ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
Some Fringe show offer harrowing dramas that expose the characters’ raw naked emotions … and then, some shows just like the naked part! Last year, Fringe audiences got quite a bit of naked from “Oh Manada!,” a show featuring Canada’s premiere all-male burlesque troupe, BoylesqueTO. Guess what — the boys are back, with a promise of more Canadian hunks, more hockey players, more lumberjacks — and more bare butts.
Then new show, “Mo’ Manada!” is a cabaret revue where the studly Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides the only way to save America after a tense year in politics is …. with a team of Canadian strippers specially trained in naked diplomacy (makes sense!).
Founded in 2008, BoylesqueTO is Canada’s premiere all-male burlesque troupe, featuring dancers, actors, and performance artists. This year’s lineup includes dancing beavers, a romance between a Mountie and a lumberjack, French Canadian garçons, and a hunky hockey player eager to score.
Freeline Media decided to reach out to one member of the troupe, Canadian hunk James and the Giant Pasty, to get the naked facts on this one.
Freeline Media: Impressive men. Outside of the abs, which kind of talent does it take to be a Boylesque Boy?
James and the Giant Pasty: I like to think we all have large, bulging … talents! In all seriousness, though, it takes personality, smarts, humor, charisma. Being nice to look at only lasts you about 5 seconds onstage. Then the audience begins to ask, what’s next? And what else? That’s where your personality shines! That’s where your ability to tell a story with your wit shines! That’s where your confidence shines! Humor is sexy! Charisma is sexy! Movement is sexy! Abs on their own won’t get you very far. But a charming smile and a personality? That’ll take you places.
FM: How easy and/or difficult is it to recruit these fellows?
James: I have more strippers coming my way than I can shake an 8 inch stick at! BoylesqueTO has been around for a while and I get a ton of emails from guys who have seen us perform and what to do what we do and be part of our group. So there are a lot of guys who want to get naked for us/with us! Finding the right guy, however, is more challenging. In our troupe we value humor, intelligence, movement ability, political sensibility, and being easy to work with. Finding the right person who has a combination of all of those thing is significantly more challenging than just finding someone who wants to get naked for us/with us. But I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to find our group.
FM: How is the world of male burlesque shows evolving? What’s changing?
James: There’s simply more of it! — which makes me very happy — ‘cuz, you know, more dudes getting naked for everyone’s enjoyment! When BoylesqueTO started 9 years ago, there were only a couple other guys in all of North America doing it. Now, every city has some boylesque performers and some cities like Toronto, New York, Chicago, and Seattle have 15 or 20 boylesque performers. There’s even a Boylesque festival that happens in New York, Vienna, and Seattle!
Another interesting trend I’ve noticed is that there is a wider range of diversity in sexual orientation amongst performers. When I started BoylesqueTO 9 years ago, almost everyone in our troupe and almost every other boylesque performer across North America identified as queer. It was a very queer art form with straight identified men by and large passing on putting on rhinestoned thongs. Over the years, however, more and more straight identified men have become boylesque performers. I’m an equal opportunity ogle-er so i definitely support this and I like to think it reflects ideas of masculinity evolving in some positive ways. Some straight dudes are now able to say “I feel masculine and confident in this pink fringe body cage.”
FM: Kinky! How do the Fringe audiences respond to your shows?
James: With laughter, standing ovations, moist seats, tight pants, and dollar bills! I would say what most surprises people, though, is the humor. People often come into our shows expecting to see some pretty standard stripping and what they don’t realize is that there is so much humor and entertainment value in the show! Audience members tell us all the time that their faces hurt from crying and laughing. I mean don’t worry, we show you flesh, you’re gonna see our butts and some bulging jockstraps, but you may also pee your pants from laughing.
FM: After Fringe, where do you go from there?
James: Orlando is our second stop on a 4 city, 17 show, summer tour that began in Toronto, but takes us to Orlando, Ottawa, and Edmonton. We’re also looking to add even more dates. So North America, look out for these butts! They may be coming your way!
“Mo’ Manada” is being performed in the Orange Venue at the following times:
* Friday, May 19 at 10:45 p.m.
* Saturday, May 20 at 11:59 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.
* Monday, May 22 at 10:45 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 8:15 p.m.
* Saturday, May 27 at 10:15 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 1:30 p.m.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..