Burlesque stars and show producers Aurora North and Faux Pas le Fae have been married for two years now. As the performing duo The Brides of Burlesque, they continue to titillate, amuse and outright stun us with their edgy, visceral performances. Thotyssey takes a peak behind the bridal veils, as Faus Pas and Aurora answer our questions as individuals and collectively as The Brides.
Thotyssey: Hello Aurora and Faux Pas! Thanks for chatting with us today! So, you two work all year round of course, but as Coney Island season approaches you’ll be burlesquing even more. Does this mean creating lots of new routines, and fine-tuning old ones?
The Brides of Burlesque: Thanks for having us! We greatly look forward to the Coney Island USA Burlesque at the Beach season each year. Our acts for the season include old revivals as well as creating some new ones, depending on the themes of the shows. Specifically, we are making a new lesbian pirate duet for Outcast Cabaret, and a new Strong Women act for Queer Coney, the show that we produce.
I never think to ask burlesquers where they actually get their costumes and gear. Where do you two shop, and do either of you design or sew costumes?
TBoB: Our primary costume designer is Lori Gassie, who creates our more elaborate looks. We’ve worked with her since 2013, and cannot recommend her enough! When creating our own looks, we use a combination of vintage thrift stores, Halloween Adventure, MOOD, M&J Trimmings, Purple Passion, and K-Mart. We construct most of our props and toys ourselves.
How would you describe a “standard” Brides of Burlesque performance nowadays, or your performing style as individuals? Are you going for laughs, drama, titillation, thought provocation, etc.?
Aurora North: I’m not sure that I have a “standard” as a soloist. My acts range from silly and lovable to dark and twisted, and are all created from a queer and feminist point of view.
Faux Pas le Fae: Most of my acts are character studies which tell stories. They tend to be politically charged, but I don’t get in your face… I get in your heart.
TBoB: Our duet acts tend to be a combination of cirque, dance, and Italian horror film. While we create acts of various moods, they tend to be of a provocative nature and challenge audience sensibilities.
Faux Pas, I remember a number you did with Matt Knife’s Homo Erectus about two years ago–before the election–where you literally sat on a strap-on attached to a Hillary blowup doll. It was shocking and funny and silly, but in retrospect now–of course–it seems icky because of all that’s happened since in the Trump era. But then again, isn’t burlesque about saying “to hell with taking things too seriously?”
FPlF: Your reactions to the act you saw and how they evolved over time is a good example of the potential complexities in a burlesque piece. It can be multi-layered and ask the viewer to question serious issues, while at the same time having over the top and zany aspects.
AN: I actually think that, for me and for The Brides, burlesque is about putting those serious issues on a platter and serving them up to the audience in a way that makes them ponder, even if it’s in a comedic way.
Lillian Bustle recently canceled her show in New Jersey after authorities threatened to slap the venue with a public indecency notice. That’s the first time I ever heard of a burlesque show being policed in the Tri-State area in that fashion. Have either of you ever encountered any criticism about onstage lewdness, from authorities or venues or audiences?
AN: I just want to commend Lillian on the work that she’s done in NJ. She invested so much into that entire ordeal, and ended up getting the obscenity ruling overturned. And she isn’t going to stop there! Lillian is a force in this industry, and we have the utmost respect for her.
FPlF: I have a couple of acts which get a wide range of reaction, from joy to nausea–and even some people who cannot watch them. One of my proudest moments was causing the VIP front table at The Box to get up and run away during my act.
TBoB: In our duets, we strive to present graphic material in a delightfully disgusting way. So far, audiences have been willing to come along for the ride, and we’ve received positive feedback.
Where are you two from, and what were your lives and creative pursuits like when you were growing up?
AN: I’m originally from Canada, just north of Toronto. My training began in dance when I was 3, and I went to a performing arts high school, majoring in dance, vocal and instrumental music, and theatre. I received my undergraduate degree in Dance & Dance Science / Kinesiology, and moved to NYC for graduate school at Tisch School of the Arts / NYU. My path was purely dance oriented, which led me to Faux Pas le Fae.
FPlF: I’m from El Paso, Texas, but moved all around as a child. I have a BFA in Dance and an MFA in Choreography and Kinesiology, and I studied on scholarship at Pennsylvania School of Ballet and also Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. I’ve performed with the Sean Curran Company here in NYC, and Ballet Preljocaj. Then I started a dance company, which has been presented at Philly Fringe Festival, New York Fringe Festival, Dixon Place, Bryant Park Dance Festival, 92nd Street Y, and Rochester Fringe Festival.
When did the burlesque bug bite you? And what were your first performances like, if you can remember them?
FPlF: One night at the old Slipper Room, I saw Tigger, Darlinda Just Darlinda and Rose Wood do the most indescribable acts, and I thought “I almost do that already!” I applied to the New York Burlesque Festival with a solo from one of my fringe shows. I got accepted and panicked, because I didn’t think I knew what I was doing. Shortly after, Darlinda adopted me, and the rest is messy history.
AN: As I mentioned above, I met Faux through dance. I auditioned for her dance company after receiving my MFA. At the time, she was already performing in the burlesque world and, after a few months of dancing with her company, she asked me if I was interested in doing a duet with her at a Halloween Show for Gemini & Scorpio. Without knowing it, this was my first burlesque performance. We did a dance / cirque duet, which included knives and blood, and we still perform the act to this day–although it has grown significantly. I actually didn’t begin performing as a soloist in the burlesque scene until three years after our duo career began.
Faux Pas, what is the history of your gender transition?
FPlF: I knew from about the age of 2 that I was a girl, so my gender has never been in transition. I was born with the wrong anatomy. In regards to the journey to correctly align my body with who I am, I have encountered many difficult emotional and physical challenges. All but one member of my biological family has not spoken to me in years, and I am acutely aware of being far down the food chain in our culture. That said, after deciding to begin medical transition four years ago, I have been happier than any other time in my life.
Aurora, was Faux Pas’ gender identity something you immediately embraced, or was that a journey of your own?
AN: Oh, I knew right away that she was a woman. Once we started dating, she started to say to me “well, there’s something you need to know about me”, and I said “I know, you’re a woman.”
It seems like the global burlesque community as a whole is like one big giant family. Do you sometimes feel like you know everybody in the biz?
FPlF: Yes and no. I think that this art form lends itself to getting to know more people because most artists perform as soloists. Our stage names and personas are more prominent than, for example, a dancer in a large dance company or musical. Being a vintage lady, I definitely feel the difference between social media and actually being social. So, I would say that I virtually know everyone in the biz, and I have made some great friendships in real time.
AN: I think that social media can sometimes make it feel that way. My own perception is that the burlesque world is more like many small families that cross paths through different performances. To me, it’s really exciting when a show has a variety of performers with diverse backgrounds and styles, and you get to meet artists that you may not necessarily have the opportunity to interact with otherwise.
Burlesque seems to be more welcoming of all genders, orientations, races, body types, styles, etc. than other nightlife performing genres. You can see this huge variety of burlesquers equally at home performing for a cishet crowd at The Slipper Room as they are for a mixed queer audience at Bizarre. What do you attribute that openness and acceptance to?
TBoB: We think that burlesque is striving to be welcoming to diversity of all kinds, but still has some growing for this to be fully present. As women, lesbians, and one of us a trans person of mixed heritage, one of our missions in the shows that we produce is to carve out more space for underrepresented populations. We think the reason that cishet audiences embrace queer performers in burlesque is because they are getting authentic expressions. Rather than seeing a queer character written by a cis author into a cishet story, they are seeing our stories told be us. So it’s more exciting for the audience.
But at the same time, like all performing arts circles, there is also a fair sample of drama and fights and alliances. How do you stay above all that?
TBoB: It’s true that emotions can run high with creative people. That’s what makes them all so magical! We approach our work and interactions with others as we do with any profession. We challenge ourselves to make engaging art, we place importance on being supportive and positive people with which to work, and we value cultivating mutual respect with others in our field.
Congratulations on your second wedding anniversary! How is married life treating you?
FPlF: Thank you! I still catch myself thinking, “how in the world did I meet someone who would make my life this overwhelmingly happy?”
AN: I couldn’t be happier!
Is balancing your roles together as a family, as co-workers and as fellow artists ever challenging or confusing?
AN: Of course! But I appreciate how smoothly we are able to work through difficulties together, both as creative and romantic partners.
FPlF: We love spending time together, so I don’t think we would want it any other way. Of course there are frustrations and obstacles, but we face these things with the full knowledge that we are a team. And we laugh A LOT. Marg-OH! Channing officiated your wedding! How’d she do?
TBoB: It was so special to have her perform the ceremony. She got certified just for us! But we highly recommend hiring her to officiate your wedding! She brought the perfect amount of raunchey Marg-OH! and romance to our wedding day. It wouldn’t have been the same without her.
Your wedding anniversary show, aka the LESBO Variety Show, will be at Stonewall on May 5th! Darlinda Just Darlinda, Fem Appeal and Broody Valentino will be guest performing. How do you think this night is gonna go?
TBoB: We’ll let you know after! The Brides of Burlesque invite you to experience the magical mix of grit and glamour that is Downtown NYC. We are joined by special guests for a night of cirque, song and burlesque at the spot where Pride began. It’s like a musical theatre porno, with an amazingly twisted cast.
And this is exciting: you two recently began hosting a monthly (second Saturdays) burlesque revue at Bizarre called EAT ME! where you perform with different guests each month. That’s a big enterprise! What made you want to pursue that, and how have you enjoyed the show so far?
TBoB: We had just performed in Bizarre’s 5th Anniversary show. The owners, Greg and Jean, asked us if we wanted to produce a monthly show. They really admired our political and provocative work, and wanted us to develop a show that would encompass that point of view. Our philosophy is that we are the Lesbian Robin Hoods of Performance Art. Imagine a taco truck collecting the highest level opera, ballet, circus, and insanely outrageous theatre, and dumping it off in Bushwick so “real people” can afford to see it. We are absolutely over the moon to be producing a show in this wonderful industry.
Speaking of tacos, I love the show poster!
TBoB: Thanks! It was always our dream to do a photoshoot of the American Beauty image, but Lesbian-style. Luxuriating on a bed of tacos, of course!
Tell us about the next installment on May 12th.
TBoB: Thanks to the heroic love and effort of our showbiz brother, Atticus Stevenson and PA Vigor Mortis, our dream has come true! We have a delicious cast for May Eats: Broadway Brassy, Lee VaLone, and Sugar Mamasota. Aurora will be performing her bloody bride act, and Faux will bring her Nun back to the stage, which involves a divine amount of bodily fluids.
And there’s many more events featuring the Brides we should mention, starting with: People’s Playgound at Coney Island USA, May 25th:
TBoB: We’re so honored to be included in Clara Coquette’s show, which pays homage to the rich history of Coney Island USA. We’ll be bringing one of our signature acts, our 1930’s Lesbian Strong Women.
BEEF at Bizarre with Lee VaLone and company, May 29th.
TBoB: It’s always a wonderful ride to do BEEF Show (“BEEF SHOW!”). For the Beauty show on May 29th, we’re dusting off our Miss Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which two Miss America contestants square off, smashing together the bizarre obsessive culture of beauty pageants with iconic gore / slash horror.
TBoB: Pink Velvet Witch is one of our favorite people and colleagues, and we are excited to work with Wendy Blades for the first time. The show is titled “Mystical Mermaid Masque,” so we will premiere a lesbian pirate duet.
Queer Coney at Coney Island USA, June 22nd.
TBoB: We are extremely proud to produce Queer Coney twice a year in partnership with Coney Island USA. This partnership features some of the most amazing and provocative queer stars of circus, sideshow, and theatre of the Bizarre! The arts of music, fire, aerial, Blockhead, and Grounded Hand to Hand will be presented in sensual and revolutionary fashion. Don’t miss this one of a kind spectacle!
In the spirit of the mission to defend the honor of American popular culture, we recognize that LGBTQ people have historically played a vibrant role. Queer Coney centers these artists in the beloved genres of circus sideshow, vaudeville and burlesque. We invite audiences to safely and proudly celebrate themselves during a magical experience filled with death defying feats and life affirming hope. The show on June 22nd includes Nati Amos, Pink Velvet Witch, The Lost Boys, Lee VaLone, and more!
TBoB: Cherry is one of our dearest friends. She was actually in our wedding party, and sang the song for our first dance as a married couple. We will be doing a duet to her live rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Anything else that we need to say?
TBoB: Our EAT ME! A Variety Show occurs every second Saturday at Bizarre Bushwick; LESBO Variety Show will take place on May 5th, June 16th (Pride edition) and November 17th; and Queer Coney will be on June 22nd and October 6th.
Final question: Why do we need burlesque in the world today?
TBoB: Burlesque is truly one of the most accessible art forms in the world. A person can be challenged to think, thrown into laughter, or brought to tears all while sharing a beer with a friend in a bar. It’s affordable–and one can respond in the moment, participating in a theatrical experience. In a time of mass social media, anxiety and oppression, Burlesque gives people the opportunity to experience something tangible and the permission to feel connected and empowered.