Welcome to the Peep Seats
It’s a challenge - in New Orleans, at least - to bring innovative, theatrical zeal to Tennessee Williams’ most famous work, A Streetcar Named Desire. However, that’s exactly what panoramically-versatile local performer, Lefty Lucy, is aiming for with her upcoming production, A Peep Show Named Desire.
We catch up with her as she’s pasties-deep into rehearsals with her four-person cast and assorted crew, and as opening night approaches, her excitement is palpable. What started out as a quasi-theatrical showcase at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown last year has blossomed into what promises to be a dazzling, full-scale production.
“The show (in Provincetown) wasn’t fully realized,” she says, “But even so, it was gangbusters. It sold out, got great reviews and I was validated as a person and as an artist in a way I didn’t even know I could be.”
“A performer who I really respect saw the show and said that she didn’t realize how powerful burlesque could be until then. She said that she had to reassess what she thought of the art form! That’s a recommendation I’m going to be quoting for the next thirty years!”
That’s quite the inspirational review, but while most people might be tempted to rest on their Spanish Moss-fringed laurels, Lefty has spent time developing the script and adding musical numbers to arrive at this brand new evolutionary stage of the show.
“We have a scenery designer (Destany Goram) and a costume designer (Xena Zeit-Geist), and a whole crew…it went from scrappy burlesque show to (adapts dramatic personae voice) legitimate theater!”
Lefty enthuses about the team, and it’s clear that the process of having additional people working on the show is elevating her own artistic reach.“There are things that people are bringing to (the show) that I didn’t even imagine.” she says, “Simply because they’re not me, and that’s so wonderful!”
“I’m excited to be hiring Lauren Turner (director) and Amara Skinner (production manager), and just letting them do their job.” A real life case of teamwork making the dream work? “Yes! You CAN do everything yourself but you might not do it well.”
As we talk more about the show’s format and content, it becomes clear that there’s more to it than a bawdy romp through Williams’ world. “Perspective is a key part of this show,” says Lefty. “I’d kind of avoided Blanche DuBois, but to do that is a disservice to the character and women as a whole. Also, with her character, Williams is also acknowledging in the way he could, that these perspectives (of oppression) exist. I can only bring my perspective as a white woman to this show, but that’s not the only story being told.”
The other cast members (‘The Birdies’ and a vocalist, Jessica Mixon) are all black women, and Lefty tells us that they’re being very conscientious. “Through this casting and staging, hopefully we can relate a broader spectrum of experience. There’s lots of layers to these Williams plays,” she says.
The basic structure of the show is classic vaudeville, in that it has music and comedy and burlesque. “The joy of this show is that you can decide who the star is,” says Lefty. “If you relate to the comedy, for example, the burlesque is the palate cleanser. There’s puppetry and a reverse striptease and an escape act. The vocalist is singing songs that are powerful and significant on their own, and embody Blanche’s experience. But everything hopefully reflects that Blanche’s experience isn’t unique to her. If you walk out thinking Lefty was fine but I loved the vocalist, or those two Birdies had me rolling, that’s great! I’m riding a high tide that raises all ships.”
It’s an attempt to tell a story that’s familiar to audiences but in a way that they haven’t thought of before. The show starts before Streetcar begins, and it ends after Streetcar finishes. “It’s inspired by a quote from Tennessee Williams,” she says. “An actor in the UK cast asked him ‘What happens after curtain?’ and he said ‘Blanche seduces orderlies in the asylum, and then she gets out and opens a boutique in the French Quarter’ - it’s important to note that Blanche is the only heroine of Williams that he didn’t let end in tragedy. I see her as such a survivor and a fighter.”
There’s also an interpretation that Williams was using the character of Blanche DuBois to talk about his own experiences as a gay man in the 1940s. “Tennessee Williams was supposed to be at the top of society but he had to hide some of his character,” Lefty says.
“There are structural implications. Blanche DuBois has all the trappings of privilege, but she’s called ‘crazy’ and ‘a whore’ and ‘manipulative’, so if she’s thought of this way, what hope does anyone have? These structures don’t work for anyone, they isolate people to keep us weak. We’re all harmed by them.”
It seems like the show has everything from the glamor of burlesque through tragi-comic humor to incisive illustrations of the ways that society traps us. “I’d say that this show is a comedic striptease romp that you can have the time of your life at, or you can be haunted by it for the rest of your life and you can do something to change things!”
It’s hard to imagine not finding something in that description to latch on to. In the meantime, people of New Orleans can prepare to board a multi-layered, brand new ‘Streetcar’.
A Peep Show Named Desire runs at The AllWays Lounge, from May 6th-9th. More info and tickets here.
This Saturday (March 12th), there's a very special show taking place at The AllWays Lounge, supporting survivors of domestic abuse and the wonderful non-profit, STAR. We caught up with producer Dick Jones to find out more...
UP ALL NIGHT: What gave you the idea for the show?
DICK JONES: One of my biggest reasons for doing this show is to address the disconnect that many trauma survivors feel with their own bodies. So many people feel like their body isn't their own anymore. So this show is a way for survivors to actually engage with and use their bodies to tell their stories. While there are some opportunities to do something similar here in New Orleans, I hadn't seen a space specifically dedicated to that. As someone who has been doing a lot of trauma work lately, it felt important to me to provide that safe space.
UAN: What does the show's title mean?
DJ: It's actually the name of a song by Sia. Yep. I totally ripped that off. I think a lot of her music is very trauma informed and empowering. But more than that, it's about breaking out of the cage you've been in -- whether it's the literal cage of an abusive relationship or the mental cage of negative thought patterns. Sometimes it seems impossible to get the strength or the resources to move past those things, but once you do, it feels amazing. I want this show to be the literal embodiment of that feeling, if that makes sense.
UAN: Why did you choose STAR?
DJ: STAR is an organization so near and dear to my heart. I've probably been involved in raising a lot of funds for them over the years, but it wasn't until I actually needed to use their resources myself that I realized just how tireless their dedication is and how vital their services are. The lack of resources for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence is stunning, and this organization really does it all in terms of providing people with the tools they need to navigate some of the worst moments of their lives.
UAN: Tell us about the acts and the kind of performances that audience members can expect. How did you find the cast? Has this been a different show in terms of the production process/curating the line up, etc?
DJ: This show will be a lot of movement! Like I said, we're all trying to reconnect with our bodies after having agency taken away, so it will be interesting to see what each performer brings. This show has definitely had its own particular logistics. Safety is always a top priority. Some people may fear that their abuser(s) will find out about the show, so we've gone to great lengths to make sure that doesn't happen. While we're mostly focusing on the joy of reclaiming your body and your spirit, we know that sometimes things still get a bit heavy. In case anyone needs a break, we also have two very amazing safety workers who will be available to both cast and audience in case someone gets triggered by any of the content. They know grounding exercises and relaxation techniques and are just generally warm, lovely, people you'd want around when you're having a bad day. I wish I could hire a safety worker to just follow me around every day.
UAN: What do you love about the AllWays Lounge as a venue?
DJ: The Allways is my home! I know many others in the performance community can say the same. Zalia truly goes out of her way to create a safe, loving space for entertainers to grow and flourish. I don't know where I'd be without her of the many incredible people I've met through working in this space.
UAN: What does Cabaret Unreal have planned for the future?
DJ: Cabaret Unreal is finally coming back after this LONG covid hiatus! While I'm sure I'll be doing things at The Allways here and there, our main home is Bar Redux. We'll be kicking off our quarterly show series this coming April 2 with "Take Off Your Pasties and Jacket: a Blink 182 Cabaret." Definitely a way different vibe, I know. But Cabaret Unreal has always been a place where I can let my idiosyncratic fantasies run wild. We've done everything from a Food Networked themed show to a show based on everyone's favorite episodes of "Are You Afraid of the Dark." There's a lot of millennial nostalgia, for sure.
Bird Set Free: A Cabaret For Survivors takes place at The AllWays Lounge on Saturday March 12th at 7pm. For more info, click here.
(click on images to view)
The amazing salon and costume boutique, She Comes In Peace, has produced a timely guide to costuming for Mardi Gras. These are all local artists producing incredible costume pieces that will be the envy of your friends! Check them out, and help support our city's amazingly talented creators! Many thanks to salon owner Dara Quick for putting this together and allowing us to link to it here. If you haven't already, do go and check out SCIP at 3811 Chartres.
Two highlights for you this week. First up, this Thursday night sees the return of Prettie Boi with their Halloween Edition. PB is a wonderful showcase of the city's most creative queerdos, subverting gender preconceptions with dazzling displays of bur/boylesque, drag, and general fabulousness. Hot on those glitter-bedecked heels is the Bare Book Club, which also has a Halloween flavor. The show does what it says on the poster - it's naked women reading fiction, in this case scary stories that mix sex, literature, art, and acting. Tricks and treats promised to all who attend either of these fantastic shows.
Prettie Boi, Thursday Oct 21st, 11pm, AllWays Lounge. TICKETS
Bare Book Club, Tuesday 26th, 7.30pm, AllWays Lounge. TICKETS
Subvert the patriarchy but make it sexy. This sounds like a glib slogan but it’s the artistic high-wire act that Lady Lucerne performs with Keep It Klassy. Lucerne is one of the most innovative and daring performers on the New Orleans circuit, and specialises in genre-defying acts that loosely fall into neo-burlesque. Maybe you’ve seen her at Dirty Dime Peep Show emerging onto the stage as a gyrating foetus to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’, combining shock and eroticism with an intelligence that lifts it well beyond schlock. Tonight’s show maintains this informed poise, the show’s title coming from a patronising ex who wished that Lucerne might rein in her cultural expression for reasons of supposed propriety. This misplaced opinion forms the basis of a delightfully brutal etiquette parody video, presented as one of the multi-media portions that allow Lucerne to switch between a selection of increasingly impressive costumes and sets for a series of explosive routines. It’s best not to spoil the visual surprises, but multiple climaxes include praying mantises, beheadings and Kylie Minogue. The weight of the patriarchal gaze and commentary is literally and figuratively addressed, with everything from disco to an AOC speech as inspiration. The serial performative conquests on stage are backed up with touching moments of vulnerability, something that contextualises the necessity of the theme and allows for genuine empathy amid the visual and gymnastic flourishes. It’s an unabashed triumph, one that the show’s inspiration would likely hate, but which works out pretty nicely for, well, all of us. You’ve got a chance to share in this celebration tonight, you should really take it.
Keep It Klassy, 7pm, AllWays Lounge - ticket link
It's hard to pigeonhole Dallas-based Lorelei K, aside from placing them in a box that's labelled "Ridiculously Talented". Lead by talismanic songwriter and supernova-in-waiting Dahlia Knowles, the band deliver some ethereally dramatic post-punk, with dreampop and darkwave weaved in for good measure. Ah, don't take our inadequate words for it, go and listen to them. This could be one of those gigs that in ten years you tell your friends' kids you were at and they won't believe you ever had taste that good, and it's a sensational chance to see something special in an intimate venue. We'll see you there.
Lorelei K play The Goat on Sunday 17th @ 8pm.
Ever wondered in this confusing day and age how TF you’re supposed to Keep It Klassy? Haus of Lucerne has answers for you. A whole ONE-WOMYN SHOW full of answers.
For TWO NIGHTS ONLY, one of the city's most innovative performers lands at the Always Lounge Twilight Theater! Lady Lucerne will take her 38 years on the planet and distill it into a flaming amalgamation of classy advice, harrowing spectacle and exceptional audience interaction.
PLUS, for the first time ever, an intermission that's actually a fashion show, presenting hawt couture by the stunningly talented JAHIREEN!
Pick ONE OR BOTH:
October 14, Doors 10:00, Show 10:30
October 14, Doors 7:00, Show 7:30
To Keep It Extra Klassy, 30% of ticket sales will be donated directly to local Ida relief mutual-aid organizations.
Photos from Godless Constitution soon but last night's return to live comedy was just what our hearts needed! Local Uproar, brought to you by Up All Night NOLA and New Orleans Ice Cream, 8pm every Saturday at The AllWays Lounge.
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Even more distractions. Probably NOT SAFE FOR WORK!