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One of my December work projects was focused on refining DCVariety.  In the interest of keeping up with all the amazing things that happening in DC, I have created a way for you, the actual event promoter, to post your event on the DCVariety website! I was having a hard time keeping up with all the...

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The Birth of TimelessTease Productions: An Origin Story

Posted by Jules V Moorhead | Posted in burlesque | Posted on 15-09-2015

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My first taste of burlesque was a heady one. It was a Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey show at Ottobar…and it blew my mind. I remember trying to describe it to a friend afterward and the best I could manage was, “It’s sort of like a drag show but with a lot more boobs.”

Jules on stage with Lizzy during his very first full boylesque act.

Jules on stage with Lizzy during his very first full boylesque act.

After that, I couldn’t get enough. I started attending any local show I saw advertised. A few years later, I ran into a local performer at a non-burlesque event, and she introduced me to her friend as Baltimore’s biggest burlesque groupie. I was thrilled and flattered. I had arrived! Little did I know it was only the beginning.

Not too long after that, I reconnected with a friend who was looking to move back to Baltimore at the same time I was looking for a new roommate. It just so happened that he’d studied burlesque with Trixie and Monkey while in college and was in the early stage of launching his own burlesque career. You may know this performer better as Betty O’Hellno.

Meanwhile…I was involved with local charity Moveable Feast. Some good friends were longtime participants and supporters of MF’s annual fundraiser Ride for the Feast. Betty and I hatched a plot to produce a charity show to benefit the Ride. We threw the idea around with some friends, one of whom was Lizzy Falltrades, and the result was Hot Dish. A few very generous local performers — including Hot Todd Lincoln and Valeria Voxx —agreed to donate their time and talents, and then we found a venue. Things were quickly coming together. At that point, I was strictly behind the scenes, organizing and stage managing but not on stage at all. The night of the show is mostly a blur, but it was a big success. We raised a bunch of money for Moveable Feast, but we also had a blast doing it.

In fact, we had so much fun producing our own show that we couldn’t stop thinking about it. At first, we decided to make Hot Dish an annual event. But that wasn’t enough. We started playing around with the idea of starting our own burlesque company…and the idea just wouldn’t go away. So we started asking the serious questions. Why did we want to start our own burlesque company? What would set us apart from all the others in the area? What did we want to accomplish with it? The answers came all too easily.

The TimelessTease team tumbles from their time machine.

The TimelessTease team tumbles from their time machine.

With my experience as a writer and Betty’s experience with event planning, set design and filmmaking, it seemed obvious. We’d be a theatrical company, producing scripted shows. But what was our angle? We came up with the idea that our main characters would be time travelers with a giant phallic time machine (which Betty sketched on the spot). With that concept in mind, our name seemed obvious.

It had become clear to both of us that this was more than just a pipedream, so we brought it up with our friends who’d helped with Hot Dish. They were both enthusiastically on board. And thus, TimelessTease Productions was born.

We immediately set about writing our first show, Steampunk Seductions: An Adventure in Victoriana. Set in Chicago during the famous Columbian Exposition of 1893, it was the story of two inventors traveling back in time only to have their time machine sabotaged by an evil inventor (Jim Dandy) and his assistant (who was secretly also a time traveler stuck in the past herself).

And somehow, suddenly, I was in the show. But only acting! I wasn’t going to strip. Well, not completely anyway. Betty was also in the show, of course. As was our stage manager and co-producer, Lizzy Falltrades, in a cameo. Our fourth co-founder was initially a main character as well as a stage kitten, but was in the process of deciding that maybe burlesque wasn’t for her, after all. (Which is okay. Burlesque isn’t for everyone.) That meant we had a big hole to fill, and who better to fill that hole than our lovely and talented co-star, Whiskey Joy. She stepped in with her usual effervescence and charm, and not only killed the role but became a permanent co-producer of TimelessTease Productions.

A scene from Steampunk Seductions.

A scene from Steampunk Seductions.

Steampunk Seductions was a big success. It sold out weeks before the night of the show. We performed to a packed house at Mobtown Ballroom and the feedback was incredibly positive. We were thrilled with the response, but also humbled by Baltimore’s enthusiastic embrace. Since then we’ve put on two more cabaret-style shows at The Crown, the second annual Hot Dish and Dive Bar Disasters, where I finally gave in and did my first full boylesque act.

Our model is to hopefully do two large-scale, full theatrical productions a year, interspersed with cabaret style shows. Our next fully-scripted original show is Nips at Nite, on September 26 at Mobtown Ballroom. It’s another time-traveling adventure, but this time we’ll be visiting the Golden Age of Television with homages to seven classic TV shows. It’s your childhood favorites all grown up! We’re all-in on this show, with all four co-producers in starring roles, and all original or reworked acts. It’s our most ambitious work yet.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have other, even bigger plans in store for the future. Or the past. You know, with a giant time machine, you can never be sure.

Trixie Little has a quote, featured prominently in Us, Naked — the excellent documentary about her and Monkey. It goes, “Be careful to not make your dream too small because then you’re really screwed if you get it and it wasn’t enough.” That’s not a problem that we seem to have at TimelessTease Productions.

What’s next? Well, as we say at the end of each show, join us next time for another time-traveling TimelessTease Production! Who knows where we’ll land next…

Meet the Variety: Lady Fancy, One of Baltimore’s Newest Burlesque Beauties

Posted by Jules V Moorhead | Posted in burlesque, Meet the Variety | Posted on 06-04-2015

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Photo Credit: Dorret Oosterhoff

Lady Fancy [Photo Credit: Dorret Oosterhoff]

Meet Lady Fancy, one of Baltimore’s newest burlesque beauties. She’s burst onto the scene in a big way in a short amount of time. She’s already appeared on stage with TimelessTease Productions and Twisted Knickers, and she’ll be competing in the Burlypicks DC Regional Competition next on May 1 at the Bier Baron.

I first saw Lady Fancy at GalHaus Review‘s Big Show 6, the student showcase put on by MICA’s burlesque club annually. My co-producer Betty O’Hellno and I attended to support the club and were blown away by her artistry and poise. We immediately booked her for our next show, where she effortlessly wowed the crowd. You never would have guessed she was new to the scene.

I recently had the chance to ask Lady Fancy some questions about what attracted her to burlesque and her first impressions so far.

What was your introduction to burlesque?

There was a burlesque club [GalHaus] at Maryland Institute College of Art that had a few shows I attended, and afterwards I was curious and started looking up videos of other performers on the internet. I stopped attending MICA as a student, but the club was kind enough to let me still participate in their activities, and I was hooked from there.

What drew you to performing?

I’ve been involved in the performing arts for pretty much all my life, mostly through music. Piano and voice recitals, musical theater, leading music at my church and at conferences…I’ve done a lot of different things. Looking back, even at the church stuff, I got so much out of interacting with an audience. There’s a kind of energy the audience gives you, and by performing, you take that gift and give it back. It’s a very powerful feeling. I get a lot out of making people happy that way. Being able to make someone smile, or convey some kind of meaningful message through performance is really special.

How did you choose the name Lady Fancy as your stage name?

My friends have been calling me Fancy, Miss Fancy, Fancy Pants, etc. for a while. It’s really to the point that hearing my real name is almost a surprise. Fancy just fits and I love it. It’s my true name, if you will. When it came to picking a stage name for burlesque, I picked Lady to go with it because I really admire the poise and classiness so many dancers bring to their routines. The poise of a Lady, the playfulness of Fancy….that’s what I want to bring to my performances.

What background contributes to your style?

Musical theater and belly dance both have a strong influence on the way I move and dance. Musical theater taught me a lot about stage presence and how to fill up a room, as well as strategies for blocking and using stage space well. Belly dance is something I’ve seen a lot of and dabbled in, both dance and costume-wise. I was always impressed by the importance of both choreography and improv in that style. You can tell a lot of stories through belly dance the same way that you can with burlesque. It’s also very close to burlesque in how extravagant the costumes can be. I can’t resist the sparkly!

Do you have any influences or inspirations as a burlesque performer?

Lady Fancy [Photo Credit: Dorret Oosterhoff]

My fiancé showed me a lot of Dita VonTeese’s photographs when I started burlesque. I really connected with the lavish opulence of her looks – so many rich textures and so much sparkle! She also brought the poise and elegance from her performances into her everyday lifestyle. I’m a little chaotic as a person so the idea of taking the spirit of burlesque and molding myself to its ideals is really amazing. Also, I really admire Nina Amaya, a local belly dance performer. She leads the Aubergine Troupe, and I took a few lessons with her after seeing their performances at local events like Artscape. They do traditional belly dance, but also do performances and storytelling as fairy dancers! She’s a very whimsical lady who makes a living by bringing a fun loving, childlike spirit into her dance. I really admire her as a person and for what she has accomplished as a performer.

What’s been your most memorable experience (good or bad) on stage so far?

There have been a lot of really good ones from my church days, but one in particular sticks out to me. I led a congregation in a song called “Wade in the Water” one week.  There were about five or six hundred people in the room that Sunday. The song had a lot of soul and I really was able to grind and get dirty with the sound. The lyrics talked about the struggles of life and the hope that it would all mean something in the end, which everyone can connect to. It was call and response, where you sing one line and the audience sings back. By the end of the song, everyone in the room was on their feet, stomping and clapping. The energy was really intense. I remember that I was shaking by the time the song was over, it was just that powerful. I hope that I can bring that kind of vulnerability and connection to future performances, because I will never forget that experience.

Tell us a bit about GalHaus. How has it shaped you as a performer?

I can’t speak highly enough about GalHaus. Dolly Longlegs did a great Burlesque 101 workshop the semester I joined the club. I was still wrapping my head around the idea of stripping, but the welcoming atmosphere she created along with the club leaders encouraged me to give it a try. The first year was a little challenging because very few of us had been exposed to burlesque before, but having mentors like Mimi Madly who could teach and give us direction while developing individual acts for Big Show 5 was so helpful to our growth.

The second year, the returning members did a fall show that brought in a lot of new students, but also gave them a head start on putting ideas for an act together. Having so many people who already had strong and unique ideas made Big Show 6 a really diverse show. I remember feeling confident about approaching my second act with the club, as I was starting to learn what kind of dancer I wanted to be and what kinds of themes I wanted to bring to my performances. I even got to try my hand at leading a workshop for the new members. I really hope that I can give as much back to that club as it gave to me.

I’m giving the pro thing a go because GalHaus taught me how much I loved burlesque and wanted to keep doing it. That kind of drive and inspiration is hard to come by, but GalHaus has it in spades. I hope the professional community continues to keep an eye on future Big Shows, because the people who stay in Baltimore after graduation have turned out to be some pretty solid performers, and it really prepared me to go out and apply what I learned to other acts. I am truly grateful that I got my start in such a great environment. Cheeki Ho is heading up the club next year, and I am really excited to see how it flourishes under her leadership.

As a new performer, what are your biggest fears or concerns as you get into burlesque?

I worry about my lack of knowledge and exposure. Other than the GalHaus Review, I haven’t seen a lot of burlesque, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to those who have dedicated so much of their lives to cultivating burlesque locally and internationally. I really want to make it out to more shows so I can see what is out there and learn as much as possible from other dancers. I’m also a little worried about the actual cost of where burlesque might take me. It’s something I can see myself doing a lot of, but the cost of making new acts, traveling, touring, festivals, etc. is a little bit daunting. I tend to throw myself into things out of the sheer joy of it, and am worried that the money side of things might steal some of that spark. Still, I know there are a lot of performers who do it on a much tighter budget, so I just need to network and learn from those people so I can figure it out too. I’m really looking forward to the connections and friendships that are out there waiting to happen through burlesque, though. I just hope I can stay humble while still being the best that I can be.

Jules V Moorhead co-produces TimelessTease Productions in Baltimore. Find Jules and TimelessTease Productions on Facebook.

[Photo Credit: Dorret Oosterhoff]

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