What will the burlesque business be like after coronavirus?
Few aspects of life are untouched by the pandemic. Coronavirus will change the way we live and work, also in the burlesque business. What will working in burlesque be like in the future? We asked Michelle L’amour, who recently created the online variety show Quarantine Cabaret.
We don’t know when it will be safe for clubs and venues to re-open; neither when we’ll be on stage again. But what changes will be done for live entertainment when that moment comes?
This is a difficult question. It’s very hard to imagine what life will look like after this. I think what might happen is that the capacity of clubs will be decreased, so that we can still keep some distance. But, that also means that venues have less money making potential, which means that there is less money for their entertainment budget.
For producers, this will also cause an issue where profit potential is concerned. Ticket prices might have to go up considerably if venue capacity is cut in order to make up the difference. I think that even when things reopen, it will be quite a while until venues who regularly have entertainment will bring back that aspect of their business. They are also struggling and just trying to pay their rent with no sales.
Those in the performing arts might have to wait quite a while to return to work.
According to americantheatre.org, “half of D.C. theatregoers surveyed by Shugoll Research say health concerns would keep them away for a while, even after theatres reopen”.
What do you think about it? Will this also be the case for clubs and venues across America?
This can go two ways. One, people might be so stir crazy that they are bursting at the seams to get out of the house and do something fun.
The other option is people remaining cautious and not attending public events. I think if we had confidence in our leadership and we knew that our health and safety were priority over the economy, we might feel differently.
Personally, I’m not really interested in being out in public right now. Give me another month or two, and we’ll see.
No help for burlesque artists
In March 2020, Broadway producers have signed an “emergency relief agreement”, that was negotiated by the trade organization Broadway League with 14 labor unions.
Is there in USA a trade organization or a labor union for burlesque/variety artists helping in this situation? Is the USA Government doing something for artists like you in this health crisis?
No, there is nothing like this for those of us in this industry. I think the government is considering the ‘gig economy’ for the first time with unemployment benefits, but it because an issue when sexuality is involved. Because burlesque is in a gray area and not respected as a valid art form, we are categorized as being of a ‘sexual nature’ which means the benefits aren’t available to us. They aren’t available to anyone in the sex worker industry, which is a real problem.
The Quarantine Cabaret
Americans (like others) are being presented with new ways to keep entertained. In this, the internet plays a huge role. Please, tell us about how the idea of the Quarantine Cabaret came into being.
On March 16th, my husband and I had the idea, and on March 20th, we released 2 episodes. Before things got really bad, we initially thought we would just have performers over to our house and film a show, but then that just because too risky. That’s when we decided to have the performers film acts from their homes and I would host and perform from my living room. This opened up our possibilities, as we could get performers in the show from all over the world. We sent a lot of emails and we were lucky to get videos in right away.
We made the show free to watch and we encourage people to tip (via PayPal and Venmo) and share.
Burlesque relies on the creation of emotional experiences and human interactions. How is difficult for an entertainer like you to manage such a different way to perform?
I’ve been working with video for a while because I create content for my Patreon. I love working with the camera and I’m not having a difficult time adjusting to it at all. In fact, it creates more possibilities.
Will productions like Quarantine Cabaret become part of the burlesque entertainment even after the coronavirus lockdown?
I’m not sure, but I will tell you that I absolutely love this project and I would love to continue doing this even after the lockdown. It’s just too much fun!