'Magical Creatures' from Athens belly dance, burlesque and drag link up for variety show
Lisa Mason was carrying a sword when she met up with the Banner-Herald to talk about her upcoming variety show, "The Magical Creature Cabaret," a one-night-only event scheduled to take place Mar. 29 at The Rialto Room, the performance space at Hotel Indigo at 500 College Ave., Athens.
Though the sword is part of a dance act Mason will be doing, it was also a sign that she meant business.
With a roster that will incorporate belly dance, burlesque, drag, juggling, stand-up comedy and more, the show is being advertised as an "intimate cabaret" that is "only for the grown and magical" and is intended for ages 18 and up. In this Q&A with arts and culture reporter Andrew Shearer, Mason discusses her background and what went into putting "The Magical Creature Cabaret" together.
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Andrew Shearer: In terms of Athens nightlife, drag is thriving but belly dance and burlesque have been slower to come back since COVID. How did the "Magical Creatures" show come together?
Lisa Mason: I was an elementary school teacher for seven years, and when the pandemic hit, I was done. I stopped teaching and started focusing more on dance and performance, building my repertoire and also my presence in town. I bounced around between a few different companies and troupes but never really found my home, so I founded Belli Dance Athens. We've been around for about a year and we have 10 members in the dance company, and I also teach classes. I've got like six members in the classes. For the Magical Creature Cabaret, I'm pulling folks from there and from Athens Showgirl Cabaret, which I started performing with over the pandemic. I'm serving as producer, show runner, talent scout and public relations for [Magical Creatures], and it's been really fun. It never feels like work.
Shearer: What made you decide to produce a variety show rather than just focusing on dance?
Mason: I really want to support expressive arts. One of my big reasons for doing this is because I feel like performers should be recognized for the artists that they are. They work really hard. A lot of them spend hours making their own costumes from scratch. It's a part-time if not a full-time job. The way that I've structured my business model is that I rent a studio rather than own a studio space, so I don't have really any overhead. For the Magical Creature Cabaret, we are actually going to pay the performers, even if it's like 20 bucks. It just feels so good to get paid because it makes it feel real somehow, if that makes sense. It shouldn't take that to make it feel real, but it does. And speaking of getting paid, we're going to have coins that guests can buy at the show and give to the performers instead of throwing cash. I've seen it done at shows in Atlanta and it works much better than bills flying everywhere.
Shearer: You chose magic and mythical creatures as the theme for the event. Is there a particular reason behind that?
Mason: A friend of mine in Pennsylvania does this thing called Fae Soiree, and I really thought something like that would be great here. It's not done in a bar, so it feels more like live theater and the audience is really there for the performance. I love the idea of it being magical because I feel like there's so much of that missing here. Athens doesn't have a cosplay event, but I know it's a thing here. I went to this bar downtown on a random night, and I saw several younger people dressed in animal-like cosplay just for fun. They had these horse legs on, some had wings on or they were wearing like a unicorn onesie. There was no theme night or special event going on. I was like, "Oh, like this, people want to do this and they want this kind of self expression." So instead of sticking closely to mythology for our show, there's a little bit of leeway. One of our performers is going to be kind of next door to human. I'd say more but I don't want to spoil it.
For tickets and detailed information, visit eventbrite.com/e/the-magical-creature-cabaret-a-night-of-bellydance-burlesque-and-beauty-tickets-489067302467.
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: 'Magical' cabaret to feature Athens burlesque, drag, comedy and dance