesome. Find a way to relate  to and disconnect from your characters.
Thanks again so so so much. This was so rewarding and special to have you all involved and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I work with you again.
It was an expertly curated event and I highly recommend you attending the next one and/or submitting your work in progress for [Monday, August 22].

Courtesy: Dark Matter Productions #HOTW

Maybe I’ll see you there, if I can get my shift covered at the restaurant.


Off The Cuffs

Snow White
Presented by: Company XIV –
in association with Liberty Theaters, LLC :
Under the Direction of Margaret Cotter
Conceived, Choreographed and Directed by: Austin McCormick
Featuring: Hilly Bodin, Marisol Cabrera, Laura Careless,
Courtney Giannone, Lea Helle, Nicholas Katen, Malik Shabazz Kitchen, Mark Osmundsen, Davon Rainey, March Richardson

Ran: January 26th – March 12th
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
New York, NY 10012

By Louis DeVaughn Nelson

PHOTOS: Courtesy Company XIV, Benjamin Riley –

“More tease, less strip!” was a common phrase I would shout at my classically trained dancers, sometimes strippers, performers every once in a while, and part time whatever else they could do with their many talents to make ends meet. That was over a decade ago when Cher and Christina Aguilera’s Burlesque movie hadn’t yet made the art form more acceptable to mass appeal audiences and the film Chicago had just made it more accessible.

I was then working for the award-wining Peekaboo Revue (Philadelphia, PA), deemed a neo-burlesque troupe that was just as much ahead of its time as it was reliving the past. 2002 sparked the inaugural New York Burlesque Festival in which the burgeoning cabaret scene began to (once again) celebrate the entertainment value of the good old-fashioned “leg shows” and “good clean fun” of the American Vaudeville era when a few pence would allow you all day access to a bevy of bump & grind and sideshow acts.

Courtesy of the NYBF, troupes from all over the country (along with a few international groups) congregated in a place where society was starving for a bit more bang for their buck in the post 9/11 live life till it runneth over climate. While the frank association of T&A is synonymous with burlesque – the artful spectacle of the experience will always remain a big draw. During the first festival there was a lot of pageantry and couture costumes, but the most memorable and engaging performances were those who pushed skin and the desire to get under it in new and innovative ways utilizing inspiration from avant garde technique.


Company XIV 1

Winner of a New York Innovative Theater Award for Best Choreography, Austin McCormick founded Company XIV based on these principles during the very same year the NYBF began. With a background as a former dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet of New York along with many other accolades in the theater/dance performance world, McCormick has served up contributions to several opera houses in direction and choreography: The Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Houston Grand Opera, and Canadian Opera Company…

What he does with Company XIV along with co-founder, Laura Careless, who passionately graces the stage of the their latest enthralling installment, is nothing short of spectacular; a simple Google search will retrieve a plethora of poetic pieces acclaimed by critics from The British Theatre Guide to The New York Times. Recreating and staging the classics, fairytales and ballets is commonplace in the burlesque community, so standing out and wowing jaded audiences is a feat in itself.

Case in point: I first heard about Company XIV from a theater artist in New York who proclaimed that there was nothing like it in the city and the meticulous effort they put into each and every show is astounding. Having had the ambitious undertaking of managing expectations in so many regards in my work with The Peekaboo Revue (my girls/boys had a lot of brilliant ideas, some too racy for audiences), I did my best not to roll my eyes at this statement, especially after seeing the Kleine Nachtrevue of Berlin, Germany – possibly the capital of burlesque it its true and original and perhaps most enjoyable form. The decadent depiction Bob Fosse presented in the film version of Cabaret still reigns today in this day and age (sans the Nazis).

Company XIV 2

“Well, I saw a ballerina dressed up as a construction worker use a handsaw to cut metal of off herself, and that was her striptease, so…”

“They do amazing things, like one girl sings opera while she is pole dancing,” my ears perked up and he continued, “but I’ve seen it a few times and would love to see something else. But I go to all of their shows.”

That’s the thing about these burlesquers. The whole “You Gotta Have A Gimmick” is a necessary part of the craft. There are many details and hours and hours of repetitive rehearsals these performers must endure in order to perfect their tricks. There is a delicate balance between overdoing it and making sure you are accommodating an audience who are used to seeing a certain “gimmick”. It is very hard to raise the ante each time, which is why so many burlesque troupes stick to a certain style or aesthetic.

About a week later I met one of the company’s management partners at a theater networking event. The conversation went on and on about the style and content of this particular troupe. Not only was this serendipitous but it seemed this was one of the hottest tickets in town.

When I arrived (on a Tuesday) at the Minetta Lane Theatre, I was taken aback by the sheer number of folks lined up on another one of those little streets tucked away just off Broadway where patrons can congregate before the house opens and let the pre-show excitement wash over them. It was Tuesday, right?

The show started before it began. There was an air about the place which afforded a certain hospitable acceptance and an environment that allowed folks to bustle around the theatre (with drinks in hand no less) holding conversations while the performers were getting ready on the baroque adorned stage and walking around the audience scantily clad. It felt like home and it felt otherworldly.

The devious smiles of the cigarette girls and the burlesquers acknowledging but not addressing the audience from on stage while they warmed up and primped – was a sight to behold. And then the magic came in the most shocking but not surprising way.

“Guten Abend,” began one of the many mistresses of the cabaret whose genres were all over the map and back again, utilizing live video performance, ballet, modern dance, contemporary dance, tap dance, puppetry, circus arts, tango, pole dancing, opera, flamenco, marionettes, live music, kabuki, Cyr wheel, pop performance, and many other mediums. Oh! And some striptease.

Taking the classic German fairytale and melding it into the modern world with traditional sensibilities without a speck of fault is almost impossible to believe, even with so many momentary suspensions of. There can only be one complaint about Company XIV’s Snow White : overkill.

The twists and turns are irrebuttable in their presentation, leaving the audience almost dizzy from how much is fit into the show. There are many intellectual bombs thrown on stage but not just for the hell of it – each and every iota is a well-focused form of exquisite expression. At the risk of being trite, it would have been nice to have reverted back to the art form’s pioneers and dumbed it down a little. There were a few very raw and a bit naughty parts that shined through, almost a taunt more than a tease, which could have been expounded as not to forget where we came from.

“Yeah, but when do I get to take off my clothes?” one of my favorite girls used to say to me incessantly when I was working with The Peekaboo Revue before I left for Berlin in 2011. While I appreciated her zealousness to bare all in so many ways (almost as much as the audience), it was a lesson learned for the both of us. The visual appeal has to be balanced with the artistic.

Her name was Melissa Bang-Bang (a moniker derivative of a certain gimmick she evoked with her backside) and after Snow White I approached the stage to personally thank the show’s brightest star who played the queen, aforementioned Laura Careless, who had the least amount of tricks up her sleeve and managed to steal the show with her provocative reprieve.

Bang Bang

“You renewed my passion for the art form. I used to work in burlesque and one of my favorite girls just died a little over a month ago. You remind me of her a lot, you have the same spirit about you on stage,” I gushed and received a blush.

The company ended its season on so many high notes and now Austin McCormick is on to produce work for the Metropolitan Opera. Be sure to catch Company XIV when they get revved up again. Their shows typically sell-out, so plan ahead!





NEW BLOG POST: “Love Feast”

Check out the newest entry for Center on the Aisle that I wrote:

“Perhaps it was because it was just a few days after Valentine’s Day and we were all watching a play about love and the lengths one will go through to achieve it. Maybe I needed to be closer to someone or anyone and the obvious attractiveness of the cast with their hip outfits and provocative instrument playing was helping in the worst way. Perchance I didn’t want to feel anything when the lyric that came during the culmination of the play came over and over and over again nonstop: “What is Love?” the actors sang in a bittersweet tone…”


Read More Here