Dispatch from Seattle, Part Three

Note: This is part three of a four-part series. Read part one and part two here.

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This series will explore how circus communities are navigating a future fraught with unanswered questions, using collaboration and determination to draw their own road map through immense obstacles. Like every other U.S. city, Seattle saw its circus events, workshops and performances grind to a halt in March, as the pandemic forced almost all circus artists to put their usual social and professional activities on hold.

I believe that in the burlesque industry especially, we make art that is political. We make art that is reflecting the world back at itself and turning it upside-down.

Moscato extatique, ‘the them fatale of Burlesque,’ photographed by derek villanueva.

Unsurprisingly, venues for live entertainment in Seattle face an uncertain future as they have grappled with unavoidable financial stress and organizational rebranding in the past year.

Re-bar, a nightclub that hosted cabaret, music and LGBTQ+ events for 30 years, announced the closure of its longtime location this past May, with hopes to reopen elsewhere in late 2021.

Burlesque performer and educator Moscato Extatique, known as ‘The Them Fatale of Burlesque,’ said that Re-bar was the site of their first live performance.

“Re-bar has been such a staple in our city for drag, burlesque and cabaret nightlife,” Moscato said. “The whole city — the arts community and the nightlife community — really had to grieve that loss, and the reality of the effects that the pandemic is having.”

Moscato is a member of the burlesque troupe Mod Carousel, which immediately responded to the shutdown by shifting their focus to virtual spaces.

“We definitely just adapted to the times and hit the ground running,” they said, noting that the March 28th edition of their show 6 Foot Cabaret quickly surpassed 100 viewers, requiring them to upgrade their Zoom account mid-production.

As the shutdown dragged on, Moscato said that being stuck in the digital realm didn’t always feel like artistic punishment.

“People are finding new ways to be more innovative with their art, discovering ways to present something that you can’t do on a physical stage live,” they said. “I think that’s where I’m very inspired, and I want to continue to do more of that work.”

Moscato extatique by wittypixel photography.

For Moscato, 2020 initially felt like it would be a breakout year, one where their many years of training in dance and burlesque were starting to pay off for their solo acts and group performances.

“We had a European tour on the books, and that would’ve been my first time out there,” Moscato said. “I was just so excited to finally experience that, and show my art to another audience. But of course, those plans were foiled.”

Moscato had also been invited to perform in Las Vegas in the Burlesque Hall of Fame‘s Tournament of Tease, “which is considered like the Olympics of our industry,” they said. If not for the pandemic, that competition would have happened in June 2020.

Brick and mortar performance spaces are trying to roll with the punches. Alternative venues like Theater Off Jackson in Seattle’s International District have invited local groups to co-produce online shows in their otherwise dormant spaces.

Moscato said that organizational efforts to meet the unique challenges of Covid — while also boosting diverse representation in the arts — have not gone unnoticed.

“I believe that in the burlesque industry especially, we make art that is political. We make art that is reflecting the world back at itself and turning it upside-down,” Moscato said. 

“I want to see more black and brown bodies on stages virtually and physically. I want to see producers not tokenizing black and brown bodies,” they said. “I think that that is something that is going to carry on into the future.”

Moscato’s upcoming shows include For the Love of Marinka — a benefit show for the late burlesque star — on March 6 at 8 p.m. EST, Booklovers Burlesque: Once Upon a Tease on March 6 at 10 p.m. EST, and The Noire Project presents Black and Brown Excellence on March 12 at 7 p.m. EST.

Come back next week for Dispatch from Seattle, Part Four, which profiles Versatile Arts owner Beverly Sobelman.