rise of the burlesque

Rise of the Burlesque: A Star Wars Spectacular Not So Far, Far Away

All performance is about expression. Burlesque is no different, and while it’s the art of striptease, what isn’t being revealed at any given moment is just as important as what is. And as with any live production, burlesque depends on the relationship between the entertainer and audience. For Waco devotees, Kylie Skellington is now producing shows meant to be energetic, respectful, and to uplift her and her fellow performers. 

Skellington, founder of Mod Ministry Merch, an online store for handmade lingerie, harnesses, and other items, and co-owner of Skellington Curiosities, has partnered with Waco’s Rogue Media Network to enter the local entertainment scene with burlesque shows. After a successful debut in June inspired by movie director Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands), she and eight other performers are hosting their second show, Rise of the Burlesque, on Saturday, September 3, at Nexus Esports.

A (Welcome) Surprise to Be Sure

Featuring nine Star Wars-themed acts, each Rise of the Burlesque star has prepared a solo routine complete with rhinestone-encrusted lightsabers, choreography, and custom multi-layered outfits. Between each song, performers will lead audience members in hilarious NSFW contests. Even those who saw June’s show can expect a surprise as the Rise of Burlesque features several brand new “adult” games. 

Kylie Skellington

To top the Tim Burton show will not be an easy feat, but with resourcefulness and flair, they have created the atmosphere essential to pulling the audience in. As an added benefit, Skellington says, “It’s definitely going to look like you stepped into a Star Wars museum.” Meanwhile, the costumes themselves are extravagant and undeniably Star Wars; however, it’s fair to say they aren’t exactly in line with the movie franchise’s PG-13 rating.

Star Wars AT-AT

After keeping most of the show’s specifics under wraps, the performers are excited to finally display their hard work. Like all burlesque, teasing the audience is all a part of the fun, but one prop, in particular, was too exciting not to share before the show. Debbie Wright, who goes by Amethyst Rose on stage, revealed one detail: “An AT-AT inflatable that will be crazy big and set the stage to… bring out the Star-Wars vibes!”

Call It a Rebel Alliance

Their initial performance paid tribute to the eccentric movies of Tim Burton, whose gothic-fantasy style is a perfect fit for the Skellington brand and aesthetic. This flair resonated with the denizens of Waco’s nightlife, who packed Nexus Esports’ event space. The performers enjoyed a sold-out crowd, equal parts men and women, eager to welcome them into the fold of a diverse and LGTBQ-friendly community. Cheers, laughs, and whistles abounded as the performers worked the crowd with burlesque moves that were by turn both sultry and comedic.

Elements of modern American burlesque, such as stage names, handmade attire, and the performers’ exaggerated sexual and comedic personalities, are also tropes of the drag community. Considering the involvement of Rogue Media Network, which has a major role in Waco’s growing drag scene, it’s no surprise that Skellington’s first burlesque show was well received. And that’s even before mentioning the high-quality costumes she is producing for the shows. 

Each dancer’s outfit is hand sewn by Skellington, in between creating her own brand-new costume and remaining involved as an owner of multiple companies. Skill and talent, however, can only reduce the manual effort of needlework by so much. At the last show, she performed as Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas and estimates that costume probably took eight hours. And the costume for Star Wars villain Kylo Ren? She’s already about ten hours into it.

“It makes me feel very confident,” Skellington says. “It’s hard to explain the confidence that you get from this piece of fabric hugging your curves just right. It’s amazing. It’s indescribable.”

As the alternative arts scene in Waco continues to develop its voice, Skellington has the right mix of work ethic and style—and possibly a pinch or two of magic—to be one of its defining members.

The Empire Grows

Mod Ministry Merch began on Etsy in 2013 where Skellington sold harnesses, lingerie, and other clothing—sewn by her—to people across North America and Europe. While her skill is evident, Skellington says customers are more drawn to the feeling her apparel gives them: “The person that wears it tells the story. I think the piece just helps them. Each harness, even if it’s [a similar] design, empowers a person differently.”

Sean Skellington

Skellington would eventually like to open a brick-and-mortar location for Mod Ministry Merch even as Casket and Cauldron, the Skellingtons’ new Halloween-themed wine and beer bar located at 1601 Washington Avenue, prepares to open later this year. She also runs Skellington Curiosities with her husband Sean in the Bosque Square Shopping Center (7524 Bosque Boulevard), where they provide an array of items relating to spirituality and the occult as well as local artwork.

Rise of the Burlesque takes place at 7 pm on Saturday, September 3, at Nexus Esports (600 Columbus Avenue). Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online. This show is for adults 18 and over only.

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Jonathan Kinder is a graduate of Baylor University's Professional Writing and Rhetoric program and hopes to shed light on Waco's burgeoning cultural scene. He has an insatiable drive to understand the creative process and is enthralled by the passion many have to create art.

Rise of the Burlesque: A Star Wars Spectacular Not So Far, Far Away

Rise of the Burlesque takes place at 7 pm on Saturday, September 3, at Nexus Esports (600 Columbus Avenue). Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online. This show is for adults 18 and over only.

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