Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival Returns

Helen Grant

Do you enjoy the sight of twirling tassels and saucy strip teases as carried out by cheeky, cheeky lasses? Did you just say “Yussssss!”? Good. This is the event you want to be at this weekend.

Now back for a second year, the festival looks to be expanding on what made it successful the first time around. Speaking of which, I’m going to let this Q/A do all the talking. Never heard of burlesque, much less knew that Oklahoma City is hosting an annual event? Well, you’re in luck: I interviewed Adele Wolf, hostess, and a couple of her guest performers.

OKC.NET: Tell me what’s one thing you learned in the time between the first festival and the home stretch of your second one?

Wolf: You can never be over staffed at an event of this magnitude. This year we have more staff, which will help the festival run even more smoothly behind the scenes as well as provide better hospitality for our patrons.

OKC.NET: What’s something new people can expect this year?

Wolf: We have a few returning performers and vendors, but many new ones as well. There are performers coming in from all across the country! We have 9 states and 12 cities represented in this year’s festival.

OKC.NET: In that vein of thought: you’ve had all these classes since that first OKC Burlesque Fest, surely there are some rising talents in OKC inspired to perform because of your active involvement in the scene – will we see any this year? Or are they still working on it? Also I haven’t been out a lot to these things lately, so I’m out of the loop in this regard.

Wolf: The majority of my students are more interested in just having a fun sexy time. For those that are interested in performing, I offer a Burlesque Intermediate course after the Burlesque Basics class. If they still want to pursue burlesque after that then I continue to mentor them, take them along to gigs with me, have them work as stage kittens, etc. I think it’s important for students to have their own space to perform. They benefit from an audience that understands they are just starting out, as opposed to throwing them into a professional level show straight off the bat. As soon as enough of my students are ready I’ll be producing a student showcase.

OKC.NET: I also love the out of town talent you invite to your shows. What catches your eye when you’re traveling for festivals?

Wolf: One of the most important criteria to me is hospitality. How performers are treated behind the scenes can make or break their festival experience. You have to show performers that you appreciate their time and talent. I also prefer festivals that facilitate networking and education. Festivals should provide opportunities for performers to grow in their craft and careers.

OKC.NET: Ok, last year we talked about how hard it had been to find venues that would allow you to showcase burlesque, has it gotten better in OKC since your first festival?

Wolf: Luckily I haven’t had to deal with finding a new venue! My quarterly show, Adèle Wolf’s Burlesque & Variety Show and the festival have both had a cozy home at Oklahoma Contemporary for the past year. I hope that perceptions have changed, but for now I’m glad to have a handful of venues that are welcoming to burlesque.

OKC.NET: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about coming out to a show?

Wolf: The majority of people that expressed a resistance to seeing one of my shows (as did many of my family members when I started) completely changed their minds when they saw it for themselves. Oftentimes, people just don’t know what to expect. The shows I produce are created completely with the audience in mind. I aim to provide a unique and fun experience with something for everyone.

OKC.NET: What haven’t I asked that you’d like people to know?

Wolf: There is a lot that goes into creating a full theatrical production with performers that entertain for a living. Performers dedicate their lives to this art form, putting an amazing amount of time, energy, love, and money into each act. Many people don’t realize that burlesque still exists as a professional art form and I am hopeful that my productions are helping to change the perception of burlesque in Oklahoma.

Just for fun:

OKC.NET: What’s one song you can’t get out of your head right now and could it be turned into a routine?

Wolf: I have a few new concepts and costume ideas brewing, but music is what always propels an act into creation. I’m guilty of listening to the same artists over and over again so nothing has occurred to me lately. I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on further developing and refining acts I already have. For me, an act is never complete. There are always improvements that can be made, and I’m still developing acts that I first performed 3 years ago. I only debut 1-2 acts a year, so that I can continue to improve the quality of what I already have.

OKC.NET: What’s the weirdest stage name you’ve heard while touring?

Wolf: The life I lead as a full-time burlesque performer has desensitized me to what most people would find strange. Haha! I can’t think of any particular names, but I can certainly think of acts. I’m usually quite delighted with “weird” things and people. Most recently at Burlesque Hall of Fame in Vegas, Captain Kidd performed an absolutely absurd bad drag queen act in full club kid garb. It was weird and I loved it.

OKC.NET: What is the weirdest prop you’ve seen used in an act? Like I never thought I’d see Cheetos used the way I did at the first OKC Burlesque Fest. Tongue-in-cheek, creative, and hilariously funny too. A memorable high point given all the social change we’ve been seeing out of Colorado and the like. I’ll wager there have been others who’ve done memorable routines with an odd prop or two.

Wolf: Once again I find myself at a loss for identifying something I think is weird. Anything goes with burlesque and I’ve seen a lot of it including some really innovative prop work. One prop that I’ve never seen anyone use before or since is a shank. Jeez Loueez has an improvised “shank” in her Rufio act.


Naturally, if you’re disappointed with Oklahoma right now, pick any number of botched happenings and insane political commentary, you have to wonder who in their right mind would come to the Sooner state in the hopes of making impressions on an ever-widening national burlesque stage. Which is to say, I’m happy that extremists can’t essentially force fundamentalist religious laws on everyone – a 10 Commandments monument on the Capitol notwithstanding – soon to be joined by a monument to Satan, but you wonder what it must say to the performers coming to visit, knowing this place is on the map for being “bible-y”. And then there is the weather. When it’s not trying to kill you with epic wind speeds, it’s hot, sometimes dry, but mostly windy. Not quite a desert, not quite a swamp. It’s muggy when there’s no breeze and like being blasted by a gush of oven-hot air in what passes as the Oklahoma version of “breezy.” And that’s during a good summer. But perhaps that’s the perfect climate for a burlesque festival to flourish in OKC.

It’s kind of wild like that.

And adversity does breed community.

Meet at least two of the chicks who decided none of what I said was a detractor: Hazel Honeysuckle and Tessa von Twinkle.


Hazel Honeysuckle

Hazel Honeysuckle


OKC.NET: Have you been to Oklahoma before, if not, what made you say yes to this event? If you have, what’s something you look forward to doing while in OKC?

Honeysuckle: This is my first time in Oklahoma! I decided to come for the festival based on glowing reviews of last year’s festival from performer friends of mine who live in NYC. I’m hoping to see a few sights and visit some good thrift and vintage stores!

OKC.NET: What do you love most either about watching and/or performing burlesque?

Honeysuckle: My favorite thing that sets burlesque apart from other performance styles is the connection to the audience. It’s not the fact that we end up almost naked, it’s that we’re teasing them as we do it. There’s a freedom and joy to this type of performance, and when you share that feeling with the audience, it’s amazing!


Tessa von Twinkle

Tessa von Twinkle


OKC.NET: Have you been to Oklahoma before, if not, what made you say yes to this event? If you have, what’s something you look forward to doing while in OKC?

von Twinkle: I have never been to Oklahoma before! This festival has a great track record for bringing in the best of the best. When I saw the names of the headliners this year along with knowing many of my burlesque friends from other parts of the country would be there, I didn’t want to miss the fun! Aside from soaking in the fabulous shows, I’m hopeful for some yummy meals, vintage shopping, and after parties. I’ve had my eyes on some of the classes the festival is offering too and may have to take part in some of those as well. Burlesque is ever evolving and the more we learn along the way, the more relevant we make ourselves.

OKC.NET: What do you love most either about watching and/or performing burlesque?

von Twinkle: My favorite part of performing is the power I feel being completely in control of both of my act and hopefully the audience. Creating a burlesque performance from scratch allows the performer to exercise a plethora of artistic skills from costuming and crafting to dance and theater. The goal (for me) is to create a specific reaction from the audience. Whether that is laughter, awe, excitement, envy… crafting this act to incite a specific response is a very empowering feeling.

Equally, I think there is a sense of escape in watching burlesque performances. For that hour or two of a show, the spectator is whisked away to whatever special place the performer wants to take them. Everyone likes to step out of themselves or out of the norm from time to time. Burlesque is the perfect avenue for it whether performing or watching.


To purchase tickets: www.okcburlsequefest.com.

Event runs Friday June 20 and Saturday June 21st.

Doors 7:30 p.m., Show: 8:30 p.m.

Address: Oklahoma Contemporary, General Pershing Blvd.


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