I recently sat down with Donna Touch of Chicago-based burlesque collective Original Tease to talk about their upcoming show at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis. Original Tease is a group of incredibly talented “classic” burlesque performers and their shows are unique in that they incorporate group routines, a musical hostess and comedy, creating an authentic vaudeville-style experience. Be sure to pick up tickets for their Indianapolis show on Saturday, June 22 right over here, before they’re gone!
Donna was kind enough to answer my questions about the origins of Original Tease, their upcoming shows and her experience of taking a burlesque show on the road. She even offers up some great advice to burlesque producers that are interested in hitting the road.
So, without further ado, I give you Miss Donna Touch:
First of all, tell me a little about how Original Tease started. You call yourself a “collective” as opposed to a “troupe”. What’s the difference?
When I started Original Tease it was in response to an opportunity to take over the monthly 2nd Friday night show slot at one of my favorite Chicago bars, Lincoln Tap Room. I had already had a great relationship with the bar and knew the space was ideal for a show, but I didn’t necessarily have the cast yet. I hand-picked and invited a small group of girls to be a part of the initial launch. They all committed to be a part of the show and shared my vision. There are no contracts, group rules or restrictions to participating. We are just held together by our common goals which include putting on a great show and advancing our personal performances. We get together when we need to practice our group routines as well as workshop our numbers, providing a constructive environment for giving/receiving feedback and helping each other out with costuming, dance moves and advice. We are all sharing in the experience and responsibility of making whatever we do great. So far, that has been a stronger glue than a troupe member title and it shows in the quality of what we create.
Do you consider yourselves to be more traditional and/or retro or do you incorporate modern elements into your shows?
We are definitely on the more traditional/retro spectrum. We are the girls that love sparkle, giant headdresses, well placed appliqués and lots of feathers! While we all have routines that are modern in theme, they still really showcase the art of the tease in a traditional burlesque sense.
You also incorporate dancers from different towns. Do they bring something different into the mix than the Chicago-based performers or do you all share a common vision?
I think my incorporating performers from different towns is actually quite a selfish effort. I book the performers and acts that I really enjoy! While I, of course, want to share what they do with our audience, I pick the acts that actually I get the most kick out of and bring me the most joy.
You’re performing at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis on Saturday, June 22. What do you like about performing in Indianapolis? Are Indianapolis audiences different than Chicago audiences? How?
It’s the performers and troupes in Indy that have made the audience so great to perform for. When starting a show anywhere, attracting the right audience is key. It takes time to establish a show and build an audience that is respectful and appreciative of the art. Their work to keep raising the bar on quality and creativity in the Indy scene I think has in turn developed a city of people that adore them and what they do! I’ve always had wonderful audiences across Indiana and I think it is a real luxury because of all the incredible performance work that is being done there.
What can audiences expect from your show on the 22nd?
We’ve got adorable group acts, incredible burlesque solos, a hostess that will melt you with her voice, one of the most talented comics in the country and a ridiculous raffle where all the prizes come with a pair of panties. We know how to have fun and that is what we love to share!
Finally, do you have any advice for burlesque troupes that want to take their show on the road?
The most valuable piece of advice I can give to a burlesque troupe that wants to go on the road is taking the time to understand the dynamics of the city you are considering and getting to know the local pool of performers is really important. Building those great relationships before is really key to having a full venue when you arrive.
Looking for more burlesque loaded with vintage flair? Check out these upcoming events:
Thursday, June 20 I Speakeasy Moderne: Cabaret – New York, New York This Thursday at 9pm, award-winning recording artist and songwriter Todd Alsup and Dina Fanai (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) will guest star at NYC’s sexiest party Speakeasy Moderne, where the audience gets swept up in a world where singers enchant, flappers flirt and dancers dazzle… Playing STAGE 72 each month and hosted by “Official Hank” Stampfl, it’s an unforgettable evening featuring an intoxicating blend of Jazz Age Manhattan, vaudeville, cabaret and a touch of burlesque.
Thursday, June 27 I Vaude-Thrills Burlesque Presents: THE CREEPSHOW: A Night at the Drive-In w/ Johnny Hootrock – Austin, Texas The Vaude-Thrills Alternative Cabaret is pleased to bring you THE CREEPSHOW: A Night at the Drive-In! Join them for a night of classic monster movie inspired burlesque performances, then dance the night away to the haunting sounds of Austin’s best garage-a-billy band: Johnny Hootrock!
Saturday, June 29 I MANIC MENAGERIE PRESENTS: CIRQUE NOUVEAU – Gainesville, Florida The Manic Menagerie Vaudeville Company’s First Performance! A 20’s style variety show with a modern twist! Featuring a live band of handsome gentlemen, the Manic Orchestra, playing original compositions and well-loved jazz standards! GAINESVILLE’S ONE AND ONLY CLASSIC VARIETY TROUPE