‘Slutcracker’ marries ballet, burlesque and holiday spirit
Interview | Vanessa White
Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011
Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011 02:12
In honor of the holiday season, the Daily sat down with Vanessa White, the creator of "The Slutcracker," a holiday staple with a juicy twist running at the Somerville Theatre. The burlesque show is based on the holiday classic, "The Nutcracker," and is now in its fourth year of production. "The Slutcracker" runs every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between now and Dec. 24.
Tori Elliott: Where did you get the inspiration for "The Slutcracker?"
Vanessa White: I was a ballet dancer for many years and then, about 11 years ago, I got injured and had to stop dancing. I was an editor for Boink magazine, Boston University's erotica magazine, for many years. As part of that, about six years ago I founded the burlesque ensemble Babes in Boinkland. It started out as an event for the magazine — something that wouldn't get shut down — and we started getting booked for other shows.
Then, about four years ago, I was sick at home and I started thinking of ways to combine ballet and burlesque. The original "Nutcracker" is pretty dark, and I already knew the music and scenes by heart.
One of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out how to make it an adult story. Our original thought was to make it a variety show, but we ended up doing the whole show.
We started looking at theaters and Ian [Judge], the [director of operations] here at the Somerville, made it happen.
TE: A lot people have said that your show has a lot of feminist and sex-positive undertones.
VW: A lot of people want to take a political message from the show. If it is feminist or sex-positive or body-positive that comes through…that's part of me and how I see the world. Like all art, people will take away what it means to them. All I ever wanted to do was make a beautiful show — and funny, and sexy. It was important to me to make a dance show and to choreograph. It was a way for me to keep doing dance.
TE: Can you tell me a little bit about your cast?
VW: The Babes in Boinkland have always been a part of it. About half of this year's cast has been there from the beginning. Originally, it was hard to find people. The second year we had about 15 to 20 people audition. It's historically been hard to find trained dancers who will take their clothes off but this year we had 120 people audition. We have about 40 people in the cast. Having half the cast be veterans makes putting up the show so much easier. It gets easier every year.
We have very different types of bodies in our cast. It really is about feeling comfortable and beautiful and sexy. I hope that it makes people feel comfortable in their own skin, that they can walk out here thinking, "that person on stage looks like me and they own it."
TE: So, since "The Slutcracker" only runs during the holiday season, what do you do with the rest of the year?
VW: Well, this year we put on a show in October called "The Boston Tease Party Presents Beaver," which was very much a Tea Party mockery. It was very irreverent stuff. We're putting it up again in March, but the script is continually evolving — what might have been relevant in October might not be in March with the Republican primaries. Last summer we also put on a show called "Abbey Road" at OBERON, which uses all of the music from the Beatles album "Abbey Road" (1969).
TE: Have you toured the show at all?
VW: Aside from one weekend show we did in Montreal, we haven't toured. I'd like to tour the show eventually, but we're a totally independent show; all the money we get comes from ticket sales. Everyone in the show pitches in to keep it going. But it's hard to tour or make the show bigger without sponsorships.
Our show is very basic and pretty low-tech. The biggest cost is definitely the electronic element — a lot of bigger shows, all the scene changes and effects are entirely remote controlled. We just can't afford that kind of equipment. I'm not interested in going non-profit because you sacrifice a lot of creative control when you start taking on sponsorships, and that's really important to me.
We had no idea "The Slutcracker" would be so successful. We actually crashed the ticketing system at the Somerville Theatre [on] our opening night because it literally couldn't handle all the sales. Our minds were blown.