Legendary performer Judith Stein is once again taking the stage, this time with Nelsonite Scarlet Mary Rose and her bevy of burlesque babes at the Capitol Theatre on November 18.
“The local ladies are really upping their game and I’m really proud of them,” said the 66-year-old burlesque icon, who is also known as Mama Beaver. She started performing when she was 25, quit at the age of 40, but eventually resurfaced as character Kootenay Kate once moving to Nelson.
Stein has been inducted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, and has travelled and performed extensively. And though her art form is primarily associated with sexual provocation, she said she’s attracted to it for a number of different reasons.
“I started out in burlesque not for being creative. It was because it was fast, easy money to go to university,” said Stein, who studied art history. “I had seen strippers, and I worked as a go-go girl. I could see the creativity that was coming about. It was still tease, it was still big and luscious constumes at honky tonks. And some of the women were fabulous dancers, some were totally beautiful, but the ones that always got my attention were the ones who were entertainers.”
Stein said one of the best performers she ever knew was a local drag queen named Annie Fannie, a 350-pound stripper. She said including people of all shapes and sizes, such as little person performer Mandy Pandy, is an integral part of the inclusive nature of burlesque.
“It seemed like when I started everyone was doing traditional burlesque with gowns, stockings, gloves. I never did that well. I was a bit of a goof on stage. I took off my clothes and people laughed,” said Stein.
Stein has mentored a number of performers, including Rose, and it’s these generation-spanning relationships that have helped the Kootenay burlesque scene to grow. Stein teaches her charges about her unique brand of feminism, and demonstrates her politics with her lifestyle.
“As far as a political statement, mine was I started in the midst of the feminist changeover. I was a radical feminist, and me taking off my clothes and performing what I want to perform and doing what I wanted to do seemed like a damn good political statement to me.”
Rose has also started a Kootenay burlesque training camp, called Boob Camp, and her students will be on stage for a few numbers during the show, which also features Vancouver performer Crystal Precious.
“I’ve very proud and happy to say Judith is my burlesque mama. She’s our Mama Beave,” said Rose.
“I’m always happy to have her perform in my shows because not everybody knows what a big star she is. She led the way.”
Burlesque rapper Crystal Precious said it’s female solidarity and personal empowerment that she’s most interested in.
“One of the most important elements of the burlesque community is the DIY component. It means having burlesque be a focus for women to put their creative, performer-type energy, to work on their personal development and their relationship with their sexuality,” said Precious.
“I’m not up there being like tell me how hot I am. I’m doing something that feels really natural to me. I’ve always been really sexual, and this is an authentic manifestation of my creative juices.”
The show is fantasy-themed, with unicorns and fantastical elements.
“What’s your fantasy?” asked Rose.
It starts starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information visit capitoltheatre.bc.ca.