Steven Griffin, aka Griffin Cosplay is a new cosplayer based out of Dayton, Ohio. This blog follows his successes and failures as he immerses himself in the culture both behind the scenes and at the conventions. You can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GriffinCosplay and Twitter @GriffinCosplay.
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Anja Keister at Gen Con to talk a little bit about D20 Burlesque as well as how she got started.
Ghettoblaster: Tell us a little bit about how you got started in Burlesque.
Anja Keister: I had studied art and performance art in college. I really liked performing, dressing up, and things like that. When I moved to New York City I just got really overwhelmed with all of it. Because there is a lot of theater, there is a lot of art and everybody is pretty much professionals. So at the time one of my bosses at the job that I was working said, “Hey there is going to be this burlesque festival in the town where I live do you want to come with me?” and I thought, “Sure this seems really fun.” So I went and it was totally amazing. It was a bunch of performers who were making their own costumes, doing their own choreography, choosing their own music, and doing all of this stuff. There was comedy, sensuality, it was all just purely DIY ethics and I thought, “This is something that I can do.” So back in New York I started taking classes at the New York School of Burlesque. From there I realized that it was a very close knit community. The burlesque community is super duper supportive of each other so it was really easy to make friends, get connections, network, start doing shows and everything like that.
GB: How did D20 Burlesque get started?
AK: D20 Burlesque started because there was one other major nerdy show in New York City called Epic Win Burlesque at the time that I was getting started they were a closed troop. I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do but I didn’t really have a place to perform. Their shows were mainly like pop culture nerdy, so they were doing Batman, Star Wars, and Star Trek. I was like “Well I really want to do Cthulhu, I really want to be a large 20 sided die. I really want to do Call of Cthulhu stuff.” There wasn’t really a place for that so I thought, “Well, you know what? New York is big and there is enough interest that I could start my own group and advertise at gaming stores, and friends that I role play with, and stuff like that and we can get it started,” and so that is how it initially happened. Since then Epic Win has gone into retirement so now we’re on of the main nerdy shows in New York City.
GB: How long did it take you to find people to come in and help?
AK: Not very long. At the time I was in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with 4 or 5 other performers and so when I got started I was just like, “Hey guys I think I am going to do a burlesque show that is based on role playing games. Do you want to be in it?” and of course they were all like, “Of course! Can I play the Dwarven fighter that I play in this campaign?” and I was like, “Of course you can!” So it was really easy to start the shows. From there it was really neat. It was reaching out to a community that was nerdy but no the kind of nerdy that I was used to. Not like gamer nerdy. So it was really neat for me to be like, “We are going to do a show around computer games” and people would be like “Oh! I really want to do this, I really want to do this!” So it was neat to see people’s nerdy sides come out where they had previously kind of hidden it. This was almost 4 years ago so the geek chic wasn’t as big as it is now. So it was really cool to have people like, “Oh I really want to a Silent Hill Nurse act, or an Order of the Stick act” You know, really cool stuff like that. I made a lot of friends through that as well.
GB: How has the pop culture boom effected D20?
AK: I think that It has given us a little more credibility in the eyes of everybody. We had our own little niche market and it was great and we had these fans that were coming back month after month for all of the shows and we were starting to do conventions. But I think that with the boom of it and the general acceptance of it, it has just become easier to pitch it to people. To say like “Hey, do you want us to come to your convention?” or have people say “We are having a LARP and we would really like to have a burlesque show. Would you guys be interested in LARPing as a burlesque group at our LARP?” and being like, “Totally! That seems really cool!” Which I don’t think would have happened without the boom. We were actually able to put on the first Nerdlesque festival this past year so we had performers come from all over to New York. I don’t thing that would have been able to happen 4 years ago because venues were still kind of iffy on it but this time they were like, “Okay yeah that sounds pretty cool!”
GB: How well has it been received by conventions when you pitch it to them?
AK: I would say it’s about 90% positive. There are still some people with the conventions that would say, “Why would we have this adult entertainment there?” When we first got started I sent a press release submission to Ubercon which still existed at the time. I do not think it exists anymore and they were just like, “That sounds really cool but if you do a show that is 2 hours of gaming that people will not get to do and we really want to let people game,” And that is good dedication. That is a good convention that wants to let people game. But I think it is fairly positive but every now and again we get some of the online trolling. We get the fake geek girl kind of stuff, we get nerd checked and stuff like that. But I would say overall it has been positive.
GB: As far as Gen Con it’s self what is your take on it?
AK: Gen Con, when it comes to nerdy stuff, I love independent comic books, I love pop culture TV, I love SciFi, I love all of that stuff, but like gaming is my thing. Not even video gaming, I like to video game but like I love board games, I love table top, I love all of that stuff. So this was the con that I was the most excited about. People were like “ Cool PAX! That is really neat. And I am just like GEN CON YEAH!” That is what is nice about being in this thing too is that like Iris Explosion one of our other performers is really into video games, and Stella Chuu is really into Anime, so it is really nice that we get to go to these different conventions and we can all have something that we are passionate about. But Gen Con was the one that I was really excited about. The ability to go this convention which otherwise wouldn’t have been in my budget for just fun and personal use to fly all the way out here, we were able to do it. The first year we did a Kickstarter to help us get out here. It was amazing. It was really neat on that trip we brought a performer to her first convention ever. She doesn’t really consider herself super nerdy but she loved it. On the way out I did a Call of Cthulhu campaign. It was her first one. She bought dice. It opened up a whole new world to this girl. I don’t know. I just love Gen Con.
I want to thank Anja for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. It was a pleasure to get to hang out and talk with her for a while. Later that night we also sat in on the D20 Burlesque show at Gen Con and it was amazing. Below are some of the pictures that we took while there.
They also have upcoming shows on…
November 22, 8pm – The Parkside Lounge, NYC. Game Night Done Naughty! This show will be a tribute to board, card and table top gaming.
December 19, 7pm – The Parkside Lounge, NYC. Our 3rd Annual Fan Favorites Holiday Party! This show is where we have the fans vote and we have a special 3 hour show with the top rated acts of the past year, plus special nerdy games and holiday fun.