Bring on the Men!
8 p.m. Friday
940 Elysian Fields Ave., (504) 948-1888
Some local comedy fans may know J. Alfred Potter from his standup act and as the founder of Accessible Comedy. Some burlesque fans may remember him from a fall fundraiser for a local women's shelter. The Wonder Woman-themed show was his debut as the city's first physically disabled stripper.
"My first striptease was on Oct. 24 (2014) for Wonder Women," he says. "I was terrified and absolutely hooked. Being physically disabled, there aren't that many opportunities for people with those needs to be sexy and show off that they feel confident with their bodies. It allowed me to own who I am and my body.
"I hope to put the idea in the audience's head that anyone who wants to make a serious effort at this can go do burlesque," Potter adds. "Anyone can be sexy, regardless of gender, size, sexual orientation, color or physical ability. Whatever it is that you think is holding you back — nothing is."
Potter now is working with the Society of Sin burlesque troupe to launch an all-male show. Called Bring on the Men!, the revue features an all-local roster of performers and debuts at 8 p.m. Friday, May 1 at Mag's 940. Half of the show's proceeds will be donated to the NO/AIDS Task Force.
"A lot of the burlesque dancers in town who heard about it said, 'Oh, it's about time. Can't wait to see it,'" Potter says. "There are so few male burlesque performers who are known locally."
Potter holds dual roles producing the show and performing in it, under the moniker Leg Luthor. For the new show, Potter created a routine using a wheelchair. Set to Taylor Swift's "Blank Space," he peels off his costume piece by piece "in an effort to find yet another future ex," he says.
"You have to be able to laugh at yourself," he says. "There's who you are offstage and who you are onstage. I'm using this as an extension of comedy."
While Potter has focused on comedy before, this show is not a joke.
"When you're doing a glove peel, you want to make the audience feel like they are that glove," Potter says.
Bring on the Men! involves many performers who have expanded the city's "nerdlesque" scene. Melody Thick hosts, and it features performances by Leo Brixton, Papa Razzi, Amen Five, Clay Mazing and Stevie Poundcake. Queenie O'Hart will open the performance by singing the show's namesake song, and Jade Patton will perform stand-up.
"I expect nerdlesque acts and a new twist on classic burlesque from Stevie Poundcake," Potter says.
Mazing takes an unconventional and wide-ranging approach to his acts. He has been known to strip down and lead the audience in a singalong while playing an acoustic version of Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy" on ukulele. Mazing, founder of the variety show Emergency Circus, also often brings a circus feel to his "boylesque" routine.
On April 18, Mazing graced The Dragon's Den stage as Indiana Jones for Talk Nerdy to Me, The Society of Sin's weekly nerdlesque production. While a heavy metal version of the film's theme music revved up the audience, Mazing disrobed while gun slinging and cracking a whip above his head. For a finale, he grabbed a tall can of beer from an audience member and finished it onstage before hurling the can and hitting it in midair with a flick of his whip.
Mazing's boylesque homage to the swashbuckling archaeologist is one of the pop culture-based routines that are typifying the growing number of nerdlesque productions. Troupes such as Bluestockings Burlesque, Reverend Spooky LeStrange & Her Billion Dollar Baby Dolls and Four Suits all have created odes to their favorite fandoms and pop-culture phenomena. There also have been shows focused on video games and sci-fi. Ranging from explorations of the Joss Whedon universe to the land of Westerns, steamy parodies and themed variety have created a titillating nerd-vana.
"I migrate towards nerdlesque because of the story," says Xena Zeit-Geist, founder of The Society of Sin. "It's full of characters that I feel passionately about. I like to be able to craft fan fiction that's played out through stripteases. Seeing what I've written come alive onstage is my favorite part of the show."
Gender-bending performances are common in nerdlesque, but boylesque is focused on playing with images of male sexuality.
"(Boylesque) turns societal norms on their heads," Zeit-Geist says. "I don't see burlesque as an act that should be gendered. What I think is important to think about is queerlesque — people who aren't necessarily fitting into one-gender binary onstage."
As shows mix boylesque, nerdlesque and queerlesque, local troupes have more freedom to try new things.
"It's not just taking off your clothes for dollars," Potter says.