How does one pay tribute to a classic cult film that opens with a pert Jane Fonda doing a zero-gravity spacesuit strip to the strains of late sixties lounge music?
Just do a fully scripted live performance that follows the film’s delightfully cheesy plot and dialogue; add some songs, a few dance numbers and even more striptease!
Perhaps “easy” isn’t the right word here.
Pulling off a live-action burlesque homage to a film that has been both ridiculed and revered is no easy feat. How do you re-create the lava-like essence of evil called the Mathmos? Melt multiple cast members with a Positronic Ray? Give flight to the last of the ornithanthropes? And how on earth do you pull-off (excuse the pun) a zero-gravity spacesuit strip?
These are just a few of the hazards burlesque impresaria Kay Sera hopes to hurdle Nov. 17, when she, along with her co-producers and gifted cast, premiere the show, “Barbarellesque: An Ecdysiast Theatrical Experience”, at the Windup Space.
Sera told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that the idea to do a burlesque send-up sprang from a casual “movie night” evening with her husband and two fellow cast members.
“I was watching Barbarella one night this past summer with my husband Rich (Richard Just) and our friends (burlesque stars) Missy Aggravation and Cherie Sweetbottom. We could barely be still for three minutes before we’d be howling with delight at some wonderfully cheesy bit of dialogue or transparently awful special effect. The film begins, of course, with Jane Fonda’s zero-gravity striptease, so it didn’t take long for us to start talking about burlesque. The movie is just rife with opportunities to have fun and poke fun,” said Sera.
“Right from the start, we knew we wanted to do something different, to take it beyond a ‘themed’ show. We downloaded the original script and watched the movie again, each of us taking notes about what we thought would work on stage, what wouldn’t, what scenes lent themselves to burlesque, to song, to dance. We knew who we wanted for which characters and where in the action we wanted them to bring their unique performance styles to punctuate the most iconic scenes.”
Picking a cast from among the wide pool of talent in the Baltimore-DC burlesque scene is not without its challenges. Aside from the inevitable scheduling conflicts, there was the question: who would portray Barbarella? That answer turned out to be as creative as the leading character’s many costume choices.
Cherie Sweetbottom would play Barbarella. And so would Kay Sera. And Maria Bella. And Sunny Sighed, too.
Missy Aggravation will singularly sit on the throne as The Great Tyrant.
The remaining female players (Kitty Bermuda, Mourna Handful, Gigi Holliday, Melody Magpie, Cherie Nuit and Valeria Voxx) will not only serve as prop wranglers and kittens, but they are integral to the action; taking turns as the evil dolls, labyrinth denizens, Sogo citizens, revolutionaries, and as six “Sogo Gogo Girls.”
Needless to say, there are male parts, too. How else could Barbarella find her swingin’ sixties sexuality? (Even if it is the year 40,068.)
Swami YoMahmi will appear as the President/Concierge/Duran-Duran. Buster Britches has the hairy task of playing Mark Hand – the Catchman. And Mr. Georgeous wings his way into town as Pygar – the blind angel.
Sera said that to the best of the company’s knowledge, Barbarellesque – as an “ecdysiast theatrical experience” – is unique.
“There have been scripted shows, of course, which typically loosely tie acts together around an original concept. And there are themed shows, where all the acts share a common concept. But Barbarellesque is an on-stage version of the movie – augmented with song, dance and even more stripping.”
Along with the daunting task of creating a believable set and a spacey sci-fi soundtrack, comes a considerable costuming challenge.
“Fonda’s Barbarella had eight different costumes in a movie that was only 98 minutes long. Her outfits, as well as the Great Tyrant’s and Duran Duran’s, are so well known and have been so imitated in film and fashion, we knew we had to bring as many as we could to the stage. Rich researched the original set design and the comic strip to create pieces that were simple and modular but that called up key visual elements from the film. And our sound designer, Bal’d Lightning, has added an audio dimension to the physical sets to create a unique tone for each scene,” said Sera.
“Barbarellesque will use music from the original score. But audiences will also hear contemporary pop, classic rock and original mash-ups, too.” Sera adds, “We wanted the performers to bring their own ‘vibe’ to the show with acts created specifically for Barbarellesque.”
Adding to the intergalactic sized complexity of bringing such an ambitious production to the stage is the fact that eleven of the performers were on the road this weekend attending BurlyCon in Seattle, Washington.
“It speaks highly of our cast and crew that they are so committed to the art of burlesque that they took time off from work to fly to Seattle for four days to hone their craft. We built our rehearsal schedule to be heaviest before and immediately after the event, so that we could bring our performances to BurlyCon to fine-tune, and bring some BurlyCon excitement back to our performances in Barbarellesque! We all stayed in the same hotel, so it was actually a little easier to connect.”
So, on top of flying to the left coast and performing at BurlyCon, Sera and her co-producers – Missy Aggravation, Richard Just and Cherie Sweetbottom – were fine-tuning Barbarellesque from 3,000 miles away.
But several questions remain:
Will ~ Cherie Sweetbottom be able to remove her spacesuit in zero-gravity?
Will ~ Maria Bella survive the evil dolls of Tau Ceti?
Will ~ Sunny Sighed overcome the passions of her hirsute savior and bring a ray-gun of hope to the beleaguered captives of the labyrinth?
Will ~ Kay Sera short-circuit the Excessive Machine of the diabolical Dr. Duran Duran?
And will any of our heroines break free of their 9-5 jobs and find peace with the electric horseman of their dreams on golden pond?
To find the answer to these and other cosmic questions, accelerate to the Windup Space gravitational field next Sunday night for Barbarellesque.
But remember: In space, no one can hear you strip….
Compound Productions 50/50 is proud to present Barbarellesque: An Ecdysiast Theatrical Experience, Sunday, November 17, 2013 at the Windup Space in Baltimore. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., show starts at 8:00 p.m.. Limited VIP seating: $20 (advance sale only). Early earthling tickets: $12; at the airlock: $15. Tickets on sale here.
Please note: The producers caution those with photosensitive epilepsy that strobe lighting effects will be used during the show. Theatrical smoke will also be used; persons with allergies or respiratory ailments may wish to consider seating away from the stage.
See more here.
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, “Thou shalt not steal.”