Burlesque the USO
Sharing the truths the troops already know
Talk about bad timing. Keyed to today’s date (April 26), the first World Burlesque Day took its place on the calendar in 2020, just as we were all locking down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The creation of a London-based author and entrepreneur named Sapphira (born in Australia as Priscilla Tonkin Silcock), its celebration of the flamboyant performing art was reduced to virtual programming on social media, a format that it’s using again this year. While I can applaud Sapphira’s intent, I am also saddened by the reduction of the glorious history of burlesque — the creative use of ridicule and mockery — to an emphasis on the bumps and grinds. I prefer to remember City Opera Vancouver’s 2020 Berlin: The Last Cabaret, one of the last live stage events we enjoyed before all the curtains dropped. Musical theatre at its best, the show recalled a time similar to our own in which burlesque spoke truth, not to power, but to the people. It was a powerful reminder that transgression can reveal more than mere flesh, and that entertainers may offer us something other than momentary distraction. Fifty years ago, with the U.S. military bogged down in its seemingly endless Vietnam war, a group of actors and musicians took on the responsibility of burlesquing the entertainment industry’s unquestioning support for such conflicts. Led by peace activist performers Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, their parody of the traditional USO tour was chronicled in director Francine Parker’s 1972 concert documentary FTA.
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Pork roast gone wrong
Monster mania trumps serious issues
Recycling ideas a decade out of date
Crusading to open doors
Modern journalists argue for the truth
It’s not a joke, son!
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