Mongrel Vaudeville

I went to a wild event last night called Mongrel Vaudeville and it included a bunch of different interesting, gender-bending, body-contorting, burlesque-tastic acts–including my brother doing what he calls “persona raps” (essentially he raps in the voice of an unlikely character, like a spaceman). Lo and behold, they have their own blog.
Okay, I know this all sounds pretty bizarre, but it was super fun and creative and made me feel like I was back in some other era where people met in the backrooms of bars and just played around, made each other laugh, experimented with gender and sexuality, and didn’t take life so damn seriously. I highly recommend it for those of you feeling a little down in the dumpers with all this economic recession.
I was especially interested in the creator’s introduction about the origins and etymology of the title, Mongrel Vaudeville. On “vaudeville”:

Vaudeville was a genre of a variety entertainment prevalent on the stage in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, so much so that author and theater historian Trav S.D. dubbed vaudeville “the heart of American show business” during that period.[1] It developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque. Vaudeville became one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America, defining an entertainment era. Each evening’s bill of performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts. Types of acts included (among others) musicians (both classical and popular), dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and short movies.
The origin of the term is obscure, but is often explained as being derived from the expression voix de ville, or “voice of the city.”

And of course she is reclaiming the word “mongrel”–meaning, “1: an individual resulting from the interbreeding of diverse breeds or strains, especially one of unknown ancestry; 2: a cross between types of persons or things.” The creator of this show takes it from it’s derogatory origins as an epithet to become something wonderful and celebrated.
So what are you waiting for? Reclaim the mongrel-ness of being a creative feminist who breaks gender roles and prioritizes joy over appropriateness and get the voice of your city singing again!

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13 Comments

  1. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I like that picture. Is that you, Courtney?

  2. Courtney
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    No! It’s one of the performers.

  3. Ms. Ruby Vixen
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    How lovely! ‘mongrels’ all, indeed!

  4. BeastlyKitty
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Great spot Courtney! We are out there I promise.
    burlesque/sideshow preformers FTW! If you are curious, here’s my group in Oklahoma
    http://www.myspace.com/floraandfaunacrispy

  5. aniri
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Not to focus too much on the picture, but I swear I know this woman. It’s the weirdest thing! Is she Russian?

  6. Tiara
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    British-style classic burlesque does many similar things to the Mongrel Vaudevilles. It’s still alive and strong in many places :)

  7. Aileen Wuornos
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    The performer you have included a picture of is so unbelievably gorgeous.

  8. Lorelei
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    you know courtney, i bet you had enough time to make a post of equal length concerning the conviction of allen andrade, which is actually more important than a vaudeville/burlesque show, even if there is ~*genderbending*~.
    but as usual, feministing merely links to posts about transgender issues… and nests the links in posts about other things! seriously, the angie zapata case couldn’t have gotten a post with its own link if you were going to be so lazy to not just make a short post about it? feministe even managed to post about it.
    yall really DIDN’T pay attention to the complaints about feministing, did you?

  9. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I’m an African American person who had a White father – consequently, really not a fan of the term “mongrel” (or “mutt” for that matter).
    I’ve cursed people out for calling me that.
    So, forgive me if I’m not so enthusiastic about ‘reclaiming the word “mongrel”‘ – I’d just as soon see it’s use restricted to dogs, rather than people.
    Also, and forgive me for taking a wild leap here, but the woman in the photo appears to be a White person – and, from what I know of the hipster scene here in New York, I’d bet a month’s pay that the rest of this burlesque troupe is White as well.
    It’s kinda easy for them to throw around the word “mongrel” – because I’m sure nobody’s ever used the term as a racial slur against them.

  10. Miriam
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    FYI, a post just went up that Jessica wrote last night, with more on Angie’s trial and links to lots of the writing about the case.

  11. Julian of Nowherr
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Hey y’all,
    Thanks for your responses to the show! Gregory, I’m sure you know that there is a long tradition of taking words that are used as slurs and turning them around to empower folks. I am a mixed-race trans person who has been called a mongrel (and that ain’t all), and I’d just as soon use that word in a positive light. And no, the rest of our “burlesque troupe” is not white. We are a mixed bunch of folks, racially, ethnically and gender-wise. And we are neither burlesque nor a troupe, but we are not not burlesque, and we are a not not a troupe. We are a revolving and evolving saloon show of freaks, and I use that term most lovingly.
    yours in indeterminacy
    Julian of Nowherr
    curator, Mongrel Vaudeville
    P.S. BTW Courtney, my pronoun paradigm: xe, xir, xem, xemself.

  12. Josh Jasper
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Sort of related to Amanda Palmer’s Brechtpunk cabaret style?

  13. Tiara
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    It’s not a zero-sum game. Both entertainment and activism have a place in this blog.

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