By J. Scott Hill
MsPixy is one of the movers and shakers in Chicago’s lava-hot burlesque scene. In Part One of this interview (Variety Meets: MsPixy – Part One – Chicago Stage Review), MsPixy told Chicago Stage Review about being a Bombshell in the Belmont Burlesque Revue. We also discussed her runaway success as the writer and director of Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Burlesque and Fellowship of the Boobs: A LOTR, WoW, D&D, RPG Burlesque. Fellowship of the Boobs has continued in open run at Gorilla Tango Theatre for nine months now, Boobs and Goombas for a year and a half.
At the end of Part One, we were exploring the differences between the typical burlesque revue and the burlesque plays MsPixy creates.
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CHICAGO STAGE REVIEW: Your Geek Girl Burlesque shows have done two very important things for Chicago’s Burlesque community. First, I think Burlesque is on the radar of Chicago actresses now in ways it hadn’t been — when it comes time to audition and when it comes time to take classes. Second, you are providing Chicago’s Burlesque community with a wellspring of fresh talent.
MsPixy: Thanks for the lovely words about our impact on the community!
CSR: I understand that, in the face of all of this success, Geek Girl Burlesque changed its name.Why do that?
MsPx: We changed our name from Geek Girl Burlesque to Gorilla Tango Burlesque after we realized just how many things in the country are named “Geek Girl” something. (There is also a Geek Girl Burlesque in New York that started recently –unrelated to and, we assume, unaware of, our own troupe). However, we hung on to the name in one sense: our performers are referred to as the “Geek Girls,” much as Belmont Burlesque refers to our performers as the “Belmont Bombshells.” So we haven’t given up the geek entirely. Plus, we all love the logo possibilities involving both Gorillas and pretty girls that the Gorilla Tango Burlesque name implies.
CSR: The name isn’t the only major change to Gorilla Tango Burlesque in light of the successes of Boobs and Goombas and Fellowship of the Boobs, is it?
MsPx: This was not so much a change as an addition. As of October 1, 2011, I became the Artistic Director of Gorilla Tango Burlesque. Prior to my stepping into the role, there was no Artistic Director. Once we reached a certain critical mass, however, it seemed clear that it would be to our benefit to have one person keeping a watchful eye on the artistic quality of our many burlesque productions.
CSR: Since you took the helm, there have been a number of burlesque shows to come out of Gorilla Tango Burlesque that have been written and directed by others — for example,Temple of Boobs, A Nude Hope, and El Mari Chi Chi. How involved are you with these productions?
MxPx: In my capacity as Artistic Director I work closely with the Gorilla Tango Executive Director, Executive Producer, and Director of Marketing to help select new shows for production, as well as maintain the production and performance values on the shows that are currently running. I’m even working with the directors of the other shows to continue to refine, adjust, and update the scripts and performance details of each show. Fortunately for me, the directors of all the shows that are currently open and in development have been WONDERFUL to work with. They have been very open to dialogue about ways to continue to improve the quality of each project, and full of great ideas and inspirations of their own that create a fantastic atmosphere of creativity and positivity.
CSR: You have not given up writing and directing shows yourself, have you?
MsPx: The next project that I personally wrote and am directing and choreographing is SuperBoobs!: A Superhero Burlesque Adventure, opening April 14.
CSR: So, since you are currently in full-steam creative mode, what is the most important asset for one of your performers to have: acting ability, dance moves, comic timing, or something else?
MsPx: Great question! This is right at the front of my mind right now. For me, the number one most important thing I look for in a performer is the ability to fully inhabit a grounded, believable, larger-than-life character from the core outward, followed very closely by the ability to connect honestly and directly with other performers (and the audience!). As Jim Henson said to Caroll Spinney, “It doesn’t matter if YOU can dance, Big Bird THINKS he can dance.” The ability to dance well is secondary to the ability to fully inhabit a believable character, but it is a quality we take into consideration when casting, as well as the performer’s ability to project self-confidence. In my experience “comic timing” is an ability to fully invest in the truth of the moment while solidly connected to one’s scene partner(s) and audience.
CSR: Even though you are in the throes of SuperBoobs! right now, I want to take you back to your other shows for a moment. Do you have a particular favorite burlesque routine from either Boobs and Goombas or Fellowship of the Boobs?
MsPx: Might as well ask a mother to choose her favorite child! I will say, though, that I have a soft spot for the Elf/Spider number in Fellowship, as I love the combination of the silhouette, the stretchy “spider web” fabric, and the full-body puppetry of the spider’s rig. But ask me another day and I might prefer the Chain Chomp number from Boobs and Goombas or theFellowship closing number (16 bouncing boobies! Huzzah!). And, really, I love them all equally for different reasons, of course.
CSR: Spoken like any good mother. Soon, the world will get to see your newest children in SuperBoobs!: A Superhero Burlesque Adventure. Short of anything requiring the tag SPOILER ALERT, what can you tell us about SuperBoobs!?
MsPx: Hmm. Well, the first spoiler happens about three minutes into the show, but I suppose folks might still come to see it even if they know they’re going to be kidnapped by the Joker. But I probably shouldn’t tell you that he’s going to make the audience vote to either save either themselves OR the superheroes he’s kidnapped from both the DC and Marvel universes. And I certainly don’t want to give away how Harley Quinn fits in to the whole picture — so, gosh, I guess I can’t tell you anything at all without spoilers galore. Folks will just have to come on out and see the show. (WINK!) Oh, and there will be many super boobies. I don’t think that’s a spoiler — if our audience hasn’t figured that out by the time they take their seats they are truly in for a lovely dramatic reveal.
CSR: You have become something of a burlesque superhero yourself. What is your secret weapon?
MsPx: My fiancé, K Leo (www.mirthandbeauty.com), has been my sounding board, inspiration, and occasional “stern taskmaster” throughout the development process of each of the shows I’ve written/directed/choreographed myself. His feedback has been invaluable because he has the chutzpah to tell me when things are just not funny, not sexy, or not coming across the way I see them in my head. Without him alternately cracking the whip and providing much-needed encouragement, there’s no chance my shows would be as funny or sexy as they turned out to be. Not to mention the fact that he has done the publicity photos and assisted with the poster design for all my shows as well! A fine secret weapon indeed, and one I intend to keep close to my bosom in perpetuity (and here’s a Spoiler Alert for you: he’s written two fantastic, hilarious scripts himself that will be released in the Fall. One for a Walking Dead burlesque, official title TBA, which he will be directing to open in October, and one for The Empire Brings Sexy Back, which I will be directing to open November 2012).
CSR: He’s a lucky and talented man. That brings us to the end of this interview. To wrap things up, I’m going to hit you with a few rapid-fire nerd questions. First, what is your favorite science fiction film?
CSR: What is your favorite fantasy film?
CSR: Who is your favorite science fiction author?
MsPx: Douglas Adams.
CSR: Who is your favorite fantasy author?
MsPx: Anne McCaffrey.
CSR: MsPixy of Gorilla Tango Burlesque, Belmont Burlesque Revue, and (apparently) Pern, thank you for sharing your time with Chicago Stage Review.
MsPixy’s new show SuperBoobs!: A Superhero Burlesque Adventure runs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, beginning April 14. 773-598-4549.
MsPixy and Super Boobs! images by K Leo.