Nerdlesque is a festival that celebrates nerd culture, and it will be returning to New York City’s Webster Hall from April 28 to April 30, 2017. The event will feature cosplay costumes, activities, and merchandise that pay homage to classic movies and TV shows such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Big Bang Theory as well as franchises such as Marvel Comics. Essentially, anyone who enjoys Comic Con will find this event exciting.
One of the most offbeat acts at the Nerdlesque Festival is the inclusion of burlesque performers as arranged by Lefty Lucy, a producer, model, theater professional, sideshow performer, and self-professed nerd. Lucy has served as the executive producer for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival production designer, Burlesque at the Beach Season Coordinator at Coney Island USA, Burlesque Sketch Night producer at the Society of Illustrators, and a long-time player for the Nerdy Show’s “Dungeons & Doritos” podcast. She recently discussed her experiences in show business and her work on the Nerdlesque Festival.
Meagan Meehan (MM): What prompted you to get into event organization and how did you find the Nerdlesque Festival?
Lefty Lucy (LL): I have always been involved in working in the theater and burlesque. As I got older, I realized opportunities don’t happen — I have to make them happen. Producing events that are close to my heart assures that I spend my life’s work doing something I believe is important, and allows me to give back to the people and communities that have raised me. I have been a part of the Nerdlesque Festival team since it’s conception in 2013; our first festival was in April 2014. I started as what was supposed to be a sort of lackey/personal assistant role and ended up becoming a core producer. After that year, the Festival was gifted to me to care for as Executive Producer.
MM: What kinds of things can attendees expect from this event?
LL: This festival is a one-of-a-kind celebration of pop culture, body positivity and all things nerdy. There are two nights of shows on April 28 and 29 held at historic Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St NYC) featuring Headliners and Feature Performers from across the country, as well as the only known NERDlesque legend, Pillow, in for the Fest from Alaska! We also work to build and strengthen community in a few ways. On Saturday, April 29 we offer a full day of classes held with the New York School of Burlesque at our Fest Headquarters, The Beauty Bar (231 E 14th Street). For those who want to meet and mingle with performers, we also host a networking day at Beauty Bar featuring music all day from DJ Stormageddon and specialty cocktails from the bar, on April 29 from 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Finally, we host a free Peer Review closing event open exclusively to local and festival performers at the Slipper Room on Sunday, April 30.
MM: You are known for blending nerd culture with burlesque. How on earth did you ever think up this awesomely zany pairing?
LL: I’m sure, much like many of my peers, it was sheer instinct! I think that if you start dipping your toe into the world of burlesque and you have fangirl tendencies, it won’t be long before you’re dressing up and taking it off as your favorite characters! Burlesque is an incredibly freeing and empowering art form. There is some basic structure and connecting factors that make a performance “burlesque” but it’s flexible enough to be many different things to everyone who loves it.
MM: What about burlesque most appeals to you and why do you think it fits with the theme of the festival?
LL: Not to overuse a word, but empowerment is one of the things that drew me in and keeps me going as a burlesque performer. In burlesque, you are welcomed into an industry that rejects a world that tells you to look in a mirror and focus on what’s “wrong” with you. In burlesque, everyone is encouraged to be brave enough to say, “I’m sexy! Here, look!” It’s well documented that a large portion of what makes someone sexy is confidence, but it is hard to be confident if you are always being told to change something about yourself in order to be “perfect.” Burlesque gives people an opportunity to practice self-love, and in doing so performers inspire others to try to love themselves too. It may not be the pervasive attitude in the world, but it is nice to be a part of a business that works to change at least a corner of the world into a more loving and positive place.
MM: What is your favorite thing about this festival?
LL: Being able to connect face-to-face to the incredible, hilarious, brilliant, strange, beautiful, and magnificent nerdy stripteasers who converge to make the festival possible. This festival is one of the highlights of my year every year since its inception.
MM: How did you get Webster Hall on board? Was it difficult to prepare for the event?
LL: We lucked into Webster Hall! Our first year producing the festival, there were two other venues booked. About two weeks before the festival’s debut was scheduled, one of the two venues pulled out from under us in favor of booking a pop star that night. In an effort to not violate the contract completely, they connected me to Webster Hall, and it’s been a perfect venue for the festival ever since. Webster Hall is a stunning (and super convenient!) event space, and the staff there has been wonderfully supportive, working with us as a new and VERY small business (our entire team consists of three people, but only two of us work on the fest year round). I wouldn’t say it is difficult to prepare for the event (because I’m a cockeyed optimist), but it is definitely a LOT of work, requiring a ton of planning and preparation. We keep a master to do list with hundreds of items on it to make sure we are able to produce a festival that provides value and entertainment for both our performers and attendees, while also contributing to burlesque history and the art as a whole.
MM: Where do you hope to go from here in your career within the next ten years?
LL: I would love to see the Festival in its 13th year, of course! I’d also love to be able to host the Festival in different cities every few years so that performers who may not be able to afford to travel to NYC can get an opportunity to participate. Additionally, I’m the Wardrobe and Props Master for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival and am working on another major project that was inspired by my work on that. I’m working toward building a not-for-profit after-school children’s theater program in New Orleans, based on the education I received from the Serendipity Theater Company, LA County High School for the Arts, and Mark Taper Forum programs in Los Angeles. I hope to be able to launch and grow this program to be the family-friendly contrast to my adult-only mistress, the Nerdlesque Festival, and spend my years dedicating myself to the two projects in between performing in shows around the world as a solo artist.
MM: What has been the best part of working in dance and events and what are some of your big dreams for the future?
LL: Dance and music are the two most accessible ways to connect to the world on a spiritual level. I think that moving your body, if you feel confident in doing so, is the most freeing and uplifting thing you can do. To be able to do it in an environment where the audience wants to cheer AND I get to take my clothes off are the cherry and whipped cream on top. As for dreams, see the answer to the previous question
MM: What’s forthcoming for you? Essentially, what projects are you really looking forward to?
LL: In addition to the Nerdlesque Festival and Provincetown Tennesse Williams Theater Festival, I’ve been working with a New Orleans-based performer named Tsarina Hellfire, “The Southern Belle from Hell”. We produce a few shows in rotation, including the year-round Halloween Hussies (next show on April 22 at One Eyed Jacks!) and a show called The Showgirl Switcheroo, where drag queens perform burlesque and stripteasers don drag. We are in the process of looking for a new home for the show and are also working to produce big quarterly events with bands and PBR, like the one we are doing at One Eyed Jacks. After the festival, I am spending a week in New York so that I can fulfill my duties as a former Miss Coney Island (2011) and produce one of the opening weekend shows for Coney Island USA’s annual Burlesque at the Beach on Saturday, May 6! I’ll be joined by some of my favorite people, and come of Coney’s favorite performers—new and old—for Coming Home to Coney Island. Lastly, I am also a part of the Vieux Carre Cabaret, who produce a big nerdy event burlesque show in association with MechaCon every August. This year we are producing a semi-scripted show called SLAYERS: Celebrating 20 years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In it, all three slayers are alive and have to work together to save New Orleans from the hellmouth. It features sideshow, burlesque, and circus performances and is going to be a really fun night at One Eyed Jacks on Sunday, July 30.
Doors to the show open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door, and all attendees must be over 18 years of age. To learn more, visit the official website and the Webster Hall website.
[Featured Image by Lefty Lucy/Nerdlesque Festival]