Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...
There's something really great about coming together in a dark theatre with my fellow Ashevillians to hoot and holler at people taking off their clothes. If you, like me, are searching for this kind of unique community experience, look no farther than The Great American Strip-Off, happening now and next weekend at the Magnetic Theatre. It's burlesque with a competitive edge and an improv twist. Shows happen tonight and tomorrow at 9 pm, and next weekend on Thursday-Saturday at 9. Tickets are on sale now.
The premise is simple: four burlesque performers come together to vie for the big prize ($150 and a glittery rhinestone/plastic crown. Yas.). Each contestant draws a song from a golden purse, and then draws a prop from a tiny purse-within-the-purse. Two of these props come from audience members' bags. When I attended last night the audience props were a strange long scuba pipe and a roll of toilet paper. (This makes me feel better about the mess in my own purse, btw.)
Each weekend is hosted by the glamorous--and hilarious--event organizer Boo Velvet (Kathleen Hahn of Danceclub Asheville) and features a set of different performers. This time around, it's Lisa Zahiya, Glenn Reed ("a man!" as Boo noted, eyebrows perfectly arched as she stretched the word into four syllables), Illysa Hamlin, and Rouge Remedy. Three rounds of competition are judged by the audience and result in one winner. In between rounds, Boo invites audience members to come and try their hand at seduction (I'm not going to spoil it, but this part alone is worth the price of the ticket). THe LKD Dancing Queens also do some hip-shaking throughout the show and clear the stage between performers--bless you, ladies.
The four competitors were skilled and hilarious. I love the playfulness and tongue-in-cheekiness of burlesque performers generally, and this group took that to a whole new level. Competition was stiff (har har), but last night Glenn emerged victorious. I, for one, have never seen such creative use of Star Wars characters. Other things that took me by surprise: dinosaurs, tiny hands, layers upon layers of costumes, and how much I actually *like* that one Justin Bieber song (don't tell).
There are almost two full weekends left of the Great American Strip-Off, and I, for one, can't think of a better way to spend an evening. Go get some of that American Dream, y'all. (And Boo, please teach me your lipstick secrets.)