Five Virtual Burlesque Shows to Keep You Entertained in Quarantine

Like most things, burlesque has gone virtual. Here's where to see and support a community of artists in exile.

April 28, 2020 9:13 am
virtual burlesque
Burlesque has gone virtual.
Graphic House/Getty Images/InsideHook illustration

As New York City nightlife star Puss N Boots told InsideHook earlier this month, “You can’t just recreate what happens at the Slipper Room in your living room. It’s an experience.”

But while it may be impossible to recreate that experience exactly, Puss and her fellow producers and performers sure as hell are going to try. Earlier this month, a few weeks after New York City lockdown orders forced the Lower East Side’s iconic home of neo-burlesque to let the curtains fall indefinitely, the Slipper Room began hosting virtual variety shows on Instagram Live, and they’re not the only ones giving burlesque a virtual home.

Like most entertainers, the burlesque community was hit early and hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as attendance dwindled in the weeks leading up to eventual cancelations and club shutdowns amid city and statewide lockdowns. But it didn’t take long for performers to figure out how to refashion their craft for COVID-era entertainment.

Always an innovative, flexible, shapeshifting art form, burlesque’s latest evolution has seen the genre go digital, as performers and producers are bringing the stage to their living rooms and yours.

Rex Halligan and Nip Fury of Fire and Fury were among the first in the burlesque community to pioneer the leap from stage to screen. The duo began hosting virtual shows back in March “out of a need to get money in the pockets of our performers,” Rex tells InsideHook.

Other producers and performers soon followed suit, giving birth to a new, surprisingly intimate if technically remote genre of virtual burlesque coming straight from performers’ homes to their audience’s.

“It has certainly been a trying time, but we are doing our best to come up with creative ways to provide our audience with interesting and entertaining content,” says Slipper Room owner and artistic director James Habacker. “My one and only goal is to make sure that after social distancing measures are lifted we will be able to re-open our doors and get back to doing what we do best, entertaining.”

Logistics vary — some shows are live streamed, others are pre-taped, etc. —but one thing remains standard across the board: donations and tips are STRONGLY encouraged. Remember, the whole point is to keep performers, producers and venues afloat so that when it’s time to return to the stage, there are still stages to return to. Most shows provide Venmo or other donation links, but if you’d like to provide additional support, don’t be afraid to reach out to your favorite producers or performers to ask how and where they’d like to receive tips and donations.

If you’ve already burned through everything Netflix and Hulu have to offer, why not tune in for some entertainment of a more titillating variety and support an incredible community of artists while you’re at it? Below are five different shows currently keeping the burlesque community alive. Grab a cocktail and a partner in quarantine and enjoy the closest thing you’re going to get to a New York City night out.

“Obscurity breeds art, and there is a huge level of creativity to be had,” artist and performer Erika Jimenez Randazzo, who is currently producing a quarantine film with a number of fellow creators, tells InsideHook. “We are at the beginning of uncharted territory, there is only creation.” It may not be the Slipper Room, but it’s still a hell of an experience.

Fire and Fury

Fire and Fury dropped their first virtual burlesque show back in March, and they’ve put out five shows since. They’re available to rent on Vimeo for $5 or to purchase for $10. Co-producer Rex Halligan says Fire and Fury is looking to continue releasing shows on a bi-weekly basis, so keep an eye on their Instagram for upcoming events.

The Slipper Room

The “Slipper Room in Exile” series is now two episodes in, and Habacker tells InsideHook the plan is to release a show for each Slipper Room host, “about 12 shows in total.” Shows air on Instagram and will then be available on the Slipper Room’s website. “The goal is for the quality of these shows to live up to the standard set in our theatre,” says Habacker. The next one premieres Thursday, April 30 at 9 p.m. Shows are free to watch, but remember: TIP TIP TIP. Venmo links to tip individual performers are included on the website, and tips to split can be sent via Venmo @Slippertips. The Slipper Room is also accepting donations via PayPal and GoFundMe.

Naughty Noir

Puss N Boots and Mistress Ginger took their monthly Naughty Noir show virtual last month, and the 5+ year-running rock and roll burlesque show will be going online again for May’s virtual Hanky Panky Show. The show will be available for purchase at Puss’s website for $6 on May 14. Once purchased, you can watch the show whenever you please, but the producers will also send out a Zoom link to all customers for a group viewing party at 10 p.m., “if you still want that out and about experience!” Puss tells InsideHook. As always, virtual tipping is strongly encouraged (Venmo and PayPal info is included here). All profits go directly to the cast.

Nurse Bettie

The Lower East Side pin-up bar has hosted three livestream burlesque shows on Instagram Live. Shows have aired Monday nights at 9 p.m., so keep an eye out for future performances announced on Nurse Bettie’s Instagram. Viewers can donate via Venmo. A GoFundMe to support Nurse Bettie’s staff is also accepting donations.

The First Annual Quarantine Burlesque Festival

Co-producers Nasty Canasta and Amuse Bouche will be bringing their first (“and hopefully only”) annual Quarantine Burlesque Festival to the internet on May 9. “An online art and performance project celebrating the amazing, ridiculous and inspiring acts being created by ecdysiasts-in-isolation around the world,” the show features a full cast complete with several headliners, hosts, special guests and some of the best performers in the biz. A preorder link will be available soon, and the producers are currently accepting donations to help fund the show via Venmo.

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