OKC 365: Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival

by Helen Grant

If you’ve been following okc.net for awhile, then our coverage of the burlesque scene from performers featured at The Girlie Show to posting about local burlesque nights should come as no great surprise. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happily surprised to discover a new burlesque event pop up this year. To that end, I had a chance to interview Adele Wolf about the first Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival, which kicks off this weekend on Friday and runs till Saturday.


Adele Wolf, organizer of Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival

Adele Wolf, organizer of Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival.


okc.net: Tell me what inspired you to put on a Burlesque Festival?

Adele Wolf: I have been producing the Adéle Wolf’s Burlesque & Variety Show for over a year now in Oklahoma City. I have performed in multiple festivals over the past few years and have always had a wonderful time. Festivals are a great way to network and build community for performers, as well as a great treat for the local audience. Festivals are also a great way to educate more mainstream audiences on the art of burlesque. I wanted to bring a greater awareness and appreciation of burlesque in Oklahoma by bringing in some of the most amazing performers out there.

okc.net: What do you know of Oklahoma City’s burlesque history?

Adele Wolf: There is still so much history continuously being uncovered about burlesque. April March, “the first lady of burlesque” was born in Oklahoma City during the Great Depression. She was a headlining act from the early 1950s to the mid 1970s. She got her start as a performer in Dallas, and later even performed for Minsky’s in New York City.

okc.net: Do you think Burlesque has grown significantly in OKC in the past decade?

Adele Wolf: Although I’m from Oklahoma City, I moved away when I was in elementary school and just moved back three years ago. I can say that burlesque as a whole has definitely grown in the past decade. I first became interested in burlesque when I was 16 and saw Bettie Page perform in the “Something Weird” videos. Burlesque was much more “underground” at that time. I think more and more people have at least heard the word, even if they haven’t seen a show or have misunderstandings on what burlesque is all about.

okc.net: Who is involved with helping to put this show on?

Adele Wolf: As far as production, organization, and the behind the scenes work leading up to the event; that would be me. Haha. Luckily I’m highly organized and a very determined individual. I also am used to doing everything for my monthly show, so I had some preparation, even though the festival is on a much grander scale. With this being the first year of the event, me taking on so much responsibility was mostly a monetary necessity. However, I have wonderful friends, family, and volunteers in the local community that will be helping everything run smoothly on the day of the festival.

okc.net: Did you meet resistance in trying to find a location to host this festival?

Adele Wolf: I had to deal with a lot of resistance in finding places to host my monthly show. That experience helped a lot in finding a venue for the festival because I already knew what venues wouldn’t be receptive. Oklahoma Contemporary was at the top of my list, so I’m glad they were willing to host the festival!

okc.net: I noticed performers on the line up are from all over, mostly they’re from this part of the country, but can you tell us how you chose the performers in the line up?

Adele Wolf: There was a juried panel that reviewed all of the applicants. Some of the things on our score sheet were costuming, overall polish, choreography, facial expressions, and originality. There is a lot to consider in not only what makes a good routine, but what makes for a good show overall. It’s important to create a balance in styles of burlesque when representing the art form as a whole at a festival.


Bazuka Joe, from Chicago. And yes, ladies and gents, men can be burlesque dancers too!

Bazuka Joe, from Chicago. And yes, ladies and gents, men can be burlesque performers too!


okc.net: What are some of the highlights that you’re looking forward to seeing?

Adele Wolf: There are so many acts I’m looking forward to seeing. I’m lucky enough to have met almost every performer (and have seen most of them live) that will be participating in the festival There are some really top-notch entertainers coming to participate in the festival that I know first-hand will blow any audience away. Burlesque is really an escape from the everyday and I’m excited to present an entire weekend of performances by some of the brightest up and coming performers in burlesque!

okc.net: I looked through the vendor links to see what kinds of items will be available, there’s lots of cool items like jewelry and accessories, are they all from Oklahoma or are any of these vendors from out of state?

Adele Wolf: All but one of the vendors is from Oklahoma! Incorrigible Dames is coming in from Dallas, TX. I have worked with a lot of local business (especially in the Plaza District) over the past year for my show and I’m really happy to have them involved! They have been so supportive of me as a performer and producer. Many people don’t realize the amount of amazing and unique local shops there are in Oklahoma!


On the Incorrigable Dames' website you'll find bows, flowers, and more! Naturally when you cater to pretty ladies, you'll find no shortage of models either.

On the Incorrigible Dames’ website you’ll find bows, flowers, and more! Naturally when you cater to ladies who love to dress up, you’ll find no shortage of models either.


okc.net: What do you think contributes to a bad ass burlesque routine that really wows the audience?

Adele Wolf: I think one of the most important things in creating a “bad ass” routine is the genuine drive to entertain. A performer has to want to give of themselves to an audience. You want to let them feel connected to you, and let yourself feel connected to them. It’s all about being present in the moment. Other really important elements are costuming, prop work, and narrative.

okc.net: Burlesque is still prohibited in some parts of this state, take the City of Norman for instance, do you think holding this festival annually will help change attitudes about burlesque and distinguish it from stripping?

Adele Wolf: I think many people don’t realize the production value that goes into many performers acts. Many people have never been exposed to burlesque, or if they have, they haven’t been exposed to a burlesque show that is a full theatrical production with performers that entertain for a living. I do think that the festival will help change the perception of burlesque in Oklahoma. People often tell me after coming to one of my shows that it was so much more than they ever expected; and this festival is one of my shows times ten.


Mosh, from Los Angeles. Old Hollywood glamor, performance, costuming, and more  go into the production of more theatrical performance.

Mosh, from Los Angeles. I feel she’s a great example of where Old Hollywood glamor meets modern day performance, costuming, and more. And this is fairly typical of burlesque fashion, but the real beauty is also in the diversity of performers as well. So many kinds of people are drawn to burlesque as an art, and their performances can get quite inventive, from aerial acts to bodices that shoot flames when ripped open, you never know what a performer has in store for the audience until it is revealed.


okc.net: What haven’t I asked you that you feel is important that people know about either Burlesque or this new festival?

Adele Wolf: People should know that burlesque is truly an art form. I come from a theatre performance background and I love wearing all of the hats of a production. I get to be the director, choreographer, costumer, etc. It’s such an empowering performance art that I wish more people were aware of. Burlesque is also entertaining for such a large demographic of people. Everyone from college students to my grandparents come to shows and have a wonderful time!


To learn more about the performers, individual vendors, and to purchase tickets please visit: www.okcburlesquefest.com

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