Land of the Sweets, The Burlesque Nutcracker: A Q & A with Creators Verlaine and McCann

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The Arabian coffee scene, burlesque style

If the traditional version of The Nutcracker is too tame for you, take it up a notch and get your burlesque on (or should we say, off) with Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker. Created by the dynamic, cabaret-inspired duo of Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann, this holiday favorite celebrates 11 seasons this year and returns to the main stage of the Triple Door.

Seattle magazine sat down with the creators to reflect on what a long and sexy trip it’s been.

Seattle magazine: Is there a secret to the show’s continued success?

Jasper McCann: Lily has a classical ballet background, I have a background in music and writing, and this particular form [burlesque] is accepted in Seattle because it’s such and open-minded city. It’s encouraged us to put forth good work and see where we can improve and where we can get better. I honestly believe we’ve done that over these past 11 years.

Lily Verlaine: And what I try and bring to it is a modern politic. I have a background feminist theory. My college degree in feminist studies. And because of the nature of the beast, you’ve got people getting into very vulnerable states, by partially disrobing on stage. What that is, politically, is extremely important to me. So, we have a way of being able to blend this light hearted visual aesthetic with an empowerment of all the individuals of our company, whether they be gay, straight, women, men, somewhere between; the sexual politics make their way in.

SM: How did the Land Of Sweets develop?

LV: I have a classical ballet background, and ballet is a lot about a particular visual aesthetic, which tends to make me a bit rebellious. The Nutcracker has a particular scene that’s always been very intriguing to me, the Arabian coffee scene. And often the woman is portrayed as being enslaved, which I find very challenging and a terrible example for young women.

So, I decided that since is was the Arabian coffee act, and I’m really into burlesque and glamour, I wanted to be a person who was being undressed by their male attendants, taking a bath in a giant steaming coffee cup, and every step of the way the character is acutely aware of what her position is.

And [that] she has a lot of agency is the point. I’ve seen a lack of agency in The Nutcracker and a lot of young girls see it. Not that young girls are seeing this show, but I wanted [that scene] to have some power.

SM: When did the Triple Door become involved?

JM: It was the summer of 2006. We only did four shows in 2006 and this year we’re doing 36. Two shows a night—every night. We’re surrounded by an incredible cast, and everyone is on board.

LV: We get a lot from the audience. Because burlesque is a call and response with the audience, each show feels completely new because every audience is different.

SM: How do you get a polite Seattle audience to call and respond?

LV: Jasper actually comes out as a conductor before the show with a candy cane baton and conducts audience to start “wooing.” Eventually, they catch on. >> Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker runs through December 29th at the Triple Door. 

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