by MIKE CHAIKEN
Women empowerment and pop culture combine on the stage of College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Conn. on Oct. 12 when SuicideGirls: Blackheart Burlesque takes to the spotlight.
Blackheart Burlesque is part of the NSFW SuicideGirls brand, which offers a modern take on pinup photographs.
Missy Suicide, the woman behind the website and the Blackheart tour, said the tour also offers an updated approach a storied tradition in American entertainment.
“We’ve put a modern twist with pop culture references,” said Missy. “We made it fun, unique sexy.”
The current incarnation of the Blackheart Burlesque tour was inspired by a song by the group Disclosure, explained Missy. When she heard the song, she said she suddenly had visions of “Planet of the Apes,” “Star Wars” Stormtroopers, and “Barbarella”-style swimsuits worn by women in monkey masks. And she saw all of these visions inhabiting the stage in a burlesque show setting.
“(Blackheart Burlesque) was kind of born a bit of madness,” said Missy.
Even before SuicideGirls: Blackheart Burlesque was launched, Missy said she liked the art form.
“Burlesque has this exciting sexy spirit,” said Missy.
The marriage of the Suicide Girls brand and burlesque is perfect because the website is all about updating the image of the classic pinup girls but in an all-inclusive way. And burlesque like SG embraces all manners of woman and their individuality, said Missy.
“We wanted to take that same type of (individual) expression to a live performance,” said Missy. “That’s why burlesque works for us.”
The Blackheart Burlesque tour on the road in 2018 actually is its second incarnation, explained Missy. The first version ran from 2003 to 2006. The tour traveled around the world.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Missy. “And a lot of work.”
Eventually, as successful as the first Blackheart Burlesque tour may have been, SuicideGirls put it on the shelf because of how labor intensive it was.
After retiring the project, Missy said SG thought about reviving it several times. But other projects took precedence and Blackheart Burlesque remained merely a part of the brand’s history.
But in 2012, Missy said, SuicideGirls released a book, “SuicideGirls: Hard Girls, Soft Light.” To promote the book, Missy said two models in “Hard Girls, Soft Light” were sent on a book signing tour. By the end of the tour, 750 people were standing outside a comic book store waiting for an autograph from the models.
When she heard about the response from the book tour, Missy said she realized, “Clearly, people want a live experience.”
To that end, Suicide Girls returned to the idea of staging Blackheart Burlesque once again.
Five years later, Blackheart Burlesque is still making the rounds-
Traditionally, with a burlesque tour, each performer will develop their own theme—creating their own choreography. Tours tend to be a mishmash of the dancer’s own thought process.
But, for Blackheart Burlesque, Missy said Suicide Girls opted to give the evening a unified approach. The entire evening is shaped by the vision of Missy and her creative director Lyric.
“She and I sit down with a list of 300 themes,” said Missy of the creative process behind Blackheart Burlesque. Once the ideas are on paper, Missy said she and Lyric try to match up music with the themes and then Lyric tries to imagine the choreography. From there, the pair determines what or what doesn’t work for Blackheart Burlesque.
(Keeping with the pop culture theme, Missy said fans should keep an eye out for references to “Rick and Morty,” “Westworld,” and “Deadpool”—as well as those Stormtroopers.)
Many burlesque performers are independent, often tying themselves to their own troupe or joining up for an evening of similarly-themed entertainment.
For Blackheart Burlesque, Missy said all of the performers must pass an audition. Some of the performers who audition are drawn from the universe of Suicide Girls and SG-Hopefuls, said Missy. Others come from outside of that SG circle.
“We choose from there,” said Missy.
Again, most burlesque performers individually will create their own costumes—spending hours cutting fabric, sewing the pieces together, and then gluing on rhinestones and glitter by hand.
Like the overall theme, however, Missy said costume designs are handled from the top down—much like a Broadway production. To bring the costumes to life, Missy said Blackheart Burlesque works with a company called Junker Designs. Occasionally, Lyric will even step in to make a costume, said Missy. For instance, she said, Lyric bedazzled by hand all of the Stormtrooper helmets.
Although Missy and Lyric try to unify the Blackheart Burlesque evening, in keeping with the philosophy of female empowerment, Missy said there are opportunities for the individual performers to step out on their own and express themselves artistically. For instance, on this tour, one performer is rapping a song she wrote and produced.
In keeping with the idea of female empowerment, Missy said the audience for Blackheart Burlesque tends to be primarily female.
But, no matter the gender of those who attend, Missy said, “It’s a fun, really incredible show.”
And it’s a show that will appeal to anyone looking for a good time, said Missy.
Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque comes to College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven, Conn. on Friday, Oct. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
For more information, go to www.collegestreetmusichall.com