Artist Spotlight: Pisa Cake

Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

Who are you and what do you do?

Pisa Cake; mostly a burlesque performer and producer, but I wear a lot of hats.  I’m also a vintage lifestyle enthusiast and animal advocate.  In my muggle life, I’m a software engineer.  Booooorinnng.  Having Pisa as my alter ego brings me balance.

Why does it matter?   

Burlesque has offered many an outlet to reclaim themselves in an art form that some people may be quick to dismiss as frivolity. People are told their whole lives by mainstream society to look a certain way, what’s sexy, what is an acceptable way to behave, etc.  Burlesque liberates people from these imposed constructs, and allows for exploration of other perspectives in a healthy, safe medium where the artist takes ownership of their bodies, their sexuality, and their purpose.  Further, the act of baring oneself for an audience is surreal, and the energy exchange between an audience and entertainer is a powerful one.  Whether I’m doing a classic strip tease, something comedic, or a performance art piece with some kind of message, I am sharing a piece of myself.  I hope spectators leave feeling in some way affected, and at the very least, simply entertained.

When did you realize performing was what you wanted to do?  

What a difficult question….my first memory of thinking “that’s what I want to do” is when I saw Madonna rolling around on stage to “Like a Virgin” on the MTV VMAs as a kid. Throughout high school I was always doing musical theater, and my first “big” solo when I was a freshman was “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the musical Gypsy.  Mind you, a play loosely chronicling the life of Gypsy Rose Lee, one of the most famous burlesquers of all time.  If that’s not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is!

Do you remember what it was like in the beginning?  

CHALLENGING.  The program I initially started with didn’t have the structure needed to properly prepare me for the stage.  Lots of failure, rejection, and tears.  I quit at one point, completely tired of fighting the uphill battle to find a niche to make my burlesque debut.  But then a touring troupe from Brooklyn (where I’m from) came through town and reignited my passion.  Shortly thereafter, a producer in Phoenix took a chance on me, and after that, I just went from 0 to 60.  What I lacked in experience and fine-tuned skill, I made up for with my drive and passion.  I was the first independent burlesque performer in Tucson, and after taking education about the ins and outs of production at conventions, I started to produce my own shows.  Slowly at first, the pool of performers in Tucson started to grow, and then the scene exploded into a mushroom cloud of glitter.  Now, the Phoenix and Tucson scene heavily co-mingle, and here in town, four venues regularly host burlesque, we have two education programs, and a very large pool of performers to source from for my shows.  It’s awesome.

What is your dream performance?

In Italy.  Really anywhere there….even performing in my pajamas for an audience of uncooked spaghetti would suffice.

Which living person do you most admire?

Jessica Shuman, the director of the animal rescue I volunteer with, Tucson CARES.  She’s the most selfless, patient person I’ve ever met, and an absolute tireless warrior advocating for the lives of innocent animals in Pima County.

Which living person do you most despise?

Donald Trump.  If only this answer were the same for more people…

What is the quality do you most like in a person?

Seeing the humor in things most people don’t.  I laugh at the most inappropriate times, and at unexpected things.  Pigeons are hilarious – have you ever watched pigeons?  HYSTERICAL.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  

Having the honor of having World Famous *BOB* host one of my shows.  In my home, I replaced the spot my college diploma used to hang with that show’s poster.  While she’s not widely known out here, she’s a HUGE performance art icon, and in the burlesque community. She’s regarded with the highest respect.  She’s been a staple of the burlesque revival (which started in the mid-90s in NYC), where our art form was reborn thanks to trailblazers like Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Tigger!, and Angie Pontani.

What is your favorite word?  

“Rad”

What is your least favorite word?

“Tits”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

For all three, compassion.  Probably best “sexually” was omitted, or I’d be writing all day.

What turns you off?

Indifference.  Long beards.

What’s your favorite curse word?

“Goddammit”.

What sound or noise do you love?  

Electric violin in rock, pop-punk, or other genres that the violin seems an unconventional fit.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Rapid gunfire and/or explosions, like in first-person shooter video games.  Goes right through me – instant discontent.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  

Being a lawyer.

What profession would you not like to do?  

Anything involving a hair net.  #bighairmatters

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 

“You made a difference.”  God better be Alanis Morissette.

You can also catch Ms. Cake in various burlesque shows around Tucson as well as The VaudVil Variety Show on Dec 17 and be sure to visit The Screening Room on Monday, December 12 (Today) to see a short interview with her during the Variety Open Mic at 7:30pm.

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