Q&A with The Bookish Beauty of Burlesque
March 29, 2019
Lacy Knickers: Badass of B
Known as “The Bookish Beauty of Burlesque,” Lacy Knickers resembles more of the bookish, badass of burlesque as the years go by, with books and rhinestones piled all over the house (but more badass on a “slant,” as Emily Dickinson would say, than in your face). Lacy is a writer, producer, burlesque performer, and drag artist (also known as Nick Lacy) from Portland, Oregon. Beware the burlesque artist who reads as they bump and grind, for they shall change the world! (And inherit all the pasties…).
Intrigued by this unique performer, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to find out more about how she ended up becoming the incredible artist she is today. What better way to acquire the answers we so desperately sought than to have a little Q & A.
Q&A with Burlesque Performer Lacy Knickers
SEL: How long have you been doing Burlesque?
LK: I have been performing burlesque for five years, and producing burlesque for three years under Lacy Productions. I started late in life, since as of March 28th, I am 46 years old!
SEL: What led you to Burlesque?
LK: Curiosity. A need to express myself in a performance art way, as I have always loved dance and theatre and costuming, yet came from an extremely repressed childhood where the arts were not a priority and almost looked down upon (though I was allowed to be on the dance team in middle and high school and two plays in elementary school, which were the highlights of those years for me).
I also wished to express myself sexually in a way I never had before. About seven years ago I began to explore my sexuality more in my personal life, and attended my very first burlesque show. I knew from the moment I saw the first act on the stage that I not only wanted to do it—I could do it. I felt like I was meant to do it, as if my life had been leading up to it.
Many times, I wish I could have discovered burlesque earlier, but then I don’t think it would have been the same. I found it at the exact time I was meant to, when I was figuring out who I was as a sexual being and discovering my voice in all aspects of my life.
SEL: You aren’t only a Burlesque performer. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around all that you do. Could you tell me a little about the writer/producer side of things?
LK: I am a Renaissance artist of sorts in that I am a writer and producer as well as a performer. Writing has been a part of my life since I was in elementary school crafting my first poems and stories, and I have always been a voracious reader. The books I read feed my burlesque, my productions, and my writing, even if not detected right away on the surface of the work.
Now, I write all of the shows I produce as well as plays, scripts, and press releases for other artistic organizations and companies who hire me out as a freelancer. My own shows are diverse in that not only do I produce Booklover’s Burlesque quarterly, but also story-driven and comedic/sketch comedy burlesque shows. I always look at the shows I create with the eye of a writer and the feel of an audience member.
I choose subjects that call to me, in that I feel drawn to write them and think an audience would receive and be entertained by them well. I don’t often perform in the shows I write and produce (though occasionally I do, yet it’s extremely difficult to balance both), but I always feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction from seeing what I have written, curated, and produced come to fruition on the stage and watching/hearing the audience’s reactions to it.
I also have an MFA in Creative Writing and write fiction and poetry, but I am currently focusing more on learning the craft of playwriting at the moment. I think my writing background adds to my burlesque productions, as I try to incorporate a “story arc” into each show with a beginning, middle, and an end, no matter what kind of show it is (even if not story-driven, per se). So the overall effect of the show is a fulfilling, unique, inspiring, entertaining, full-circle, and sexy experience to the audience member.
SEL: It is my understanding that you identify as queer. Is that correct? And if so, can you tell me how it contributes to your work?
LK: I identify as bisexual/pansexual and queer. I feel like it is in every aspect of my work both as a burlesque and drag artist and as a producer because it is who I am, and I put myself into everything I bring to the stage, if that makes sense. I have found freedom in expressing my sexuality and identity on stage, and I wouldn’t give that up for the world.
SEL: On your page, you refer to yourself as a Drag Artist. Most people have a very narrow understanding of drag (usually not female performers). Can you share a little about your drag performance?
LK: I like to use the term “drag artist” since it can encompass different types of drag performance, and I enjoy exploring and experimenting with different kinds. For now I have been performing “draglesque,” which is a mix of drag and burlesque, but I would like to explore more all masculine-presenting drag king acts in the future.
My drag has been mostly gender bending/ gender fuckery—where I mix both a masculine and a feminine presentation. Drag also helps me explore my own gender identity, and l love to read about its history. There is so much to learn and devour that I have piles of books to read just on that topic alone. (Next to all the other piles of books J)
SEL: You organize something call Book Lovers Burlesque. Can you share a little about the show?
LK: Booklover’s Burlesque is the Pacific Northwest’s sexiest literary salon that matches titillating, inspiring, and empowering book readings with burlesque performances all in one show. Professional readers, actors, and/or local & out-of-town authors read aloud a three to six minute piece of poetry, fiction (from any genre), memoir, non-fiction, etc, which is then followed by a burlesque performance inspired by the piece.
The show strives to be inclusive, diverse, sex-positive, body-positive, and feminist as fuck. Its uniqueness in the way it brings two art forms together (the literary and performing arts) as well as how it explores both contemporary and classic written works of all genres mixed with neo and classic burlesque makes it stand out from other burlesque shows, as well as other literary events. It is individual and most definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.
Currently we have four shows a year… we will be celebrating our three-year anniversary. The show began as a book launch for THE V-WORD: True Stories About First Time Sex by Amber Keyser, a member of my writer’s group. Amber asked if I would produce a burlesque show as a part of her book launch event. I chose readings from the personal essays in her book and matched them with a burlesque artist that would demonstrate the “feel” of the piece in theme and emotion. Some of the actual authors themselves as well as other exemplary “readers” shared the essays first, and then the burlesque performances followed. The show was a huge success and has been ever since.
Over the years we have not only done “open theme” shows mixing all literary genres, but themed shows such as our yearly Shakespeare show in conjunction with various local theatre groups (our third annual show is Booklover’s Burlesque: As You Tease It on May 31st at Crush Bar in Portland). We have also had a “noir/mystery” theme, a “wicked/gothic” theme, and a “letters/diary/journal” theme show. Later this fall we plan on having a Booklover’s Burlesque: Vile Villains theme.
SEL: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
LK: Trying something new and different in your art can be risky, and mixing both the literary and the performing arts together was something very new to the community, both for the artists (writers and performers) and the audience members.
Sometimes it can be a challenge for those who have never seen a Booklover’s Burlesque show before to fully understand what exactly it is. No, it is not a bunch of burlesque acts about loving books or reading (though I do love those!) And no, it is not ONLY acts representing characters from books (Again, I adore those too, and we definitely have them sometimes).
The show is much more than that, presenting burlesque acts that also match with the emotion, style, and tone of a book excerpt, not only a literal representation. And the reading of the piece beforehand is an integral part of the experience, as the words hold just as much power as the burlesque act afterward. Sometimes more.
SEL: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced personally?
LK: Balancing writing, producing, performing, and family life is very, very HARD. It is a challenge I struggle with every single day. But as an artist it is in my blood to create, so the hard is worth it for my mental health!
SEL: What would you tell young women looking to get into burlesque or drag?
LK: First, I have to say that you don’t have to be “young” to get into burlesque or drag. I started when I had just turned 41 years old, definitely not young! My advice is to attend as many shows as you can, both burlesque and drag, and soak it all in. You’ll be supporting the arts and learning at the same time.
I have heard it said by many an author that one has to read one thousand books in order to write one, and though it is not meant literally, the same could be said of any art form, including burlesque and drag. I think it’s important for me to immerse myself in my art in order to create it well.
There are two schools I attended here in Portland: The Rose City School of Burlesque and All That Glitters Burlesque Academy, which are good places to start your journey if you learn best from taking classes. Once you get to know what shows are out there and have your favorites, perhaps volunteer to work on the stage crew to really see what its like “behind the scenes.”
BurlyCon is another excellent learning experience as it is an annual four-day international burlesque conference for performers and producers held in Seattle every November, so we are very fortunate to live so
LK: I am constantly learning and growing within my art and will always continue to do so. It is definitely a lifelong journey for me. I am too fond of books and burlesque and writing and drag and dance and theatre, and they have all addled my brain (and my house) forever!