About Burlesque Storytelling
What is burlesque storytelling anyway?
Burlesque storytelling is exactly what it sounds like: a storytelling routine that incorporates striptease. Although this is an unusual act in the neo-burlesque scene (I have not yet met anyone else who does it), theater skits and spoken word pieces have been part of burlesque since it’s beginnings. The legendary Gypsy Rose Lee was famous for incorporating spoken word into her routines.
Wait, you mean you tell stories like what children’s librarians do at a burlesque show?
Yes and no. The yes part first. I am a storyteller from the traditional storytelling path, not the personal narrative revival path. What this means is that I tell fictional stories, using the performance technique’s associated with children’s storytellers rather than those associated with monologue or stand-up comedy. I have worked as a children’s storyteller in my performance past and may yet again do so in my performance future.
Now the no. The stories I do in my burlesque storytelling number are bawdy tales. These are the stories that I can’t do for the under-18 set and that the over-18 set should know exist. The tales come from collections like the Canterbury Tales, The Perfumed Garden of the Shaykh Nefwazi (aka the Arabic Kama Sutra), and The Carnal Prayermat. People have always liked raunchy stories.
You had me at bawdy. Can I see an example?
Of course! Below you can see my performance of “A Larceny of Love,” recorded at the Texas Burlesque Festival.
What technical requirements are there for a performance?
For most stage performances or bar shows that anticipate a lot of ambient background noice, I need a standing mike. For small black-box theater type of spaces, I can generally project without one. I’m a lot louder than you’d think. I prefer not using a mike when possible because it creates a more intimate experience for the audience.
My current repertoire includes shorter 5 to 6 minute pieces and longer 10 to 15 minute pieces. Be aware that storytelling is an interactive art form, and audience response can lengthen or shorten a piece. Let me know in advance if precise timing matters so that I can incorporate a way to track time. Otherwise, understand that all timing is an approximation and the exact performance will vary.