Places. Curtains. Lights. The music starts. The crowd applauds. They are ready for the show. This show will tease the senses far beyond most. This is a show put on by the Grotesque Burlesque.
The troupe began on a late night two years ago, as University of South Florida theater major Mary Beth Spurlock, aka Sissy Mary Sinful, exchanged hopes and dreams with her best friend Kenzy Yager-Sidaui.
“I told her I always wanted to own a performance troupe,” Spurlock, 28, said.
Yager-Sidaui, 25, responded with, “I desperately want to get back into burlesque.”
Yager-Sidaui’s great aunt used to do photography for Betty Page and told her stories about the pin-up girl. The rest of the era seemed glamorous to Yager-Sidaui which prompted her to collect antiques from the time period. Burlesque was just another piece of the 1940s that interested her, so in her hometown, Miami, she started exploring the art.
The two friends collaborated ideas and almost immediately created an email account for their new company. With the account they created Facebook and MySpace pages to recruit. Now, Spurlock refers to Yager-Sidaul as her business partner as well as best friend.
Grotesque Burlesque was not chosen as the name simply because the two words conveniently rhyme, but because Yager-Sidaui has an affection for Marilyn Manson. The goth musician made an album by the name and uses the phrase multiple times in some of his songs. It’s a fitting title considering the troupe does vintage burlesque with a macabre flair. Themes have included zombies and Gotham City villains.
Spurlock doesn’t only manage the troupe, but dances in the shows as well. “My business partner and I own a burlesque company, so of course we make sure we can do burlesque,” Spurlock said.
She recently performed as a sexy Poison Ivy during the troupe’s Gotham City villains show.
Burlesque, the art of striptease, is dying Spurlock said. It has been around since the mid 1800s but became popular during the Roaring ‘20s.
“When a girl was too tall or too short or too big or too heavy chested, they couldn’t be a member of a chorus line,” Spurlock said. “So they turned to burlesque for an outlet for their art.”
During most shows the performers shimmy down to just underwear and pasties, but never completely nude. “It’s the art of tease. It’s meant to be beautiful and artistic,” Spurlock said.
Spurlock, a senior, has been balancing theatrical shows and classes for years. She has acted in many USF productions, including Othello. Because of this, she doesn’t find it difficult to balance managing and participating in the troupe and completing her classes. But when her class load gets a bit too much to handle, she has her partner Yager-Sidaui, and her partner’s husband, Alan Sidaui to pick up what she can’t do. It’s the same when it happens the other way around.
When Spurlock does graduate, she plans on continuing with Grotesque Burlesque. “My full vision would be to own my own troupe and theater company,” Spurlock said. “This is just the beginning of my dream come true.”