Toil & Trouble (and Pasties)

Toil & Trouble (and Pasties)

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 ( 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”).

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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.”

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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!”

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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.

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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.”

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