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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank.

'I want to be a part of this': Texas Burlesque Festival celebrates the art and community of Burly Q

Legend of Burlesque Lovey Goldmine
texasburlesquefestival.com
Texas Burlesque Festival's 2024 Legend of Burlesque Lovey Goldmine

“I've been a part of the burlesque community since 2006, I think,” says Stacy Rutledge, one of the producer/directors of the Texas Burlesque Fest, “and that's what I fell in love with, was that there was this bond between a group of women that came from all different backgrounds. They were all different body types, but they came together to create these wonderful shows. And I started out as a stagehand and I went, oh my God, like I want to be a part of this, I need to be a part of these people. And I feel that way when the festival comes up every year, that you feel that sense of community and that bond with all kinds of people.”

“Diversity is not a dirty word in the world of burlesque,” agrees fellow producer/director Lynn Raridon. “It's a goal, we embrace it. I mean, I don't think you're going to find an art form out there that embraces this level of diversity more. It's people of every age, every ethnicity, every geo social background, every gender identification. We absolutely embrace and encourage it all because that is the full spectrum of the human experience and we want that displayed on our stage. And we want people to know that if you come to our festival, that's what you're going to see and experience and we want you to be a part of it.”

2024 marks the seventeenth iteration of the festival, which began in 2007. Full disclosure here – one of the creators of the fest was my wife, Stacey Breakall, who passed the reins to Raridon for year two and no longer has any affiliation with Texas Burlesque Festival. There have been changes over the years to duration and location, but the heart and mission of the fest have always remained true to the spirit Rutledge describes.

“We actually dropped the fest down to two nights for a while,” Raridon says, “and at the behest of Gemmi [Galactic, another producer/director of the festival] last year convinced us that we needed to bring Thursday night back.”

“So, for years, Thursday night was kind of a new performer night,” Galactic says. “And I got started there. My first festival [as a performer] was on a Thursday night. But yeah, when I came into joining the [production] team, it was just down to two nights. So I wanted to kind of bring back a Thursday night party that would be very much into community building and the networking side and get us kind of back into party mode and out of pandemic mode.”

“On Thursday, we take a few more breaks to make sure that the performers get a chance to talk to each other,” Rutledge says. “I know the production team, we usually spend a little bit of time sitting down and chatting with people, making sure they feel welcome because that's also our welcome wagon event to meet all of these people and hear about their stories.”

That Thursday night event takes place at Kick Butt Coffee, and on Friday and Saturday night the festival moves to a larger stage at the Long Center’s Rollins Theatre. There, audiences will see not just Texas talent but burlesque performers from across the globe. “We're going to have performers from Canada, Germany, Tokyo, and Puerto Rico this year, not to mention some amazing headliners,” Raridon says. “We're so excited to be bringing in not one but two real legends of burlesque. We want to honor the history and the legacy of burlesque. And so… since 2010, there's always been a legend of burlesque [at the festival] and this year we're bringing in a Las Vegas legend, Lovey Goldmine, and a boylesque legend, TIGGER! from New York City, as well as the reigning queen of New Orleans Burlesque and the first performer of color to ever win Viva Las Vegas, Jeez Loueeez.”

“I think it's just a wonderful experience, how we've been able to grow into such a diverse group,” says Rutledge, “and the festival, we really try to focus on making sure that we have such wonderful diversity and safe space for performing for burlesque. I think it's just a really beautiful thing, honestly.”

 
The 2024 Texas Burlesque Festival takes place May 31 - June 2 at Kick Butt Coffee and The Rollins Theatre at the Long Center.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.