Burlesque turns up heat in Hillsboro
"Cabaret Variété" is here to shock and awe this summer with the talents of several professional performing artists from the Portland metro area making their way to Hillsboro.
And it's all about burlesque, a performing art with a reputation for the risqué, but which is highly challenging for the artists and known historically as some of the most dynamic and visual in its theatrics.
Burlesque grew its roots in the Victorian era, based on caricatures and parodies, and continued with increased popularity in Hollywood's Golden Age, when performers took comedy and striptease to clubs and cabarets. Films like "Cabaret," with Liza Minelli, and "All That Jazz," with Jessica Lange, are inspired by this time.
Elise Morris is a Beaverton-based performing artist and the owner of Narcissa Productions. Cabaret Variété is her vision, as she hired the talent audiences can expect to see Saturday, June 29.
"I've worked with many people in town, and what I've done with these shows is select my favorites and bring them in," Morris said. "I wanted a mix of styles, stage presence and costuming abilities. Some are conceptual, some are traditional, some are weird."
When asked what burlesque is for someone who may not be familiar, Morris describes it as a performer peeling down to smaller pieces of clothing with a mix of theatrics. She describes how some performers pop balloons to slowly appear, and others acts emerge from huge pieces of fruit. It is artistic and celebrates bodies, she said.
"Some of them don't do the peeling part at all but they wear minimal, which is a part of the sexiness of it," Morris said. "I got really excited to bring burlesque to people who have not seen that before and don't know what to expect. It is my goal to make it as fun and exciting as possible, and work with artists who are accessible and exciting in their costuming."
Many of the performers make their own outfits, a way to display their personality and creativity through their on-stage personas, Morris said.
"It is so impressive," she said. "A lot of them come in with props, and those are usually made by them as well. The performers I like to show do what they do with a lot of love and intention. Some of that intention is 'Hey, look at me, I am gorgeous.' But that isn't the only story I want to tell."
Morris wanted performers not traditionally seen in burlesque to bring their voices and introduce them to people who haven't taken the time to learn about burlesque, she said.
"I wanted to bring in men doing it, people who are not cisgender, people who are not that classic-looking Barbie doll. Women of all shapes and sizes, women of color," Morris said. "I want everyone to have a great time while also being challenged by what beauty and burlesque is in an accessible way."
This is the third "Cabaret Variété" show at The Vault, returning after the success of the past shows and the response from the audience.
Bag&Baggage Productions asked Morris to bring burlesque and cabaret variety shows to the suburbs. Through the partnership with "Cabaret Variété," Bag&Baggage showed that the group's reputation matched the level of the artists' work. Morris said the idea of paving the way for something that might not have been done before in Washington County before because it was "too edgy" was inspiring to her.
"There is an expected norm for plays that people come out for in the suburbs that they didn't believe in at all, and so they did do edgy things, and now people love it," Morris said. "They wanted to bring out burlesque, which is saucy, and they believe people are people and residents want to see cool stuff and have cool experiences. They are ready for more like this. I would encourage people to trust Bag&Baggage and know this will be awesome and not a scary show," Morris said.
Performers include a couple you may or may not have heard of if you've seen burlesque in mainstream media before — married couple Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel, also known as Portland's Glamazon Burlesque Power Duo, are some of the busiest artists in the industry. They have appeared in the movie "Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe," currently streaming on Netflix.
"They have such a powerful stage presence," Morris said. "They perform all the time. With many, it is their side hustle, but for these two, it is their job."
Other performers include Karli du Soleil, also known as The Weapon-Wielding Ballerina and Lola Croquette, also known as The Sweetheart of the Southwest.
Live music is provided by Eric Stern, a multi-instrumentalist, operatic tenor and composer who has been featured on NPR, at the Kennedy Center and beyond. He founded Vagabond Opera, challenging classical opera and incorporating cabaret, Arabic and Balkan music forms.
Bag&Baggage Productions and Narcissa Productions will host the show at The Vault Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29. The show is suggested for ages 21 and older. Tickets are $21 and may be purchased on Bag&Baggage's website. Can't attend this show? Look for another "Cabaret Variété" this fall.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
Subscribe to our E-News and get the week's top stories in your inbox
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.