Theater Feature: Rogue Burlesque — Sex and the Single Nerd

Rogue Burlesque will be performing an unfiltered homage to our fixation with nerd culture, from “Weird Al” Yankovic and Superman to Edgar Allan Poe.

By Elizabeth Erenberg.

One of the superheroines in Rogue Burlesque's "Talk Dirty to M3"

One of the superheroines in Rogue Burlesque’s “Talk Dirty to M3.”

Get ready. You know you’ve always wanted a place to revel in your secret (or not so secret) nerd identity. Calling all Dungeons and Dragons fanatics, video game champions, and comic book junkies—there’s no need to wait for the next convention. Join Rogue Burlesque at “Club Ober-Con” (normally known as Club Oberon) on August 1st and 2nd for Talk Nerdy to M3, a show that caters to nerd culture in a sexy way.

Rogue Burlesque will be performing an unfiltered homage to our fixation with nerd culture, from “Weird Al” Yankovic and Superman to Edgar Allan Poe. (Editor’s Note: Poe was a nerd?) This will be one of the biggest productions yet for the four-year-old group. Each member of Rogue Burlesque was inspired by his/her own particular cultish passions, the chosen idols ranging from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Muppets. Other spoofs will target science fiction, video games, and comic cons. Conveniently, Boston Comic Con takes place right after Talk Nerdy to M3.

“The goal is to both spoof and celebrate nerd culture,” suggests Dixie Douya, one of troupe’s original members. Of the several burlesque troupes in Boston, Rogue is among the “geekiest,” according to Douya. That is why the troupe’s performances are so convincing—each member is as true a nerd in real life as he or she is on stage. For example, Douya has written in a part that acknowledges her former role as an editor of school yearbooks.

The inspiration for Talk Nerdy to M3 is the members’ own experiences at conventions where they got a chance to celebrate their idiosyncratic passions.

Rogue Burlesque has been performing at the Harvard Square nightspot known as Oberon (in addition to other venues around Boston) since 2010. Other subjects that have inspired the group’s satiric brand of burlesque include Hollywood, historical fiction, and Mardi Gras.

For such detailed and large-scale productions, Oberon has had to be very flexible with Rogue Burlesque’s technical requests regarding lighting and sound. “The staff at Oberon have been amazing to work with,” Douya says. “We will tell the tech staff the vibe and feel of the show, and trust them to make it work.”

The group has grown significantly since its beginning in 2009, both in terms of the scale of the productions and the people involved (originally just four people and now 12). Given the demand for weekly rehearsals, choreography, and costume design, performing in Rogue Burlesque calls for a time commitment equal to at least a part-time job for each member. Up until recently, Rogue Burlesque has put on one show per month. Now the troupe has reduced the number of productions to just a handful per year so that its members can focus on providing quality shows for larger venues.

Each of these productions takes approximately four months to prepare. This leaves room for private gigs, such as with the Boston Circus Guild, but not a lot of lag time in between.

A sexy version of Miss Piggy makes an appearance at "Talk Nerdy to M3."

A sexy version of Miss Piggy makes an appearance at “Talk Nerdy to M3.”

“There is a lot of overlap in planning,” Douya explains. As Rogue Burlesque prepares for this show it is also planning the next one, scheduled to take place in the fall.

Since the burlesque scene in Boston is pretty healthy, groups often interact with one another, collaborating on material and participating in each other’s shows. At Talk Nerdy to M3, Rogue Burlesque will be joined by their brother troop Sirlesque, a four-member, all-male burlesque group. From the guys, you can expect some raunchy references to Doctor Who, zombies, and more.

A vital factor in the quality of burlesque performances is costuming. The element of dressing up is “huge,” according to Douya. “The ladies are constantly buying fringe and rhinestones, and communicating about who is going to the store next,” she says.

Besides the duds, the success of Rogue Burlesque can also be attributed to how members relate to audiences. Over the years, the group has closely observed its most loyal fans, noting that the types of people who come to its shows are as diverse as you can imagine. Douya speculates that the range includes “Goths, geeks, gays, and grandmas.”

“A lot of audience members were outcasts in some form or another when they were kids,” Douya says. “So we celebrate that.”

Worried that you won’t get all the references? Don’t know all the ins and outs of nerd culture? Have no fear. No matter what generation or orientation, Douya feels that anyone will find something to enjoy in Talk Nerdy to M3. Who knows? It might even change your life. You might learn to embrace your inner nerd. “The only way to describe the experience is rogue,” laughs Douya.

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