It’s clear that George R.R. Martin has a self-deprecating sense of humor.
The celebrated “Game of Thrones” author most recently appeared in the Syfy Channel’s campy “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” getting devoured by a shark at a movie theater he owns in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Martin will be back at his Jean Cocteau Cinema on Sept. 14 and 15 to watch a group of burlesque performers from Virginia put on their show “Burlesque Is Coming” — a play on ‘winter is coming,” the motto of the show’s House Stark.
The group will include Richmond’s Dante the Inferno, a male performer who does a striptease while dressed as Martin himself, a distinctive, portly man with a gray beard and a penchant for Greek fishermen’s hats and suspenders.
Martin invited the group to bring its show to his theater after seeing a performance by one of the producers at Seattle’s sci-fi convention Norwescon. Staged by Richmond-based Blacklist Burlesque, which also has mounted productions at Richmond CenterStage based on “The Princess Bride” and Jim Henson’s Muppets, it is the only burlesque show to which Martin has given his stamp of approval.
“There are many ‘Game of Thrones’-themed burlesque shows, but we are the only one to have gotten an official personal nod,” says co-producer Moxie LaBouche, a stage name. “And not only that but he has invited us out to the theater he owns. … It is the biggest nerd cred ever.”
When Blacklist mounted the show last year it included the “Game of Thrones” name, “but Mr. Martin has warned us off using [that] … because of his agreements with HBO,” LaBouche says. “We could use the other book titles like ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,” but a burlesque troupe in New Orleans calls theirs ‘A Thong of Ice and Fire,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, why didn’t I think of that?’”
Martin met LaBouche’s friend and co-producer, Bella LaBlanc of Fairfax County, when she performed burlesque routines in Seattle as Martin’s characters Cersei Lannister and Melisandre.
“He came backstage and met the cast at Norwescon. He was very sweet and complimented all of us,” LaBlanc recalls. “He liked the comedic aspect of my Cersei Lannister routine and he liked the seriousness of … my Melisandre. A lot of us didn’t do it based off the TV series; we do it based off the books … and he was really impressed with that.”
Describing herself as “a fan girl,” LaBlanc says, “I literally tripped over myself and landed at his feet” when meeting Martin. “I said, ‘Hi, Mr. Martin!’ and we started talking and got some pictures.”
When Martin asked her to call him about bringing the show to Santa Fe, she says: “I was the happiest girl in the world. … I can’t say enough nice things about this man. I can happily say that he is humble and he is just a genuinely nice man.”
The Blacklist Burlesque group performs what it calls “nerdlesque,” which combines the obsessive joys of fandom costumed play with the sexy and funny aspects of burlesque, LaBouche explains. For example, the performer who plays Brienne of Tarth is having actual armor forged for her routine.
As for LaBouche, at 5-foot-2, she performs the role of the Mountain, a nearly 8-foot-tall villainous knight known for some truly gnarly on-screen moments, such as squishing the head of a dueling opponent. LaBouche’s recreation of the moment involves a jelly doughnut.
“I [also] glued body hair all over myself,” she says. “If you’re not suffering, it’s not art —and trying to get that stuff off my skin was suffering.”
The group kicks off its tour at CenterStage and will work its way across the nation, picking up other performers in cities such as Atlanta and Dallas. On a serious note, many of the performers are risking or quitting jobs to be in the production, LaBouche says. Last week a Hopewell High School teacher resigned when it was discovered she performs burlesque. While Lottie Ellington (the teacher’s stage name) has performed in Blacklist productions in the past, she’s not in this show. “Lottie is a solid performer and every bit a professional,” LaBouche says. “The Richmond burlesque scene has lost a lot of good performers because their jobs said it’s us or them.”
“We are very much like a family and we meet from around the country to do this,” LaBlanc says. “It’s so amazing and I am so proud to be a co-producer of this production.” S
“Burlesque Is Coming” plays Richmond CenterStage on Aug. 8 at 9 p.m. and midnight, with an encore Sept. 18. Tickets cost $12 in advance via richmondcenterstage.com.