Friday, July 17, 2009

The M.U.T.E.S., an Elvis Clown and neo-Burlesque

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I have a theory that, as people live longer, the same type of societal forces that cause inter-cultural art to appeal to people of many different ethnicities and subcultures will cause certain kinds of art to appeal to people of many different generations. I guess what I’m saying is this: at the Youngblood show a couple of evenings ago, I ran into a married couple from two generations prior to mine. Here these two people were—members of the Silent Generation—The Greatest Generation and they were at a bar on the east side amidst a bunch of college-age people and me—a guy in his early thirties.

The couple spoke with great interest about some of the alternative theatre going on in Milwaukee . . . talking in particularly glowing tones about the current crop of UWM theatre graduates . . . and the gentleman of the couple had even gone so far as to refer to the Rep as being “pretentious.” Now, I’m not saying I agree with that kind of opinion. (I don’t,) but I think this particular couple arecompletely outside the traditional generational stereotype of people their age--people who like more traditional theatre--people who get marketed to by the Fireside and people who stage Neil Simon plays. This couple are part of a growing group of aesthetic pioneers . . . when the baby boomers reach that age, they’ll probably be just as active that couple in exploring the alternative, fringe art we laughingly associate with “youth.” Of course, by the time my  generation reaches that age, things will be completely mixed-up. Other generations had been into retro fashion, but with Generation X, it became a major obsession. When a group of people defined by snarky irony and retrogressive fashion remains active in fringe culture into advanced age, things are bound to get weird. A universally multi-generational fringe is coming and retro fashion from eras long before my generation's birth will bring it all together.

As further evidence of this: Christmas In July with the Brew City Bombshells. It’s a weird puree of retro flavors packaged in a kitschy Christmas in July format at the Stone Fly Brewery (on 735 East Center Street) this Saturday, July 18th. Here’s some of what to expect:

 

From the 1880’s:


The art form of burlesque, which hit its stride in the late 19th century had been brought back into fashion in the early 1990’s with burlesque acts popping-up all over the country . . . and recently a group of women from the next generation have started performing a variation on traditional burlesque. The Brew City Bombshells headline the event. With names like Chassy Dee Lux, Vee Valentine, Raven Nevermore and Ava von Sweets, the Bombshells land somewhere between classy, post-modern and just plain weird.

 

From the 1920’s:


The M.U.T.E.S.—an acting troupe that recreates the feel of Chaplin-era silent films live and in person will be . . . live and in person for the event. I’ve written about them before and have yet to see them live, but look here or here for more info . . .

From the ‘50’s and ‘60’s:


Clownvis—an act that’s looks exactly what it sounds like. It’s a clown Elvis, which is kind of an odd inter-generational thing in and of itself. Towards his inevitable end in Vegas, Elvis had sort of become a clown version of himself anyway . . . but judging from internet buzz, “The King Of Clowns” has a style all his own, coming to Milwaukee with an impressive performance history behind him.

The show starts at 10pm and runs until 1am the next morning, so consider this a Saturday late-night show . . . the type of thing expected to draw appealing elements of chance to that area west of the river somewhere in Mid-Summer.

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