Pi­rate bur­lesque show of­fers comic re­lief

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - Bill Ret­tew Small Talk

noun: bur·lesque - Sim­ple Def­i­ni­tion of bur­lesque: a play, story, novel, etc., that makes a se­ri­ous sub­ject seem funny or ridicu­lous : a kind of en­ter­tain­ment that was pop­u­lar in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies and that in­cluded funny per­for­mances, singing, danc­ing, etc., and some­times per­for­mances in which women took off their clothes

— Source: mer­riam-web­ster. com

I’ve of­ten heard about vaude­ville and bur­lesque theatre but un­til re­cently I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced it in per­son.

A real live pi­rate bur­lesque show was re­cently per­formed on the Gazela, a float­ing good will am­bas­sador for the sea­port of Philadel­phia, at Penn’s Land­ing.

Sur­pris­ingly, there was less bare skin vis­i­ble than at the Ocean City shore on a typ­i­cal sum­mer af­ter­noon.

I’ve known Phoenixville ac­tress Kim­ber­lie Cruse for more than a decade so I was not sur­prised to laugh out loud at the pi­rate an­tics per­formed on the tall ship stage.

Cruse in­vited me to ar­rive early and catch a run through prior to that evening’s tech re­hearsal for pay­ing cus­tomers.

With just me as an au­di­ence, the ac­tors al­most-me­chan­i­cally walked through the sec­ond act. Di­a­logue was some­times for­got­ten and oc­ca­sion­ally an ac­tor needed to be prompted by a fel­low ac­tor.

I watched as a cos­tume that later would be ripped off was care­fully re­moved from a fel­low per­former who was wear­ing no stage makeup. This was an easy­go­ing prac­tice for per­form­ers with an au­di­ence of just one.

I won­dered how the play

would ever come to­gether in the next two hours.

My fears were ground­less. Once the real stars came out, those stars on stage shown like naughty pi­rates hav­ing a re­ally fun time.

Cruse later talked about act­ing in a bur­lesque show.

“Oh my, the guilty plea­sure of bur­lesque theater,” she said. “There’s no forced laughs from me — with sex­ual in­nu­en­dos and puns ga­lore — it’s much fun.”

“Seven Deadly Seas: The Greater of Two Evils” was writ­ten by ac­tor Cubby Al­to­belli. For the the­aterin-the round stage Al­to­belli weaved a story based about Jack, a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who is greatly en­am­ored with him­self.

There’s sword fight­ing amongst pi­rates and both men and women sug­ges­tively tak­ing off lay­ers of very col­or­ful cloth­ing.

I met Cruse over cof­fee more than a decade ago when I worked for the daily pa­per in Phoenixville.

She’d formed a part­ner­ship with fel­low ac­tress Shoshanna Green known as Side­tracked Pro­duc­tions.

The pair be­gan per­form­ing to­gether at Phoenixville’s First Fri­day cel­e­bra­tions 12 years ago as “Bag Lady Theater.”

I laughed then at two young ac­tresses busk­ing for tips on the side­walk in what seemed like 90 per­cent im­pro­vi­sa­tion, with the other 10 per­cent of their en­er­gies con­sumed try­ing to make each other laugh.

Cruse still lives in Phoenixville. Theirs is a life­style that most of us wan­der­ers stuck at home would like to one day ex­pe­ri­ence. Cruse and Green travel more than 100 days each year.

I jeal­ously fol­low Cruse’s ex­ploits, along with her other 2,397 Face­book friends. They spend six weeks each year in New Or­leans at the Louisiana Re­nais­sance Fes­ti­val.

For two weeks ev­ery year, along with more than more than 10,000 other pre-16th cen­tury re-en­ac­tors, Cruse meets and camps dur­ing the Pennsic War event near Pitts­burgh. I asked Cruse how she

af­fords to ex­ten­sively travel. She calls her­self a “house cat” typ­i­cally sleep­ing on the couches of fel­low per­form­ers.

“One night Shoshanna and I were driv­ing on I-95 from a gig, at 1 a.m.,” she said. “We put it up on Face­book that we needed crash space and within 10 min­utes some­body met us at a cabin by a lake.”

Cruse as­sured me that it isn’t just one big party. She also en­joys her pri­vacy.

“We have a cour­tesy rule habit of host­ing each other when we travel — pro­fes­sional cour­tesy,” she said. “You host peo­ple and peo­ple host you.

“You have a pull-out couch. No­body blinks and no­body ques­tions it. We’re all in the same crazy fam­ily.”

Cruse works the so­cial me­dia sites. Peo­ple have given her work­ing re­frig­er­a­tors and dry­ers.

“Peo­ple have stuff they don’t want or just want you to take it away to keep it out of the land­fill,” she said. “I love that type of bar­ter­ing, trad­ing, tak­ing care of each other.”

Dur­ing in­ter­views, I al­ways

ask mu­si­cians and ac­tors what it feels like when some­one ap­plauds.

“Strangely it’s more im­por­tant that peo­ple make eye con­tact dur­ing the per­for­mance,” Cruse said. “If I can make eye con­tact with an au­di­ence mem­ber then I’ve made a con­nec­tion.”

As part of that night’s per­for­mance on the Gazela, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jack asks why to not get a “le­git­i­mate” job.

Cruse, in char­ac­ter, re­sponds by say­ing, “We’re not hyp­ocrites, we’re sell­outs.”

“There is a dif­fer­ence,” Green said.

But Cruse is cer­tainly no sell­out. She has in­vested heav­ily in a life­style that most with 9 to 5 jobs can only dream about.

As a naughty pi­rate you can see she’s en­joy­ing her­self as we en­joy the show, and as a vagabond she’s an in­spi­ra­tion.

Yo Kim­ber­lie: Keep on truckin’


The au­di­ence at the stage in the round on the tall ship Gazela at Penn’s Land­ing has fun watch­ing Phoenixville ac­tress Kim­ber­lie Cruse.


The au­di­ence at the stage in the round on the tall ship Gazela at Penn’s Land­ing has fun watch­ing Phoenixville ac­tress Kim­ber­lie Cruse.

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