The Austin Chronicle

Pasties and Pleasure at the Marchesa

By Richard Whittaker, April 11, 2012, 6:05pm, All Over Creation

Get the big underwear hamper out: The Texas Burlesque Festival returns this weekend for three days of the nation's finest shimmying, shaking and showin' what their momma gave 'em.

It's the same mix of classical, neo-, boy- and just-plain-fun-lesque that has helped put Austin on the raunchy revival map. This year, there's one big change: After a wonderful run at the ND Austin, for the first time the fest slinks a leg around the curtains at the much larger Marchesa Hall and Theater. Festival director and producer Lynn Raridon said, "Not that we don't love the edginess of the ND, but this really adds a whole new element."

So what's on the playbill? Thursday high-kicks everything off with nouveau nuit, shining some limelight on performers with only a couple of years on the stage, or more experienced dancers eager to expose a new routine. Friday the 13th becomes Lucky 13: Night of Legends. Not only does it feature some of the greatest names on the circuit today (like our own Jigglewatts), but there are also two stars who have helped tie together the old and the new – pivotal revivalist and New Burlesque innovator Kitten DeVille, and true veteran and 2011 favorite Shannon Doah.

Both nights will see an audience choice winner, and they'll go to compete Saturday's best of the fest competition. There they will have a shot at the six big prizes on offer – best soloist, best ensemble, most original, best costume, best tease factor and best novelty/vaudeville and miscellany. The night will also include three of the acts that have got Raridon most thrilled: Rising neo-burlesque star Kristina Nekyia ("She's also a contortionist and a belly dancer and a circus performer," said Raridon); reigning queen of burlesque Miss Indigo Blue; And the festival's first ever male bill-topper, Ray Gunn of Chicago's Stage Door Johnnies. Raridon said, "I'm super-excited to have boylesque represented as a headliner."

The juicy cherry on top of the whole thing will be the one and only Miss Cora Vette MCing all three nights of the deliciously tawdry affair (and if you ain't the delightfully NSFW Miss Vette, you ain't seen burlesque.)

And if that's not enough s(k)in for your buck, then there will also be three nights of after parties. As a special treat, Thursday's will be packed with enough students of the striptease to make a lesser festival quiver. Raridon explained that she had so many applicants this year that her cup runneth over with talent, and so the bonus show was the only way to go. She said, "We're seeing an explosion of new performers coming up on the scene."

It's not just about the performances, but about helping performers network, bond, and sneak a few tips from each other. "Finally, we have workshops," Raridon said. She has run some previously, but this year sees them become a core part of Friday and Saturday's programming. Saturday's headliners plus Miss DeVille will be handing down pearls of wisdom, all the money going to the performers running the classes. "We're a very performer-centric festival," Raridon said. "I really pride myself on taking care of the performers," and that includes the brunch, getting everyone around and getting good deals on hotels. After all, she said, "It's about the preservation and continuation of the art form."

Texas Burlesque Festival, April 12-14, Marchesa Hall and Theater, 6226 Middle Fiskville.
Thursday night after party, Ponderosa Live, 6700 Middle Fiskville, 12-2am.
Friday after party, Lucky Lounge, 209 W. Fifth.
Saturday after party, Elysium, 705 Red River.
Tickets for all three nights are available online at now or at the door on each night. You can also follow the fest on Twitter at @TXBurlesqueFest.

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