Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Review of MISS APRIL DAY'S SCHOOL FOR STRIPPERS

I went to see Miss April Day's School for Burgeoning Young Strippers at the Vancouver Fringe Festival on Granville Island last night with Ryann Rain. I was very excited to see it since the creator, June Morrow, had promoted the show in the naked truth forums.

It is a one-woman comedy by a former exotic dancer that makes fun of some of the finer points to exotic dancing – such as booth tanning, stage names, and competition among VIP dancers.

I have to say there were moments when I was laughing so hard that tears were literally coming out of my eyes. I had to stifle myself many times because I could barely contain the giggles. Some of the jokes are extremely funny if you've been or are a stripper. My friend, dancer Ryann Rain, and I laughed very loud at some jokes that others didn't seem to get.

But...there were also parts where everyone else was laughing but we weren't. June most definitely represents the role of the degraded stripper saying things like she "hated" herself as an exotic dancer. At first her show seems refreshingly sex positive and funny. But there is an underlying sell out to the stereotypes.

I was very disappointed to find just another recreation of society's misconceptions - reinforced by the fact that it's delivered by a former stripper. She doesn't give any credit to the creativity, hard work, or skill that goes into being an exotic dancer.

What could be an incredible show that laughs at the follies of stripping while challenging the misconceptions turns out to be just another regurgitation of mainstream feminism's anti-pornography rhetoric. The 20% of the show that condemns stripping overshadows the 80% of hilarious, light-hearted content and gives it a sinister feel.

June Morrow’s amazing performance ability, excellent writing, and ability to tell a fantastic joke are testaments to the creativity, intelligence, and showmanship common among exotic dancers. But that is not the message that sticks in your mind. Her closing is a warning not to be a stripper. The mostly mainstream crowd in attendance was obviously not challenged in any way by her content. They left believing that all of their pre-conceived notions about strippers are true.

I wore my “I *heart* strippers” shirt to her show, and felt distinctly out of place in it. To say that I was disappointed is a grave understatement.


I hope this kind of feedback might cause her to re-evaluate her message in her show. I think it would make the show even better. Not just because of the political implications of her message, but because I found the negative vibe of the show to be in contradiction with the rest of the performance. It didn't fit. It's almost like she added it to try and appease society or apologize for being a stripper.

Ryann Rain, summed it up perfectly: "We all know there's an ugly side, and the highest highs and lowest lows to stripping... but I left the show last night feeling targeted and condemned. It fed all the stereotypes of drug use, poor parenting, being trapped, and that it was an entirely damaging experience to dance-- for everyone. ‘Don't peel-- just be real’ was the message and I was really upset that she would make it so anti-stripping when she's obviously making a living using her experiences as a stripper!"

4 comments:

Ryann said...

sigh... yeah...
that show was so unfortunate. You did a great job on the review. You got it bang on. I'm proud of you for saying something to her.

and I'm really glad I got to hang out with you.

Love you!

Anonymous said...

If you are a voice for strippers shouldn't you support all their voices and not just the ones you like? Would June's act have been better if she ONLY spoke about the good? No it would be a lie. Neither you nor June are stripping now but rather relaying the stories you hear from others who are. And only the good ones at that. Do you really know whats going on anymore? Its not about 'creativity' and hasn't been for a long time, this isn't a trip to the theater, its a bar and usually a crappy one where the managers and owners are...not the most respected in society shall we say who promote and pressure us to do more than dance and you should know that. Why are you not stripping for a living now if it was all so positive? Wouldn't that make your message more believable?

Annie Temple said...

I'm not dancing anymore for two reasons - one, I like to put my kids to bed at night and it is largely an evening occupation; and two, I don't have the body for it anymore.

It sounds like your experience dancing is not a good one. I'm sorry to hear that. I have never worked in a club that pressured me to do more than just dance and while I am not dancing anymore, I am in daily contact with many people who still are a part of the industry in BC, Canada. It is not my impression that this is the case in the clubs here.

Regardless of whether some clubs have "extras" or are owned and run by exploitive people, I will never agree with or anyone who says exotic dance is not about creativity. I believe that all sex work is erotic art, whether you're doing it on stage with no contact, or doing it in an alley. It takes skill and creativity. Sex work is erotic art.

If you do it and you hate it - then you shouldn't be doing it. But you'll never convince me that the whole industry is shit. Because it's not.

woodoow said...

I agree with Anonymous. As a former sex-worker, I had to take a lot of shit. And it's not fair to tell someone "If you do it and you hate it - you shouldnt be doing it", you should know better than that. People do sex-work for a variety of reasons, the biggest is financial need.
Anyway, as an artist, I believe it necessary to add those darker undertones, without judgment, to fully flesh out a play. I didnt see the show so I cant tell if it was too much or too little, but I think that without delving into the seedier aspects of that world, any show would have ended up being too pep and superficial and 'politically-correct'. Boring.