“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of joy and respect in each other’s life." — Richard Bach
While creating my second piece for A Dark Knight in the Asylum I snuck in a “moment” for The Penguin and The Riddler - not because this is canon, but because the roles were being played by Dewie Decimator and me.
Dewie is one of the people I have known the longest in the Boston burlesque scene. I met her backstage at a Rogue Burlesque show several years ago. We were there as kittens and assistant stage managers and had both just started dipping our pinky toes into the world of burlesque.
Well, actually, Dewie was much farther along than I was. She had already performed (as part of Rogue’s very first Lucky 13 Amateur Competition - an event she would later go on to win!) while I was mostly spending my time backstage or in class.
I had been aware of the Boston burlesque scene, as an occasional fan, for about 6 years before I ever decided to get involved. Many factors drove me to exploring burlesque - a need to reclaim my body, try new things, re-ignite my passion for performance, and find a creative outlet that could be just mine. (After almost a decade of making work for other people I was finding I was too burned out to create things on my own time for my own purposes).
I was also, around this time, dealing with the loss of my “Boston family,” my first “chosen tribe.”
A funny thing happens when you grow up in a huge family - you don’t really see the need to make friends because you’ve got a house full of them at home. Sure, I had acquaintances and teammates and a few study buddies, but my sister, brothers, and cousins were and always will be my best friends. Growing up with a house constantly full of people, I was never lonely. In fact I relished any time I could find alone - rare moments of quiet and solitude were precious.
When I entered adulthood however, I found myself far from the family I had grown up with, and realizing that I had taken that support system so for granted. For the first time in my life I encountered real, true, profound loneliness.
I was fortunate enough to start meeting people and rekindling old friendships with a group of folks who would become my “Boston family.” We called ourselves that. We were a tight knit group who lived in the same neighborhood, had keys to each others’ places, and had dinner all together at least once a week. We supported each other through breakups, tragedies, successes, losses, everything.
But time passed and due to varying circumstances people started leaving. Some to forge new career opportunities, some to pursue new relationships, some to return to their own families and homes. I was the only one who stayed in town. And while I had lots of acquaintances, I did not have anyone else in my life who I felt close or comfortable with the way I did with “the family.” So as my Boston family dissipated, I found myself again on my own.
I didn’t intend or mean to find a new family in burlesque. I didn’t even necessarily come to my first classes or shows with any expectation of making friends. But over the years that’s what has happened. And it’s been amazing.
Outside of my massive biological family (125 first cousins and counting), I’ve never experienced unconditional love, acceptance, and support the way I have from the burlesque community over the last few years. I’m still stunned, dumbfounded, and generally blown away by the honesty, open-ness, and kindness I find not just in Boston but across this medium in general. And letting myself accept and build new relationships and kindnesses has been a profound lesson in learning what it really means to be an adult.
After that first show backstage (PS - that’s also where Ricky Lime got his start), Dewie and I of course kept in touch. She joined Rogue Burlesque as a full time member, and then, a few months later (after a LOT of encouragement from Dewie, Polly Surely, and the troupe’s founders, Dixie Douya, Ms. Sassypants, and Busty Keaton), I got on stage for the first time as a burlesque performer. I eventually went on to audition for and join Rogue and I had an amazing career with them for the next two years.
Eventually the time came for me to part ways with the Rogues. I had other artistic avenues to pursue, specifically music, and wanted to spend some time exploring life as a solo performer. Everyone was supportive and encouraging in this new step and it proved to be a very positive change, artistically, for me.
One of the most interesting benefits of leaving the troupe was being able to spend more time socially with my former troupemates - focusing on being together as friends and individuals rather than professionals preparing acts together. It’s nice to sometimes just be crazy-cat ladies or gross out queens or horror movie buffs together.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really miss sharing the stage with the ladies of Rogue, especially Dewie (aka the second half of the Skeevy Brothers, Earl). And so when it came time to put together the ambush and fight scene for Arkham, I had The Penguin step away from the fight, opting instead to watch the action with The Riddler after returning the question mark cane.
I doubt anyone in the audience thought much of it, but this was one of the rare instances in my artistic process where I did something not for the audience, but for me as an individual - and not even as Allix Mortis, but as Alli, the person I am offstage. For 15 seconds, I enjoyed sitting, quietly, with one of my closest friends, while chaos reigned behind us. I let myself have a split second of taking in the sold out crowd and the fact that we were together on the stage where we first met. If you were at the show, you might have seen a GIANT almost manic smile on my face as that scene ended. So I will here admit - it wasn’t because I was in character, but because I was relishing the moment I was sharing with my chosen family, and marveling that we found each other and are navigating this beautiful, raucous, planet together.
Photos by Hans Wendland