The Bechdel Test Burlesque show I am bringing to the University of Oregon campus on April 29, 2016 got lead story coverage in The Daily Emerald this week:
‘Bechdel Test Burlesque’ brings together nerd culture, feminism and dance
JoJo Stilletto’s first exposure to the world of burlesque happened inside a University of Oregon classroom.
“When I was a freshman, I was tossed into a campus production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show completely blind. Within a year, a few friends and I were running a local cast,” remarks Stilletto, more commonly known by her non-stage name, Jessica Obrist.
A journalism alum from the class of 2000, Obrist holds a day job in the world of advertising. But she has another degree, this one self-proclaimed: She is the “Professor of Nerdlesque, world’s leading expert in nearly naked nerds,” – and her show Bechdel Test Burlesque will be coming to the UO on Friday, April 29.
Bechdel was the product of Obrist and four other women, united by burlesque’s unique ability to satirize and highlight both the body and brain. It’s a geek-focused comedy and dance show that celebrates the female form while also paying homage to female heroes. The show takes iconic female characters, new and old, and places them in skits that satirize the patriarchal elements of their respective stories.
“It’s important that we can do a skit about Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the same stage as one about a Star Trek captain,” Obrist said.
While the term burlesque may conjure ideas of strip clubs or other forms of shallow sexual pageantry, Bechdel follows in the art-form’s legacy of social critique.
“The original burlesque shows would satirize contemporary operas and politics while wearing form-fitting costumes. Burlesque has always been a way for women to use their bodies and sexuality [by] calling it art,” Obrist said.
The show gets its namesake from the Bechdel Test, a feminist theory introduced by graphic artist Alison Bechdel. It’s a simple test: If a film features at least one conversation between two named female characters, do they talk about any subject other than a man or a relationship? Despite this low bar, most films fail the test.
Bechdel Test Burlesque is making an appearance at UO thanks to a visiting professor at the women and gender studies department, Ed Chang.
Chang has taught multiple classes about pop culture at the UO, including explorations into the worlds of director Joss Whedon and live-action role playing. When Chang came to UO, the university worked with him to get an Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Grant — typically used to attend conferences and provide research materials. Chang set a portion aside to bring an outside educator to the university.