Hot in Topeka at Jayhawk Theatre

Dear Constant Reader,

I want to tell you about my latest travels, to Topeka, Kansas. Short version: it was fantastic and I’m very glad I went. Long version…

I’m not entirely certain how I found the call for applications, but it came at just the right time. I was feeling rather down about my festival acceptance track record (way more “no” than “yes”) so on a lark, I applied. And was accepted! It wasn’t a festival, but a fundraiser for Jayhawk Theatare, a vaudeville house that’s in dire need of restoration, so I was very excited about the show.

It’s not easy or inexpensive to get from Boston to Kansas City (the closest airport), so to make it work, I had a whirlwind trip, starting at 3:30am on Saturday and ending 3:30am on Monday. At least there was a nice symmetry to it.

Anastacia Vulgar, the producer of the show, treated me like a rockstar at every turn. She arranged for transportation from and to the airport (over an hour away) and even put me up at her place. But it wasn’t just me; all the performers, most of whom were from out of town, were appreciated and got lovely perks: there was real food in the green room, someone else took care of selling our merch, we had an opportunity to teach, there was a very professional program (with mention of everyone’s Instagram), and even a little gift of some rhinestones. And I was paid so promptly I almost got whiplash.

Jayhawk Theatre was built in 1926 and presented vaudeville and movies. In December of 1928, Dainty June and her act, including her sister, Rose Louise, performed on that very stage. Later that night June snuck out of her hotel and ran away with Bobby Reed, a dancer in her act, whom she had married secretly. Rose Louise went on, of course, to become Gypsy Rose Lee. The fact that I was on the same stage as those famous sisters was a bit overwhelming.

The theatre is in rough shape. You can see how gorgeous it once was, but the painted decor is all damaged and the stage is basically bare. They’ve got a decent lighting and sounds set up, but I shudder to think of what the electrical is like. There are no theatre seats anymore, so there were chairs set up for the audience. The balcony wasn’t in use.

The show was fantastic. If it didn’t sell out, it was damned close. The audience was so enthusiastic! There were 10 performers and like I mentioned, almost everyone had traveled quite a distance to be there. It was so good to see Twirlisha Devine, OD Kimani, Caramel Knowledge, and Jacqueline Boxx again and delightful to meet everyone else.

I can’t do the show justice, but here are the performers, their acts (I got the names off the call-sheet, so forgive me of they’re not quite right), video when I could find it, and where they were from.

Caramel Knowledge (Los Angeles, CA): Black Amour
Tommy Gun (Flint, MI): Band Geek
Miss Mina Murray (Boston, MA): The Stripteaser’s Education
Mickie Sinn (Austin, TX): Break Up
Lola Loquacious (Kansas City, MO): Masterpiece
Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Medusa
INTERMISSION
Twirlisha Divine (Bloomington, IN): Sugar in My Twirl
Anya Neeze (Kansas City, MO): Desire
OD Kimani (Madison, WI): Radioactive
Jacqueline Boxx (Baltimore, MD): Blues
Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Glamour Cactus

Our hostess was Violet O’Hara (Dallas, TX).

My act, “The Stripteaser’s Education”, was inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee and her famous “The Psychology of a Stripteaser”. It’s a spoken-word piece and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would go over. Also I was nervous about using the microphone and about hitting my final cues. As it turned out, I nailed it. I might write a little more later about the act and the costume.

After the show, most people went around the corner to a bar. I overcame my exhaustion long enough to put in an appearance and talk costuming with Valerie Veils.

The next day was workshops. Unfortunately it sounded like most of them were canceled for lack of students. Burlesque is a pretty new thing in Topeka and the interest level just isn’t there yet. That did mean that Anastacia, Jacqueline, Twirlisha, Tommy and I could have a leisurely breakfast before it was time for my corsetry class. I had one very interested student who was a delight. I’m pleased with my presentation, but I’ve got a couple ideas to improve it even more.

Then I had to bail on Caramel’s workshop on making showgirl headdresses to go to the airport. Tobias, Anastacia’s partner, was playing chauffeur for the weekend and rather than make him drive to and from Kansas City multiple times, I left along with Jacqueline Boxx, who had an earlier flight. However, because I had time to kill and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have real KC barbecue, we went to Q39 and I finally had burnt ends in their native land. I even managed to take the leftovers home for Scratch.

Before I knew it, I had clicked my heels together three times and was back home with Albert A. Cat wondering if it had all been a dream. That might have just been the sleep deprivation.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 11 July 2019 at 2:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. No, YOU are a delight and I finally got that corset on by myself! ❤️


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