Jen Gapay and Angie Pontani are no slouches. Not only have they created the biggest and grandest burlesque festival of its kind in the New York Burlesque Festival, now celebrating its 12th year, but they both have very impressive resumes outside of the festival.
As a performer, burlesque extraordinaire, Angie Pontani, “The Italian Stallionette,” was a key player in establishing NYC’s burlesque scene. She won burlesque’s most prestigious award, “Queen of Burlesque, Miss Exotic World” in 2008 and has toured multiple runs in the United States, Italy, Australia, Spain and Hong Kong, earning the title of “Best International Touring Artist of 2009,” by The Naked City/Alternative Media Group of Australia. As a producer she has produced the 2010 Burlesque Hall of Fame’s The Titans of Tease, the 53rd Annual Striptease Reunion Showcase and the Saturday Night Competition. She was co-creator of the off-Broadway hit, This is Burlesque as well the on-going U.S. tour, Burlesque-A-Pades, starring the “#1 Burlesque Attraction in the Nation”(AOL.com), The World Famous Pontani Sisters. Angie will also be featured in the PBS series Great Performances, performing live at Lincoln Center with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. This is scheduled to air on PBS on October, 24, 2014.
Jen Gapay is the founder of Thirsty Girl Productions, which debuted in 1997 in Seattle with Capitol Hill Block Party, now one of the largest annual urban music festivals in the country. From 2000 to 2002, she was the Promotions Director at the Village Voice, where she created and produced the Siren Music Festival at Coney Island. Other notable accomplishments include the New York Boylesque Festival, which she co-produces with famed NYC producer Daniel Nardicio, and the Coney Island Talent Show, now in its fourth year. She was also the artistic director for the Dresden Dolls’ F**k the Back Row tour in 2006 and talent coordinator for several of their tours in the USA, Europe and Australia. This is just a smattering of what she’s done.
From Thursday, September 25th to Sunday, September 28th, they’ll host the 12th annual New York Burlesque Festival. You can pick up full festival passes from Brown Paper Tickets HERE, and we advise you grab some ’cause they’re going quick.
We were able to chat with Angie and Jen about the festival and burlesque in New York. Jen shared some advice to event organizers and producers considering having a festival.
Wow. 12 years is quite an accomplishment. What do you feel is the secret behind the festival’s success and longevity?
Jen Gapay: Thank you. I feel that having the festival in NYC has helped the festival grow. Everyone wants to come to New York to visit and everyone wants to come to New York to perform and that has been extremely helpful. Also Angie and I work together well as producers, run a tight ship and know how to put on a good show, so our festival has a good reputation from performers and patrons and you can’t buy that.
What performers are you especially excited for this year and why?
Jen Gapay: I am particularly excited to see Imogen Kelly from Australia perform this year. She is an amazing performer who is known as Australia’s Queen of Burlesque and also took the title of Queen of Burlesque in 2012 at The Burlesque Festival Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas. She has a variety of styles and is a very visual performer, and one not to miss.
It seems that the line-up of performers is more focused on performers from NYC. Do you feel that the pool of talent is growing in New York as burlesque becomes more popular?
Angie Pontani: Our line-up is definitely chock-full of NYC performers, but how could it not be? New York City is home to the biggest and fastest growing burlesque community in the world, we have an insane wealth of talent here. I think that is in part to burlesque becoming more popular and also because this is New York, a thriving hot bed for the performing arts as well as one of the birthplaces of the new-burlesque resurgence. But the festival also brings in performers from around the globe. This year we have folks from Australia, Helsinki, London, Canada, New Zealand and more, not to mention representation from just about every state in the union.
Do you feel that your audiences are made of predominantly New Yorkers or do folks travel to come to the festival every year?
Angie Pontani: We get a good amount of New Yorkers, but there are a lot of people who come to town for the weekend, some make it an annual tradition. If you’re a burlesque fan, what better vacation can you have then catching your favorite performers from around the globe right here in the Big Apple?
How has the New York burlesque scene changed since you started the festival 12 years ago? What makes the New York scene unique?
Angie Pontani: The scene has changed and evolved over the years. When we started 12 years ago it was much smaller. We didn’t have as much of an application process, we just invited everyone we knew in burlesque and that was about 60 people mostly from NYC, LA or New Orleans. Now we are sifting through over 300 applications from all over the world. Burlesque has grown exponentially and one of the coolest things about seeing all these performers is you get a feel for the burlesque scene where they come from. Every city has its own vibe: Chicago is really theatrical, Texas is big and showy, LA has an ultra-glam spirit, New Orleans has the blues and New York has everything.
Tell us a little about the all-new Burlesque Bazaar.
Jen Gapay: The Burlesque Bazaar is a new event we just added to the festival last year. It’s taking place on Sunday, September 28th at Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn and will feature over a dozen vendors showcasing costumes, vintage clothing, corsets, feather accessories, pasties, Burly-Q’s Nell’s pop up burlesque museum and even Fredini’s 3-D Scan-A-Rama that can scan your image right on site. We will also have a Q&A with burlesque legend Val Valentine and feature a live pinup shoot on stage with Don Spiro and stars of the festival. Plus, this event is free.
Brown Paper Tickets is seeing burlesque festivals pop up all over the country. Now every state seems to have its own festival. What is the number one piece of advice you would give to a burlesque producer who’s thinking of starting a festival in his/her town?
Jen Gapay: I think in order to produce a successful burlesque festival, it really helps to have a thriving burlesque scene already built into the community, so make sure you have that before doing it.
Thanks to Jen and Angie for taking the time to chat. If you’re in the New York area next weekend, be sure to check out this world-class showcase of the best that burlesque has to offer.