17 August 2008

(I am way behind on my commitment to one post a week. By my count, I need to do five of these things this week to catch up. So let's get to it.)

These little weekly postings are not intended to be thorough reviews. The whole purpose of the "Artists I Love" series is to feature "artists who inspire me, who challenge me, and who make me want to be a better artist myself." It's not my intention to write in depth analyses of these artist, but rather to touch upon aspects that "inspire me," etc.

I have to state my limitations very clearly, for this week's artist is truly a Jane-of-all-trades. I'm simply going to leave things out! It's an inevitability, when addressing a protean talent such as ...

Penny Starr, Jr.photo by Crazy White Lady Photography, swiped from Penny Starr Jr.'s MySpace profile

The first real burlesque show I ever went to in Los Angeles was Penny's Victory Variety Hour. It was the sci-fi show, "Super Nova-a-go-go," almost a year ago:

Ah ... memories.

There is something Thomas Jefferson once said: "Determine never to be idle ... It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing." I don't believe Penny Starr, Jr. has an idle bone in her body. She never seems to stop. What's more, she maintains poise and grace while facing deadlines, producing wildly diverse shows, dealing with production difficulties, hosting, dancing ... She's the embodiment of everything I love about theatre people, and she has a drive that I envy.

Penny really is the whole package put together. This is most apparent to me when I watch her dance. First we have the unifying concept behind the act. With Penny, I perceive a combination of a literate wit and a dirty mind. I love her Isadora Duncan number. Penny portrays the doomed early 20th century icon, who was strangled to death when her long, flowing scarf got entangled in the spokes of an automobile. The music is period perfect, the choreography revels in Duncan's dance. The striptease is coy and sexy, and the end of the act is perfection.

Next we have the costume. She builds what she wears on stage, and she is a costumer par excellence. From my unique vantage point as luckiest man in the world -- that is to say, husband to a burlesque dancer -- I have had the pleasure of seeing Penny at work, chatting with her about her theory of rhinestone deployment, and observing her costumes up close. From the cheap seats, you sometimes can't tell the amount of detail and loving care that someone has put into a costume. I'd say with Penny's onstage wardrobe you can, precisely because of the amount of detail and loving care present.

Finally, the whole thing put together. Here, watch another video (from Lucha Va Voom):

Better yet, catch her act live!

Penny (a.k.a. Augusta) produces two shows monthly: the aforementioned Victory Variety Hour ("L.A.'s own 'High Fallutin' Low Brow' variety show) and Club Schmutzig ("A Dark, Dirty Den of Bygone Debauchery.") You can follow her performance schedule on MySpace, and Burlesque411.com.

If you're interested in this whole "New Burlseque" scene, I highly recommend her excellent documentary The Velvet Hammer Burlesque.

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