For this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend pre-pageant profiles for Best Debut, the contenders were paired up and mini interviewed each other so they, and we, can get to know them all better. The next pair in the interview chairs is Bunny Buxom and Raven Virginia…
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
Bunny Buxom Interviews Raven Virginia
Raven in One Sentence: Silly, wacko, and wild at heart.
Raven’s Act: “My ‘Elizabethan Clown’ act exploded into my imagination about a year ago and was the product of my creative well getting very empty – I hope it makes people smile and makes their hearts swell with joy!”
BB: You’re an integral part of the performance collective The Garter Girls. Your troupe and its individual members have achieved success in the burlesque community both locally and internationally. Can you speak to the success of your troupe and your success as an individual and how they inspire and inform one another, and balancing both?
RV: I am immensely proud of our company. Not just because of the professional challenges and opportunities being part of the company has afforded me, but also because of the lasting friendships I have made with the corps members. Our company has grown in many ways, personal and creative evolution being at the core of our success. We’ve faced many obstacles, the most frustrating of which is gender specific government censorship. Our goals as a company echo my personal goals as an artist, and not because I am on the management team. Together, we have developed a nurturing, adaptable and professional environment for our corps members to explore all aspects of live performance, and the support I receive from my company has been integral in helping me achieve any success in the burlesque industry.
As a professional stage actor, what aspects of acting do you bring with you to burlesque stages and how much influence do you think the art forms have had on each other for you?
Great question. There is a good deal I gained from my training as an actor and from my current work in theatre but there was and still is a lot to learn from burlesque performance! The most valuable tool I’ve used for both performance arts is the tactic of remaining present. No matter the venue, no matter the act, no matter the audience, I always try to employ and embody total presence in my character and striptease. Acting has informed my burlesque in how I express the desires and needs of my characters and burlesque has greatly informed my acting in how I carry myself and the confidence I project. Plus, I almost NEVER get cast in comedies and generally play the tragic, vulnerable parts in theatre – in burlesque I get to cast myself in my own stories so I do whatever I want!
What do you gain from performing (spiritually, emotionally, etc.), and notoriety and a title aside, what do you hope to achieve from performing in Best Debut at BHoF?
For me, performing burlesque is a profoundly gratifying experience. What a gift and privilege we have sharing our bodies and stories using striptease as a way to guide people along in our journey. The simple act of revealing myself has been deeply healing but consistently challenging. Ultimately I gain more knowledge and acceptance of my body, mind, and soul through regular exploration within my own creative process and within the support system of my company.
From honouring legends to showcasing new talent in a sparkly amalgamation of past and present, all while raising awareness and money for a valued historical museum, BHoF is such a beacon of inspiration for people like me and for the community I come from. Geographically we are segregated from many of the cities where burlesque is thriving. Were it not for the annual desert pilgrimage to BHoF, or the footage online of the performances and Legends Walk of Fame, I don’t think performers in my city would be familiar with the history or with what the burlesque movement currently looks like around the globe. I hope I represent my community in the best way possible and my goal is to make everyone in the audience feel the joy I feel while performing for them! And they might just leave with a red nose…
Raven Virginia Interviews Bunny Buxom
Bunny in One Sentence: “My performance style is self loving and confident: equal parts sexy and adorable, with a handful of innovative, a dash of erotic, a pinch of creepy, and all the heart.”
Bunny’s Act: “‘Turn It On’ is a powerful and fierce seduction where I ‘eff’ the stage and take no prisoners.”
RV: Having met you, I’ve found you to be a very sweet and approachable person, and then pow! You get on stage and you have this forceful, energetic style. What aspects of your personality do you like to bring to your onstage personas and how does your creative process get you there?
BB: Thank you! When creating an act I try to be as dynamic as possible – humour with the sexy, sexy with the cute, cute with the creepy, etc. – because I find it interesting to watch. When the seed of an act first plants itself in my head, I immediately decide on a general feel, then while I’m creating I throw in little tastes of other expressions. This seems to work best with my more classic numbers, as some of my more neo acts are pretty strictly characterised. I like to toggle between being fierce and being adorable on stage. I’m silly, and I like to laugh, and I bring that to the stage by being cutesy and angelic. But I’m also confident and sexual, and I bring that to the stage by being fierce! Sometimes after a move I find particularly amusing, I like to look at the audience with an expression that says, “I know, RIGHT?!” which I feel conveys a combination of both sides of my performance aesthetic. Regardless of mood I’m always having fun, and in that way my personality is always present.
You recently founded your own performance production company, Rabbit Hole Productions, which has a mandate of sparking discussion about social issues. How does activism inform your performances or vice versa?
Awesome question! For me, burlesque is activism. It’s a declaration that all bodies are beautiful. It’s a declaration that women are autonomous. It’s a declaration that stripping and sex work isn’t shameful. I often take to the internet to post my views on these issues, but it feels far more effective to produce shows that express my social values. Rabbit Hole Productions is firmly body positive, sex positive, LGBTQ positive, all inclusive, and feminist, and I try to incorporate all of those ideals in each show. That is my burlesque.
I love that I can chose to express myself by taking off my clothes. I feel empowered by my choice to use my body to tell stories. I love that I can get on stage and shake all of my curves around, literally hold them and shake them with my hand, and get cheers and applause. I get cheers even though my body isn’t the media ideal. I welcome getting hollered at while I’m showing skin on stage because it is my choice to do so, whereas being cat-called in public is an aggressive act of violation and invasion. Street harassment is something I post about often because it bothers me so much. In fact the first ever Rabbit Hole production was Hollaback Girls, a benefit show for the anti-street harassment organization Hollaback! I love that I had the ability to raise a considerable amount of money for a cause I care about by doing something I love.
I love the choice in burlesque: I choose what to wear. I choose how my body is viewed. I choose when I take my clothes off, and thus, I choose when the audience cheers. Burlesque gives me a platform to create awareness about social issues, and in turn I’m inspired and continuously taught more about those issues by my burlesque peers and mentors. It’s my hope that in producing with a mission of pairing high quality shows with social awareness, we can better our community and beyond.
What is the most essential aspect of performing for you and what does it mean to you to debut at BHoF this year?
There are many essential aspects of performing for me. Having fun and feeling empowered are my two main emotional aspects. Performing and producing have added fuel to my passions and platforms, and having fun is an essential part of the craft around which I’ve built my life. As far as the physical aspects of performance are concerned, I think confidence and rehearsal are key. I spend a lot of time and money on pretty costumes, but they’re practically irrelevant without practice, practice, practice. Debuting at BHoF is literally a dream come true. It’s the culmination of so much hard work, blood, sweat, tears, time, dedication, and passion. It means that I’m on my right life path and that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. Debuting is incredibly validating and humbling at the same time and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced those two feelings in such great measure simultaneously before. I feel like I’ve found a home on burlesque stages, and the BHoF stage is the master bedroom. It’s an honour to tribute the Legends by performing in their name and for the museum, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to showcase my burlesque style for the community as a whole. I’m really excited to be part of this world wide celebration for the preservation (and creation!) of burlesque history.
About Fancy Feather
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.