Isaac Layes is a sort of neo-burlesque pirate, honing in anywhere a freak flag is raised and bringing the treasures found thereunder back to his hometown for night of all things fun, funny and sexy. At the time of this writing, he is in the unofficial Mecca of freak flags, Las Vegas, for the industry's largest annual event: the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. On June 22, he'll amass artists, musicians, dancers and performers from New York to Florida for a show that he says simply doesn't happen in cities the size of Williamsport.
"Our industry is experiencing a renaissance and Williamsport is a place that I'm not sure even realizes how unique it is in terms of the breadth of artistic talent available in a city that is relatively small," he said, adding, "Williamsport's support of the arts benefits more than just Williamsport, and makes the non-artistic parts of the city worthwhile, because there is an attractive, imaginative culture here that adds to the quality of life."
The word "burlesque" can easily conjure up bacchanal images of the risque to the casual observer - lewdness to the uninformed or closed-minded, an association that Layes seeks to clarify.
The “Burlescapades” will be held at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., June 22. Doors open at 5 p.m., circus acts begin at 6 p.m., the Burlesque show starts at 7 p.m. and the carny show begins at 11 p.m.
Advance tickets are available for $15 until 11:59 p.m. June 14 and will be available at the door of the event for $20.
"Billtown Burlesque is envisioned as a welcoming, inspirational [and] modern expression of a classically humorous and sexy art form, encompassing a wide range of performance styles," Layes said.
"Spanning a continuum of art forms and musical genres, we are dedicated in showcasing original and creative performances incorporating sexiness, comedy, political satire and most importantly, FUN," he added. Performers will be showcasing their skills with fire, balloons, hula hoops, sword swallowing, magic, fortune telling and the burlesque staple of striptease.
What's more, Layes' own troupe (called, fittingly enough, Billtown Burlesque) regularly raises money for local causes and charities. (It was the first Billtown Burlesque show that raised enough to get Williamsport community radio station WXPI its start - a performance that Layes said wouldn't have gotten off the ground itself without the help and support of local entrepreneurs Liz Miele and Matt Schauer).
Layes defines Billtown Burlesque as "a classic-vaudevillian neo-burlesque troupe," which, he said, means they offer novelty acts, including magic shows and fire-eating and scripted pieces - like satires and theatrical performances - as well as routines categorized under burlesque's sexier side: dance and striptease.
Beside Layes, the ever-growing, ever-changing group currently consists of April Phresh, Armand Hammer, Frey Guy, JingerSnap, Tequila Mockingbird and The Magic of Steve Hyde and Ashlyn Mae.
"The troupe is now comprised of people with theatrical backgrounds who are professionals on and off stage," Layes said.
Billtown Burlesque will share the stage with fellow burlesque performers Aerial Gypsy Burlesque, Bunny Bedford, Dainty Dandridge, Eyrie Twilight, Glam Gamz, Jenny Gyrates, Ms. Sabrina Grey, Private Tails, Ravyn Lunatique, Velvet Kensington and others, as well as bands like Pennsylvania's This Way to the Egress, D.C.'s Mab Just Mab, and Florida's Hellzapoppin Sideshow Review.
Layes has big plans for 2014 as well. "Next year will probably be a little different because I will be working on a citywide festival to be held in the fall of 2014 and haven't yet decided if Billtown Burlescapades will take place in June or be a part of that weekend-long event," he said, adding "What's certain is that our festival will continue to be a high-quality show."
This year's Burlescapades will be kicked off June 21 with a pre-party at Rumrunner's Pub and Eatery, 341 N. Market St., and feature San Diego-based musician Diablo Dimes. The event's after party also will be held at Rumrunner's on the night of the 22nd. Rumrunner's is online at www.rumrunnerspub.com and may be reached at 322-0303.
The "Burlescapades" will be held at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Aven., June 22. Doors open at 5 p.m., circus acts begin at 6 p.m., the Burlesque show starts at 7 p.m. and the carny show begins at 11 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $15 until 11:59 p.m. June 14 and will be available at the door of the event for $20.
For tickets, visit Billtown Burlesque online at www.billtownburlesque.com or go to www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, visit the troupe's website, find them on Facebook, email billtownBSQ@gmail.com or call 717-779-3457.