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[UPDATED 7/17/2014] Pick a Card: A Burlesque Exploration of Tarot

What I've Learned from the Ann Arbor Burlesque Scene About Building a Community

by Cruel Valentine

Home Again, Home Again

They say you can't go home again, and I always believed it. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and left after high school for the greener pastures of art school in Chicago. There were always things I missed about Ann Arbor, but after I left, it never really felt like home again. Until I met some very special people, that is.

Years after making Chicago my home and launching my burlesque career into full swing, I was fortunate enough to meet the fine folks of The Tickled Fancy Burlesque Company of Ann Arbor. I instantlyPick a Card Producer, Gala Delicious connected with many of their members, and started working with them several times a year. I was so happy to have found people in my hometown who were passionate and enthusiastic about the same things I was. I finally felt at home again in a city that had become so strange to me. Ann Arbor's burlesque community is a scene on the rise, and it's wonderful to see the endless optimism and determination of these performers and producers. The doors are wide open for these wonderful folks to build their scene from the ground up, the way they want it.

It's easy to become jaded in a large burlesque town like Chicago. There are countless performers, and lots of people coming and going all the time. Bookings skyrocket and plummet over and over again as the face of the scene changes. Now, don't get me wrong. I love what my city has to offer, but working in the Ann Arbor burlesque scene has given me a fresh perspective on what burlesque is and can be, and why I adored it so much in the first place. There's a pulse of newness and excitement around burlesque in Ann Arbor that I find incredibly inspirational, and I've taken that new-found drive and joy home to Chicago.
With the launch of the Michigan Burlesque Festival last year, Michigan is finally getting the national and international attention it deserves. At last, Michigan is gaining recognition for being a place with many thriving burlesque and variety arts communities.

All In

When I met Gala Delicious, she and I instantly had a strong connection, and I found we shared similar goals and perspectives on burlesque, and life in general. I was immediately captivated by her, not Pick a Card Headliner Roxi D'Liteonly for her wide range of talents in dance, music, and visual art, but for her boundless ingenuity and determination. She is one of the most driven people I know, with an outstanding work ethic. When she pitched a wild idea to me for a huge, theatrical burlesque production in Ann Arbor, what else could I do but encourage her? Gala is an endless fountain of fantastic ideas, and the world needs more of that.

Pick a Card: A Burlesque Exploration of Tarot is Gala's latest endeavor. It's a burlesque variety show and multimedia experience. This production aims to take its audience on a journey through the myth and magic of tarot, using various art forms to weave a story that ultimately reads the audience's tarot. Each performer has selected a tarot card to represent, and has interpreted their chosen card to develop a one of a kind, never before seen act, unique to this show.

     This production will bring together artists of all stripes from Michigan, Canada, Illinois, and Ohio. Headlining the event will be Roxi D'Lite of Windsor, the Burlesque Hall of Fame's 2010 Queen of Burlesque. Featured performers will include award-winning, national and international performers: Toronto's Nerd Girl Burlesque, and from Chicago, performance artist Red Rum, contortionist and burlesque performer Dahlia Fatale, burlesque powerhouse Lilly Rascal, and myself. From Toledo, Bird's Eye View Circus acrobat, AErin Garber-Pearson, and her performance partner Violet Defiant, both instructors at The Ann Arbor Aviary. The line up will be rounded out with local and regional favorites, including Lushes LaMoan, Luna Legare, Annie Thing, Dolly Dagger, Mylitta, and of course, Gala Delicious.

Free Creative Range

The cast and crew are abuzz with excitement. "I enjoy projects that let me have free creative range. These sorts of projects are a good challenge for performance growth," said Lushes LaMoan, a seamstress and performer from Detroit, who will portray the card of The Fool. For Chicago's Lilly Rascal, whose love of Featured Pick a Card Performers Nerd Girl Burlesquetarot goes all the way down to her tattoos, the most exciting part of this project will be "getting to work on a new side of my performance persona." Lilly will represent the Strength card.

Loretta Jean, who will be performing with her troupe, Nerd Girl Burlesque, and also as a soloist, is a PhD student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. She has been reading tarot for over
13 years, and is thrilled at the opportunity to celebrate it in tandem with her other passion, burlesque. She is eager to make the trek to the U.S. for this show. "I have never been so excited about a show concept, or a grouping of cast members, as I am about this show. The project is a unique fusion of two of my favourite things and I know it will be a very original theatrical presentation. Pick A Card will awe and surprise its audience members. This show will blur the boundaries between burlesque and performance art and challenge the audience's perceptions of what burlesque can be."

A Shrine to Art

Gala opted to crowdfund some of the production costs as a way of getting the local and global community involved in this grand endeavor. Ann Arbor has never seen a burlesque production of this scale before, so it was crucial to get the support of area artists, businesses, and the general public. Regarding the importance of this production, Gala had this to say: "This project is a one of a kind work of art, put on by amazing artists. Let's celebrate the power and magic of women, and watch a visual story. The show will be narrated so that it reads the audience's tarot, and I want it to change the way people see burlesque, as well as how they view themselves."

The majority of funds raised will go toward rental of the the historic Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. This beautiful space was originally envisioned by architect Maurice Finkel as "a Shrine to Art… Not built for today only, but constructed in the hopes that it might be a monument for years to come, and a Featured Pick a Card Performer Dahlia Fatalecredit to the community even when the city is many times its present size." Originally opened in 1928 as a vaudeville and movie house, the venue now shows films and frequently hosts concerts and theatrical productions. We would love to bring vaudeville back to the Michigan Theater stage, and pay homage to Finkel's dream. We want to show this venue love because it has given the community so much over the years, by providing a platform for artists, and being a wonderful retreat for so many people in and around Ann Arbor. On a personal note, I've dreamed of being on the Michigan Theater stage since I was a kid, and I am thrilled that when I finally get up there, it will be alongside so many close friends and artists that I adore.

Another important factor we mulled over when pondering venue options was accessibility. We wanted to make sure this production was held in a venue that could accommodate any and all who were interested in attending. The Michigan Theater has made great strides over the years in improving their space for disabled guests, and we want to support businesses that are welcoming to all members of our community. For information on the Michigan Theater's ADA accessibility efforts, please click here.

Make Art Happen

The Kickstarter campaign for Pick a Card ends on Wednesday, July 16th, and as of today has reached 20% of its goal. If the Kickstarter campaign is not fully funded by the end date, we will not receive any of the pledges made. We set a target of $8,000 for venue rental, set construction, performer stipends, graphic design, and other production costs. We can only accomplish this with your help. Dahlia Fatale, who will portray The Moon, is eager to see the community get involved in this production. "Crowdfunding will allow us to put on this production, and reach people from its earliest stages of development. The more people interested in a project, the more successful it will ultimately be. In turn, backers will be supporters of the arts, and can see the show knowing that they contributed [to] bringing new work to their community." It features many fabulous rewards for donating, including half price show tickets, custom art and T-shirts designed by our resident artist, E. Woodbury Rand, crystal pasties and g-strings, and even tarot card readings by Loretta Jean herself (in person at the show, or over Skype if you are a distant backer)!

Pick a Card will be held the evening of Saturday, September 27th, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Standard tickets will be $20, and VIP tickets will be available for $50. However, standard tickets can be reserved in advance for only $10, and VIP tickets for $30, by backing our Kickstarter campaign now.

I would like to thank the Ann Arbor burlesque scene for treating me like family, and being a such a strong source of hope and inspiration for me. They have taught me so much about what community means, and what driven, talented, and brilliant artists are capable of when they choose to work Featured Pick a Card Performer Red Rumcollaboratively. Unique and powerful projects like this make me fall in love with burlesque all over again. Please consider backing this incredible project, telling a friend, or coming out to the show in September if you're able. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Pick a Card campaign so far. This production has the potential to be a game-changer in the Ann Arbor arts scene, and the national and international burlesque communities, too. We hope you'll join us in making burlesque history, and bringing people together for the greater good. Let's build community, and make art happen!

To learn more about Pick a Card, please visit our website and our Kickstarter campaign page. Be sure to Like us on Facebook, too, and follow us on Twitter @PickACardBurlyQ!

[UPDATED 7/17/2014] The Kickstarter campaign for Pick a Card was not successfully funded by its end time yesterday. However, due to an overwhelming outpouring of support in the final few moments of the campaign, the decision was made to relaunch the campaign right away. You can learn more and pledge to the new campaign HERE. The Pick a Card team wants to thank everyone near and far who has supported and helped spread the word!

Contact Email: thecruelvalentine@gmail.com

This Article was published in the Burlesque Bitch Ezine on Jul 03, 2014.
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