There are many different approaches to burlesque within Chicago, ranging from classic "wink & a smile" acts to savage performance art.
Although many may argue about what the term "burlesque" means, there's no doubt that when an artist is successful at their art, they
have the power to influence the artists around them. When we take responsibility for the quality of the acts we present on stage - regardless
of the style - we show that we respect our fellow artists and our audience. In addition to building a sense of community and encouraging a
dialogue of honest feedback, I would like to challenge the artists in our community to up their game. To that end, every Friday, I will
introduce you to a performer within the Chicago burlesque community that I admire. Enjoy!
Find Out More about Other Chicago Burlesque Performers
Chicago Burlesque: Spotlight on Lady Jack
by Red Hot Annie
Name: Lady Jack
Zodiac: Taurus, but I don't believe in that!
Hometown: Born in New Orleans, raised in Frankfort KY
Burlesque Specialty: I'm a Lady Jack of all Trades!
Favorite Color: Black
Favorite Cocktail: Martini, Margarita, Mojito
Favorite Quote: "Sex appeal is 50% what you've got and 50% what people think you've got." - Sophia Loren
Biggest Crush: Natalie Portman and Zack Galifianakis
Pet Peeve: Consistent misspelling of words on facebook...its "aw" not "awe"... Ahhhhhh!!! (Totally spelled misspelling wrong)
Special Skill: I can shoot guns sometimes.
RHA - Where are you from?
I was born in New Orleans, where both my parents lived for about 15 years...but I grew up in Frankfort, Ky and went to college in Louisville.
RHA -When and how did you find out about burlesque?
I had heard about burlesque about 4 years ago, just through randomly coming across show advertisements for Belmont Burlesque and Michelle L'amour...but hadn't really looked into it until I started performing similarly styled work in variety shows....at the time within a duo with a performer known as Siren Jinx. We were asked to do Burlesque shows, as our work fit very well. So the shows I performed in were the first I'd seen of the genre.
RHA - What is "burlesque" to you?
Oh my...that's a complicated question! The short definition I like to use is: Theatrical and artistic performance that incorporates an element of strip or striptease. I hope that was appropriate use of a colon.
RHA -How would you describe your approach to burlesque?
I think my attraction to performing Burlesque is a combination of many factors; interest in decadent costuming aesthetics, interest in the feel of the late 1800s through the 1930s stylistically, interest in exploring sensual and erotic themes, interest in archetypes (particularly strong female ones), and a background in dance and theatre. My approach to Burlesque varies substantially...when I first got into Burlesque (I mean solo Burlesque strip-based performance), I was extremely narrative with a character and a plot....in the last year I've taken some of that and transitioned it out of Burlesque into a more open-ended performance art realm, and within Burlesque, I've been exploring more outright striptease as an artistic expression. The more I involve myself in it, the more I feel like there can really be more effective breakdowns of genre specificity. For example, narrative Burlesque pieces are really, at heart, a work of mime/clowning. There is a wealth of training available in that area that can pop those types of acts up to a phenomenal artistic level. Burlesque that is purely striptease I feel is more connected to musicality and is more a form of dance...and in some ways similar to stand up comedy in that build towards a satisfying punchline....you know the glove is coming off but good striptease will make the audience want to see that develop and be surprised with how it gets to that point.
The etymology of the word is generally fascinating and there are a decent amount of arguments as to how to use it. I definitely connect with the idea of satire and parody that is part of the word...but I also connect with more serious versions of the type of work that is self-referential or speaks to political elements while still retaining a high level of visual aesthetic and showmanship. So my work runs a range between classic Burlesque style striptease, to narrative and conceptual striptease, to pop performance art.
RHA -Who are some of your favorite local performers and why?
For the more classic striptease flavor I like Michelle L'amour, Deirdre Doll and Mimi First...Jeez Loueez has fantastic energy, and Donna Touch has some lovely acts....Vaudezilla as a whole has really run with the conceptual versions of Burlesque and has a great variety of cool pieces both as a group and the individuals involved. Siren Jinx also has edgy conceptual ideas. The Stage Door Johnnies are all very skilled and talented performers. Jolie Roberson, Dizzy Lizzy Delicious and Ammunition are some other favorites that are involved in the Burlesque scene but do different types of performance.
RHA -What are your goals in performing?
For this next year I want to solidify my rep even further. I definitely have set and solid acts, but I also tend to improvise a lot. I'd like to focus less on the improvisation and more on fully realizing a specific concept...it'll be (hopefully!) like writing out a recipe for a delectable truffle and then...making it...and giving people a full bite. I think I'm also interested in cycling back towards those more deeply narrative/character driven creations. I have a lot of full show ideas I would like to manifest in collaboration with others, in venues that truly support the extent of a performers' capacities and the vision. In the nightlife industry I would personally love to identify a venue or two with whom I have a permanent weekly relationship. I have had that with a few venues that closed, or changed their goals. I was lucky enough to travel a decent amount recently going to Burlesque festivals, and I'd love for my performance work to provide the opportunity to travel even more. In the past year I've worked towards asking for and receiving consistent professional level pay for myself, and I'd like to continue that progress and help to carve out more those types of opportunities for other performers as well!
RHA - As a performer, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Making them $$!! I also struggle sometimes to narrow down my act ideas to a few specific concepts and give those concepts my full focus.
RHA - Do you have a "pet peeve" when it comes to burlesque?
Insisting the audience cheer instead of inviting them to.
RHA -What are some of your hobbies outside of burlesque?
Burlesque isn't a hobby for me...neither tends to be much else that I do haha! No rest! That said...I am a dancer in other capacities, I model for photography work and for fine artists, I perform physical theatre, and act in film and commercials, I've co-written and directed shows, I choreograph for and coach dancers. This is mostly my existence. I suppose you could say that my interest in researching social trends and issues with an emphasis on women's experience is a bit of a hobby. But I suspect I'll filter that into my professional realm as well. Collecting beautiful imagery online is something I love to do, but I use that as inspiration so I suppose it doesn't count as hobby either! I watch documentaries on Netflix...hobby!
RHA -How would you describe your family's reaction to your performing?
They think it's great. My Mother used to be a fashion designer and has embellished my bras. My Father picks and chooses what shows he sees, but has seen me live and on video and recognizes the artistry. They both call me Lady Jack from time to time! My college-age cousin, who I haven't talked to in years, and I recently chatted and he had some really astute observations about what I do and the power of Burlesque in general. That was a pleasant surprise!
RHA -Where's the best place for fans to find out more about you?
Find Out More about Other Chicago Burlesque Performers