The story goes that the charred barrels containing Kentucky whiskey sent down to New Orleans morphed during their journey into a drink that became known as Bourbon. Pair that New Orleans-created libation with the saucy dance form known as burlesque, long associated with New Orleans and its clubs, and you have the “authentic New Orleans experience,” according to Bethany Lemanski, coordinator of the Contemporary Arts Center’s Bourbon and Burlesque evening taking place Saturday, June 18.
Lemanski, herself, was an early participant in the more recent, decade-long New Orleans burlesque scene. Settling in the Crescent City after living and working in Europe and Central American, she became one of the original members of the Shim Shamettes, one of the city’s earliest burlesque troupes, created at the end of the 1990s.
“But I don’t want anyone thinking I’m appearing in Bourbon and Burlesque this year,” she says with a laugh. “I’m not doing that anymore.”
Nevertheless, she says, she’s still highly involved in what’s going on in New Orleans. She and Lindsay Ross, the CAC’s Director of Communications, have put together a slightly sinful, somewhat surreal, summer spectacular for Saturday’s show at 700 Camp Street.
The Southern-style cuisine and bourbon-based cocktails, created and served by Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, and the Photo Booth, complete with boas and “fainting” couch available for one-of-a-kind photos, definitely will garner attention. But it’s the racy theme of the evening that’s driving interest in this town. Whether it’s because of New Orleans’ traditional acceptance of “naughty” shows, our long-standing tolerance of go-cups, or a general nostalgia for that past nightlife, Lindsay says, the interest in burlesque has grown so substantially, with numerous groups organized and performing in the city.
“We have six different burlesque troupes that will be performing in the FreeportMcMoran Theatre,” Lindsay explains. “We’re going to do it a little differently from last year, when it was one continuous show with different acts. What happened then was that nobody would leave the theater; they didn’t want to miss anything. So they’d send their partner for more cocktails so they wouldn’t lose their seats. This year we’ll be doing three shows throughout the evening, each the same, so the audience can change.”
But there’s more.
There will be an appearance by “Scandalous Chanteuse” Ann Howe; strolling burlesque fashions; music lounges; and the world premiere of a live performance art installation. Designed to be “reminiscent of a larger-than-life Joseph Cornell Shadow Box come to life,” the installation will be created from found objects and, say artists Angela Eve and Anastasios Ketsios, with “collected artifacts from New Orleans’ past.” To add a little extra excitement, Angela Eve, a renowned aerialist, will conclude her installation with an Aerial Extravaganza.
All in all, Bourbon and Burlesque is the kind of funky, sexy, naughty-but-nice event that would shock the heck out of people in Peoria, but thrives in the Crescent City. Don’t miss it.
For more information about this Saturday’s Bourbon and Burlesque at the Contemporary Arts Center, click here.