Pa. burlesque prepares for second annual festival

The Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival will come to Philly this weekend.

Burlesque is more than just taking your clothes off.

Brooke Au Buchon is the executive producer and hostess of the Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival that will take place at the Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place, on March 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. The act itself is labeled as a striptease, but Au Buchon spoke on how she removed a lot of the negative aspects from her production. This includes no full nudity, profanity, politics, religion or social commentary. Her policy is firm, and Au Buchon said she has the most strict rules in the system – rules that, she said, are worthwhile.

“What you wind up with is entertainers who have to dig deeper for their creative content,” Au Buchon said. “So, you wind up with classy material that focuses on tease and the concept of the act.”

Classic burlesque reached its popularity peak during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In America, it is known to be the traditional striptease show with comedic elements like slapstick and vaudeville. The word burlesque also means “to lampoon” or “to make fun of.” Although the art of a burlesque show has fundamentals of a striptease show, there are some states that won’t allow full-scale nudity. However, that isn’t what makes the show.

“The art of the striptease, for me, isn’t what you see; it’s what you don’t see,” Au Buchon said.

Speaking on what attracts people to burlesque shows, Au Buchon said it is the naughtiness of the presentation. Still, there is something more specific that the show represents.

Burlesque is empowering for women, showing them that they can do anything regardless of shape, size or color, Au Buchon said.

Au Buchon said a lot of people who attend the show think it will be just like the movie “Burlesque.” Last year at Boolesque, a Halloween edition act in Jim Thorpe, Pa., a woman bought four tickets, sat through two acts and then left, demanding her money back because she saw it as a strip show. Since most of the performances done in the movie, if not all, are just singing and dancing but doesn’t involve taking off clothes, Au Buchon does not consider it burlesque.

“Technically, what they’re doing, that’s cabaret,” Au Buchon said.

The burlesque trend in Philadelphia is small – Bravissimo Burlesque and Peekaboo Revue are some shows the city has to offer. With the Burlesque Festival, Au Buchon plans to give the city a detailed experience of the exciting style of burlesque. This is its second annual showing, and the first show last year sold out.

The burlesque group that performs at the Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival is called Dragontown Burlesque. The troupe is under the corporation Jim Thorpe, which was named after the hometown of Au Buchon as well as a few of her colleagues. The company started in Jim Thorpe where Dragontown Burlesque holds its own hometown performance. Some of the girls in the cast have worked with Au Buchon since the beginning and she said she considers them family.

“Aside from the fact that they are wonderful, wonderful women, I can depend on them,” Au Buchon said.

Though Jim Thorpe isn’t one of the biggest burlesque acts, it is still steadily growing with a couple of performers traveling from Europe to be in the festival.

The Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival is an event for both men and women – Au Buchon assures that anyone can have a great time.

“[Burlesque] is a story about quasi-naked ladies,” Au Buchon said. “All you need is a sense of humor and an open mind.”

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Amber Clay can be reached at

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