"The first festival was in 2007, but we took a break in 2008 ... and then the next one came back in 2009, [so] this is the actual 10th production of the festival," says producer Lynn Raridon of the Texas Burlesque Festival.
Audrey Maker, who co-founded the fest, continues the history. "I started the Texas Burlesque Festival with Stacey Breakall, and ..."
"A.K.A. Tijuana Trixie," Raridon adds.
"Tijuana Trixie, yes, after both of us had been producing individual shows on our own for a while," Maker continues. "And we didn't really know how many people there were doing burlesque all over Texas. And we got people from Dallas and Corpus Christie and San Antonio, and everywhere you can think of in Texas."
Maker and Breakall (who is known not only as Tijuana Trixie but also as my wife) left the festival after that first year, passing the torch and production responsibilities to Raridon. After taking a year off in 2008, Raridon re-launched the fest in 2009, and it's taken place in Austin every year since.
As the festival continued, its reach expanded, and it now regularly features not just Texans but performers from across the country and beyond (this year, performers are coming from as far away as Yokohama, Japan). Between groups, duets, and solo artists, there'll be well over 100 performers at this year's festival.
Longtime Austin burlesque performer and producer Coco Lectric has been a part of the festival in some capacity since the beginning. "I performed in the first one," she says. "And then I came on board [as a producer] in 2010." Like everyone involved with the festival, she's very excited that this year's fest will take place at the famed Paramount Theatre. "This is groundbreaking," she says. "Even still now, we're still convincing venues in Austin to let us perform there, and there are very few venues we can perform at in Austin...so the fact that we get to do it at the historic Paramount Theatre is absolutely groundbreaking, and an amazing thing."
It's not entirely clear if burlesque has ever been performed at the Paramount -- it's possible that legendary performer Sally Rand took the stage there in 1935, but the records aren't clear. So this might be the first time burlesque has been at the Paramount in its 102 year history.
Raridon's love of burlesque is due in part to its inclusive nature. "We now have people of every gender, every potential gender identity, on that stage," she says. "There's a degree of vulnerability there, because let's face it: you're going to be potentially disrobing and you're going to be down to the bare essence -- literally -- of who are. And what are you going to say with that? What kind of a statement are you going to make?"