Wednesday, March 17, 2021

More Than a Decade of Getting Mooned


I have a deep appreciation and respect for the pioneers of Second Life dance... the people who, as far as I know, where the first to put together a troupe and present stage shows for the entertainment of their fellow residents of this limitless virtual world.  I am so impressed that one of my all-time favourite pioneer troupes is still performing.  If you have not heard of The Blue Moon Cabaret Theatre or seen one of their shows, you really should schedule a visit.  They are, to my knowledge, the only true cabaret troupe in Second Life.  And they have been doing shows since before I knew stage shows existed.  Many well-known dancers got their start at Blue Moons.

Cabaret is defined as: a form of theatrical entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation, or drama.

It is not limited to dance, and the most satisfying cabaret incorporates a variety of mediums through which performers offer entertainment.  That is what Blue Moons offers... a true variety show, with dance routines, comedy skits, acting and recitations.  This takes guts, talent, and a heap of courage!  I am loathe to even imagine the pressure of writing a comedy skit and then having to be live on voice, reciting it, hoping to maintain composure and make people LAUGH.  But Blue Moons does it so well.  I don't know how they keep straight voices and not burst into laughter themselves during the delivery of some of their lines.

I know there are a lot of people new to SL dance.  Thus, I wanted to introduce Blue Moons to them, and share some SL performance history.  The following was written by Beth Quander in response to my request for an interview.  I thank her and Tabby Claws for organizing this for me, so that I can share The Blue Moon Cabaret Theatre with the rest of the dance community.  If you want to see a truly fun show that will leave you in tears from laughter, this is not to be missed.  Dress how you please, have voice turned on, and don't hesitate to join in the fun in local chat... they welcome hecklers!  Bring your sense of humour and prepare to have a totally irreverent, laid-back fantastic time that will leave you wanting MORE!

Moons shows are quarterly at the moment.  Meanwhile, everyone must meet Beth!  She has more energy in her pinky than I have in my entire body.  She exudes warmth, joy, and FUN.  She has that positive, uplifting vitality that makes her highly intoxicating and addictive, which seems to be a common thread amongst the crew at the Moons and permeates the atmosphere at their shows.  Everybody must get Mooned!  Read on to learn more.  Even the read is totally entertaining.

Cheers, Babypea Von Phoenix

The Blue Moon Cabaret Theatre

– by Beth Quander

“If you wanted a professional show, with elegant dances and incredible attention to detail, you visited Ellies Burlesque. If you wanted to watch a set collapse on the front row of punters, you went to Moons.” Reala is explaining the way The Blue Moon Cabaret Theatre started out. And we can happily report that this grand tradition still continues – over ten years later. “Honestly, we tried doing proper burlesque dancing in the early days. It became very clear, very quickly, we were too casual about it to be in the same league as Ellies or Naughty Box,” says Reala. “We were a scruffy bunch of misfits that enjoyed dossing about on stage. So we put our humour and creative energy into other things. With comedy sketches and stand up mixed between dances.” 

“I fell into a natural MC role with my ability to rabbit on with puns, while chaos and anarchy were breaking out backstage, and sets and props were breaking,” she says. “Nobody knew what was going on, but I think that gave us a rough and bawdy charm…”

“You don't know what life is until you've been Mooned.”
- Reala

Which definitely appealed, as there’s never been a shortage of performers. “Jaida Bayn, SexyS and Kat Feldragonne started out at Moons. And Katherine Rossini of ‘No Label’, I believe,” says Reala. Vicki Eriksen, Nikki Arentire and SisterMoon have all done interesting experiments on the stage there. And ComCat Fenstalker (she of the famous Blue Moon Intermission), Winnifred (staunch supporter of cancer research and annual fundraiser) and Cordie Cerise (of Whymsee fame) were all regular performers.

Starting life in May 2009 as a mature hangout on Freshenko, Moons has moved location, building type and performance style as moods and times changed. Its various incarnations have included a surf shop, a church, a strip club and an owl café. “We shuffled off to Zindra when it arrived, but unfortunately most people there reduced you to one thing. Which we’re not and never have been,” says Reala. 

Moons eventually returned to its original Freshenko location, stayed strictly M-rated, and shifted focus to comedy and performing burlesque skits that told a story. “We taught ourselves how to do it,” says Tabby Claws, a mere 5-month-old SL baby when she joined the crew. “And I created and performed about a dozen skits there. Creating a skit took hours to do and were nerve-wracking to perform. But I loved it!” Tabby moved on to become a full-time roller derby player, and then took a few years off from SL. “When I got back, I was delighted to see Blue Moon was still active!” she says. “I had so many firsts there. And now I’ve had another! I’ve started DJ-ing.” ‘TabbyTunes at Moons’ is now a regular monthly event supplying klassy klubbin’ for kool kats.

“It's the scrappy little underdog that continues to have grand performances.”
– Tabby Claws

“I honestly don’t know how Moons gets away with it. It’s a barely-upright Health & Safety violation with a stage, in a total backwater in SL, but somehow the place just won’t die!” says Beth Quander, one of the small group of bewildered regulars who recently found they’d become the new owners. “Seriously,” adds Cara Massimina, Massi Mega Mix DJ and now regular stage performer, “anybody who stays more than five minutes tends to keep coming back forever. That's how long it takes for the subliminal coding to take effect, I think...” And it’s true that expressing even a mild interest in being part of the show means you’re snapped up immediately. “The initiation may or may not involve paddles…” says Cara, archly. 
“The owls are not what they seem…”
– Cara Massimina

Music gigs, cabaret shows and special events have audience participation, heckling and general all-round cheekiness built in. Which may account for the general blurriness between ‘performers’ and ‘audience’ that is particular to Moons. “I think they put something in the rum,” says now MC and stand up comic Beth. “A bunch of us had been coming to Moons for years as audience members and somehow ended up on stage ourselves. And then one night Reala got us drunk and the next thing we knew, we'd somehow agreed to take over the running of the place."

"It just bloody refuses to die!"
– Beth Quander

Reala sniggers, congratulating herself on her craftiness… “But honestly, the atmosphere and vibe are still there because it's the same people running shows,” she says. “The only thing they changed was the build.” Regular Moons punters and performers are only too familiar with the build changing more often than some people change their underwear. The landmark that took you to the front door last week and now lands you in the toilet is just accepted as ‘a Moons thing’… “It's a cool new build as well,” continues Reala. “We used to keep a vintage and esoteric vibe, every single time. The new one (by the talented Sath Gandt) has a more indie feel. If you've ever listened to one of their DJ sets, you'll know why it's an awesome reflection of the new owners. Also, they kept on the owls.”

General Moons malarky

Sath is another of the regular DJs, with his ‘Danceteria’ and stints as the Devil DJ at Monsters Balls, and as the Hogfather at the annual Hogswatch Party. He also creates the sets for the music gigs and is chief technician for the irregular Cabarets and themed events (“Sath’s erections never cease to leave me breathless,” says Beth). Performances might involve laserbeam-touting flying sharks, explosions (planned and otherwise), Communist revolutions, Alien invasions, or any combination of the above.

The Devil DJ on stage with the Monsters of Mayhem

"We’re just well-meaning, collaborative folk who’re definitely in it to have fun,” says Sath. “It's basic punk. It's DIY. Very comfortably anarchic and incredibly creative.” Sath finds SL performance spaces easier in many ways than ones he encountered during his bouts of ‘amateur theatrics’ in real life. While wholly accepting that online performances throw up a whole mess of unique challenges in themselves. “I have nothing but respect for the SL dancers who get good at it. I’ve done a little choreography for Moons shows myself, and it’s not easy! It takes lot of hard work to dance in SL.”

“We’re a bunch of weirdos, but we’re fun weirdos (as long as you like that sort of thing).”
– Sath Gandt

Moons definitely attracts performers happy to work with a shoestring of available SL materials and tangle it into some sort of show. “We proudly do what we can do, when we can do it, and it's only worth doing if everyone is having a good time," beams Sath. And pulling in a large audience has never been the point. “Obviously, we’d welcome a bigger audience if we got one. But we’re clearly not in it for the money!” he points out. “It’s really about making people laugh. And the camaraderie of the Blue Moon Crew has become an incredibly strong support structure for me, personally,” he says. Tabby agrees that this attitude is at the centre of the Theatre’s personality. “We may never be as grandiose as those well-polished dance-troupes you can see at flashier venues, but it has true heart and humour unlike anywhere else.”

The Blue Moon Crew

“Moons is like that little gap between your cooker and the kitchen cabinets. It's often quiet but occasionally weird things scuttle out,” says Prue Memo, eclectic DJ, stage manager and musical director for shows. “It’s been my SL home from home for years,” she says. “Mooners are like an online cartoon family to me (close, warm, and sometimes dysfunctional…)” Like it says in the brochure: everyone’s welcome at Moons – newbies, oldbies, humans, non-humans, gendered, non-gendered, whoever, whatever. It’s nothing fancy, the rum flows free and every stain tells a story. "What's our dress code?” Beth raises an eyebrow. “Um... space pirate, monster from the abyss, 1950s cheescake.  We don't care!  If you wanna wear it, you can rock it at Moons!"  

 “Exactly. And if you’ve ever want to do some weird performance in SL, and it just doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ anywhere – then come to Moons!” says Prue. “I think we hate the idea of being formulaic or repetitive, which means we always leap at the chance to do something new or different.” Indeed, the calendar for 2021 includes cats, pirates, Doctor Who, eggs and spaceships. "Oh yes, we’re absolutely serious about bringing a true and authentic experience of Burlesque to Second Life,” say Beth. “Bwahahahahaha!  Who are we kidding? We're just a motley bunch of amateurs with far more enthusiasm than talent. If that’s the kind of place you’d like to call home, come along and join in!”

“I stepped in something sticky in 2009 and I haven’t been able to leave since.”
– Autumn Teardrop.

    You can visit Blue Moon Comedy & Cabaret Theatre Here

1 comment:

  1. "I got dragged into Moons back in 2009, haven't found a single cat beret in all these years." -Vokey