MICA Exhibition Development Seminar students join the cast and crew of Workin’ the Tease. (Richard Just)
Over the course of its one hundred and twenty-year history, the celebrated walls of Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House have seen countless productions of Charles Gounod’s clouded ballet and opera mash-up: Faust. But last night the tables were finally turned on Mr. Scratch, when burlesque star Kay Sera donned fig leaves for an eye-opening nosh of forbidden fruit.
Sera was one of seventeen local performers who graced the storied stage of the Lyric for the opening of the MICA Exhibition Development Seminar (EDS) show, Workin’ the Tease: The Art of Burlesque in Baltimore. The opening night burlesque show was the first of its kind at the Lyric; drawing a sell-out crowd of over 900 to the awe-inspiring venue.
The stage show was hosted by award-winning burlesque stars Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey. Little and Monkey (a real life couple) are often credited with being the driving force behind the revival of burlesque in Baltimore.
EDS student/host Abbey Parrish introduced Trixie and Monkey after first thanking her fellow students, saying “I am just one of twenty-two students in the EDS who have participated in what has been a long and arduous journey.”
Noting the historic import of the unique occasion, Trixie Little told the crowd, “You know you’ve arrived as a performer when you find yourself playing the Lyric Opera House.” Little then brought down the Lyric when she added, “Of course, it IS a Tuesday night; at 7pm; in Baltimore.”
The show opened with Sunny Sighed (with Bal’d Lightning) offering a side-splitting peek into the double-entendre world of a lonely girl’s dreams. Doctor Ginger Snapz then followed with an upbeat, tantalizing tease. Mourna Handful busted out of the binding arachnophobia experienced by Miss Muffet. Dolly Longlegs presented a flag-waving moment worthy of a one-gun salute.
Tapitha Kix – who may be the only performer today doing tap dance en pointe – amazed the crowd with a spirited routine to the song La Vie En Rose. Maria Bella flashed her brass with a Gypsy Rose Lee tribute, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” And ShortStaxx offered an ‘orders up!’ take on the life of a harried waitress.
Two acts which were showcased at Workin’ the Tease were Kay Sera’s aforementioned Biblically correct exploration of the effects of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and a beautifully fluid movement piece by Paco Fish.
The evening also included bows to three traditional burlesque staples. GiGi Holliday executed a perfectly timed bump and grind, followed later by some baggy-pants humor with a risque song by the duo of Hot & Bothered. And Valeria Voxx stunned the audience with a cutting edge performance in a nail-biting sideshow act. Voxx was assisted in her number by burlesque comic Hot Todd Lincoln. Cherie Nuit (with some help from the EDS students) stage-kittened the affair.
Trixie and Monkey, who kept the action going through several Natty-Boh’s and at least two bananas, closed out the show by performing their signature number: an acrobatic take on Total Eclipse of the Heart.
Both the cast, and the EDS students and crew, got a well deserved standing ovation.
After the show, patrons lingered to take in the more than one hundred artifacts on display in the grand tier area of the Lyric lobby.
It must be noted by this reporter that the level of professionalism the EDS students put into this exhibit are nothing less than astounding.
Included in the exhibit are items from the personal burlesque collection of Janelle Smith; and a wrap (loaned by novelist Margo Christie) which was once used by fan dancer Lynn Christie. Lynn Christie is generally recognized as being the last real burlesque performer on Baltimore’s world famous Block. The exhibit also includes items used on stage by the show’s many performers, including the Old Bay inspired Queen of Crabs gown designed and worn by Sunny Sighed.
The highlight of the exhibition may be the display of Sean Scheidt’s iconic burlesque transformations series. Scheidt’s project, which has garnered international attention, debuted last night in Workin’ the Tease.
The buzz as the crowd made its exit included comments like, “Unbelievable” and “They really outdid themselves.”
Pin-up model Michelle Jenkins told the Baltimore Post-Examiner, “Tonight was nothing short of an epic evening of Baltimore burlesque. I’ve seen each of these performers before and admire them all dearly, but this show in particular was something so special. You could feel the passion coming off of that stage as each performer came out to tell you exactly who they are.”
Burlesque favorite Ruby Rockafella (who enjoyed the show from a seat in the orchestra section) added, “This show, the exhibit, and Sean Scheidt’s eye opening burlesque photography series are total game changers for the Baltimore Burlesque scene. What’s been happening in the community has always been real, raw, and powerful, but this show – on that stage – really makes it feel like “we’ve made it.” Baltimore Burlesque is not only growing but thriving.”
Workin’ the Tease is, as Rockafella noted, a total game changer for the Baltimore burlesque scene. And it is the capstone to a unique and historic project for MICA’s Exhibition Development Seminar. EDS student Lindsey Mack summed up her feelings (and perhaps those of her classmates) saying, “I realized today that this show marks exactly nine months since we started this project. Tonight it’s as if we are having a baby.”
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The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Exhibition Development Seminar exhibit Workin’ The Tease: The Art of Baltimore Burlesque, which includes Sean Scheidt’s provocative burlesque transformations series, will run through May 7 at the Lyric Opera House, Cathedral St, Baltimore, Md. More information about the exhibit and the opening night burlesque show may found by visiting the Workin’ the Tease Facebook page.
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.”