"I started developing it in 2009," says Amparo Garcia-Crow of STRIP The Musical, "and I was only focused on one character at that point, which was Candy Barr."
Barr, the Texas-born burlesque legend, lived a troubled life that fascinated Garcia-Crow. "Her story is incredibly distressing and transcending," she says.
Barr's early life reportedly included sexual assault at a young age, forced prostitution while she was still a teenager, and a stint in prison based on dubious criminal charges.
"So that's a story that was already shocking in itself," Garcia-Crow says. "And on the other end of her story, she kind of gets enlightened -- wakes up -- in prison. But when she got there, she educated herself. She was one of the first self publishers. She wrote a book of poetry called A Gentle Mind, Confused."
As the project progressed, Garcia-Crow widened its scope to include stories of other controversial performers with ties to the burlesque world. "Once I started to do research, Lenny Bruce popped up really fast in the burlesque universe," she says. "And I realized, now there's a great counterpart."
Garcia-Crow's work often deals with race, and that's a theme she wanted to inclued in STRIP as well. "Once I started to do that research, I was hoping I could find a Latina that I didn't know about, but I didn't," she says. "I found Josephine Baker though, and I thought 'perfection.'"
Lynn Raridon, who's been friends with Garcia-Crow since their college days, was enlisted to help create STRIP The Musical early on. "I was brought in as a choreographer -- or as I actually like to think of myself, a movement facilitator," Raridon says. "But, yes, Ampy has a way of, when people start working with her, next thing you know it's like, 'you know what, I think I'd like you to have a part in this.'" So Raridon's now appearing in the musical in addition to creating the choreographer.
"We play with gender... race... we're meant to push the envelope so you go to your mind," Garcia-Crow says. "It's taking you to your place in your head."
"It's pushing the boundaries of 'what is your perception of obscene?'" Raridon says. "Because each one of these performers -- at some point in time -- what they were doing was deemed obscene."