Raven Snook is a Jewish mother who acts, writes, edits… and periodically performs topless in an all-moms burlesque revue. She appeared in the original downtown run of Urinetown, portrayed a vampire on the ABC sitcom Talk to Me, guested as a “female female impersonator” on The Maury Povich Show, played a dominatrix-like self-help guru in the short film Slo-Mo, waxed poetic at The Moth and Heeb Storytelling, and was one of three female drag queens featured in the documentary, The Faux Real. And now she talks to Kveller about how that all fits with raising a daughter in NYC.
Alright, first things first: What exactly is burlesque?
Wow, how much time ya got? Back in the day, burlesque was a naughty offshoot of family-friendly vaudeville with bawdy comics and ladies disrobing, though often in a tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top way. But on the neo-burlesque scene, anything goes. Many acts are like sexy performance art without the pretensions but with pasties. Pretty much anything goes, but having a cheeky sense of humor and creative costuming and storytelling skills are much more important than having a perfect body.
You co-created an all-Jewish burlesque show called Kosher ChiXXX. Why the specifically Jewish angle? What is the history of Jews and burlesque, and where do we Jews fit into the scene today?
The Jewish Daily Forward recently did a whole article on the phenomenon of Jewish burlesque–the accompanying NC-17 video created quite a tizzy in the comments section, too. When Minnie Tonka and I originally founded that show in 2004, themed burlesque shows were just starting to take off. She worked for the 14th Street Y at the time and was asked to come up with Jewish-themed performances as part of the Howl! Festival. We were brainstorming and we thought, why not Jewish burlesque? Read the rest of this entry →