While the world has admired the work of William Shakespeare for centuries, one company is performing the Bard’s iconic plays in an entirely new — and much sexier — way, with pasties and occasional whip included!
Sure some of his plays were risqué for their time, but Los Angeles’s Toil and Trouble (ToilAndTroubleBurlesque.com) may be the first Shakespearean burlesque company (he’d be so proud). Audiences are going mad over the troupe’s fearless performances and bold storytelling, with each show centering on a new theme (recently “betrayal,” “villainy,” and “unrequited love”).
Conceived by the company’s creator, Angie Hobin, the troupe is made up of some of the country’s most well-known burlesque performers and rising stars. Hobin, known in the burlesque world as Burgundy Kate, thought of merging her passion for burlesque and Shakespeare three years ago while at a disappointing waitressing job. “I wrote up a list of everything I could think of that made me truly happy,” she reflects. “At the top of the list were performing, Shakespeare, and burlesque.”
She wound up emailing various burlesque artists and actors she respected, asking them to be part of this “weird idea for a show.” The next morning, she found that all of them were on board. “I was just surprised that I could con a venue into putting us up for a night, and that I’d found enough performers to take a chance on the concept!”
The first show was a massive success and sold out over capacity — to the point where audience members had to sit on rails, steps, even each other. “Doing what you love, no matter how weird you think it is, creates a certain kind of energy that other people want to be a part of,” Hobin says now.
One of the ingenious things about Shakespeare is that he wrote for everyone. You didn’t have to be a scholar to enjoy his plays. Burlesque is similarly accessible. “Burlesque is a platform for an artist to express without restrictions,” Hobin explains. “As far as I can tell, there aren’t any limits as to what you can and cannot do…. [Burlesque] is an invitation to do and be whatever you want, for five to 10 minutes, mostly naked.”