- Finding NYC Burlesque
My experience discovering the burlesque community in New York City was a lot like coming upon a magical field of unicorns, and then, turning into one. Like a lot of fellow performers, I had life experiences that led me to look for an outlet of artistic expression through performance. Unlike a lot of performers, my day job was as a costume designer, and I had been involved in the theater and entertainment industry for my entire professional life, behind the scenes. The combination of my love for colorful, sparkly, extravagant costumes, and the desire to personally express myself artistically through performance came together, and the early connections I formed with some of the most brilliant people in burlesque made me fall in love with this art form, and it’s history.
- Finding my place
I would attribute the beginning of my burlesque career to a handful of performers and producers who instructed me, hired me, taught me magic and self confidence, and helped me understand the business, and what it means to be a good producer. To Veronica Varlow, Albert Cadabra, Gal Friday, Jo Weldon, World Famous * BOB *, Legs Malone, Runaround Sue, and Joe the Shark- you made me Rosey La Rouge. After being under your tutelage and gaining your friendship, I have performed everywhere I ever dreamed of in New York City and beyond. I have produced shows made with love and art, and with some of the most amazing artists I have ever seen. I have conquered my fear of singing thanks to Shelly “The Singing Siren” Watson, The Burlesque Choir, and Peter Aguero. I have met the love of my life and my artistic partner Ben Trivett. I have seen burlesque grow and change exponentially in just nine years, and I am excited to see it continue to burst into the world by way of new schools, festivals, and via The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.
I have always felt that I was a good performer, and I love being on stage, but I know that when it comes to performance, I am a hobbyist. I was never the most famous, and I never strived to make a full-time career as a burlesque performer, but I now know that I have a very important and different role in burlesque. As a professional costume designer and historian, I feel that it is my personal calling to document the costumes of this art form, in a way that has not yet been done.
- Documenting History
The history of burlesque has been documented by many historians, women’s studies experts, and in the biographies of individual performers. “Horrible Prettiness” by Robert C. Allen should be called the bible of the early history of burlesque. Gypsy Rose Lee, Georgia Sothern, Ann Corio, and many more, have fantastic biographies and burlesque books. There are even some writers and lovers of burlesque who have delved into the costume aspect of the art, most notably, Liz Goldwyn with her book “Pretty Things” and Jo Weldon with “The Burlesque Handbook”. It seems though, that no one has comprehensively photo documented pieces, and focused on construction and innovation through burlesque history.
As a costume designer, I understand construction and fabric. I understand costume history in depth. As a performer, I understand movement, reveals, and styles of burlesque. I believe, with my qualifications, that I am one of the most capable people to take on the challenge of documenting burlesque costume history. I also believe this is a formidable task. It is this daunting thought that led me to focus for the moment, on one part of the burlesque costume: the pastie. The most important part of what makes a costume ensemble “burlesque”, and a piece that was created because of laws about nudity ,many of which originated in New York City. The pastie is a part of what makes burlesque a truly American art form. Burlesque history has been a source of pride or shame depending on who you ask. Regardless of whether you think that burlesque is a legitimate part of American Theater History (clearly I think it is, and deserves documentation), there is no denying that the costumes themselves, and more specifically, pasties, are works of art. They are pieces of body jewelry as varied as the performers who wear them, and are influenced by their time period, and place of origin.
There is no way to document all of the pasties throughout time, and all of the wonderful artists who wore them. (In fact, pasties seem to be the hardest costume articles to track down when buying vintage pieces) There is no way to showcase the thousands of performers who currently take the stage with brilliant ideas, classic storytelling, legendary tributes, and boundary breaking acts. There is, however, a way to tell the history and evolution of the pastie and its construction that will inform and inspire. That is the goal of this project. Whether you are interested in The Pastie Project to learn more about costume history, or you just appreciate the art form that is burlesque, thank you. For the rest of you, who already know and love burlesque and this community, it is a pleasure sharing this beautiful world with all of you magical unicorns.
The Pastie Project is fundraising for the upfront costs of production on their book project. Please donate here if you can, and thank you in advance!
Copyright, Rosey La Rouge, 2016. All rights reserved.