Today's performer I have had the opportunity to share the stage with in one of my favourite events so far - The Chicago shadow cast (performing in front of the film). So what better way to get to know someone further, than by a lockdown interview! I chat with the incredible Ira Luxuria about all things performance from competitions to producing, make up to future goals, and MORE! Happy reading (and don't forget at the end of each interview there are links to follow the performers online! Such an easy way to support local artists).
(photo by Mark Gambino - cropped) 1. You have been a performer for a hot minute, when did you start performing?
My whole introduction to performance was via my university life. I’d been experimenting with performance art during my visual art degree, but really admitted I wanted to perform for applause when I joined the Monash student theatre community. I performed in a few student-directed plays, and the theatre at Monash had an amazing cabaret programme which is where I first tried burlesque. A couple of years later I also tried drag for the first time in the same venue. I think that space is so nurturing and encouraging that I was able to then enter the wider performing scene not only with some confidence, but also some friends who knew my face.
2. That sounds like a great beginning. Tell me about the style of performance you do. What would you say your signature style is?
Ooh that's always been a difficult one for me, but I think I would call my performance style 'story and character-based burlesque'. I'm very rarely doing a dance purely for the technical execution- I'd like to reveal a story, and I genderbend according to whatever the sorry in my head requires.
3. Artists are inspired by many things, what inspires you to perform?
I’d say the most common way I start thinking ‘I have to make a performance’ is when a song really captures my imagination. I’ll get obsessed with a song for a week or two, and it will generate a character in my head. You know when you were a kid and you wouldn’t just listen to the Spice Girls, you’d BE the Spice Girls in your bedroom? That phase never died for me. I have to take this fantasy from my head and try to embody it. The joy I’ve gotten and given to others from following that instinct inspires me to do it again and again.
4. You came runner up at Miss Burlesque Victoria in 2019 (woo!). What was the most challenging thing about that competition? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing for me was continuing to stay positive about my own talents in the face of my own very high standards. Certainly the performers who mentored and coached me would say that I was questioning and doubting myself a lot, so I had to push back against that. The competition wasn’t about other performers vs me, but just about me saying ‘I’m good enough. I’m talented. I’m going to show everyone what I can do when I really work hard’. And the rewarding part was leaving the stage after each of my performances having genuinely had fun for the duration of the act, and being so proud of the fully evolved pieces I created.
5. You have produced some amazing shows and seasons of events, what do you think is the most difficult thing about being a producer? What has been the most successful show you have produced?
Thank you! I would say that I’m a details person, so I tend to approach even big tasks like producing with an eye on the little details. For me personally the challenge is to actively remind myself to pull back look at the bigger picture and make sure I work out all the things I can get done (with my nitpicky artist eye!) and what I need to delegate to others helping me. You were involved in one of the shows I did last year, a shadow cast performance accompanying the movie Chicago with burlesque, drag, acrobatics etc. I also can’t fail to mention the shadow cast shows I produce along with Stella Del Lure for Rocky Horror at the Astor cinema. Our group The Pelvic Thrusts have been running the audience participation shadow cast show for a few years now, and the energy in that room is always unbelievable.
6. That's an impressive list of events! Along with performer and producer, you have fabulous make-up concepts! I am loving your TikTok videos and photos on socials. Tell me about the inspiration behind creating different looks and characters.
I’ve gotten so much inspiration from TikTok itself, there is so much talent on there! Generally I’m inspired by something that I consider a real peak of prettiness or glamour- for example, fashion and hair styles of the 18th century- and then the idea of pushing that further into the realm of grotesque. I think the best drag takes one or two concepts and just runs at it like a truck!
7. Restrictions have been really tough in Victoria due to the pandemic, what do you find most difficult about being a performer in isolation as a result of COVID19?
I’ll preface my answer with acknowledging that I was not a full-time entertainer before lockdown, and have been lucky enough to keep my day job during COVID. It’s been really sad watching performers who were pursuing their careers have to pull back because the work has dried up. It hurts to think of how much art the general public consume while still considering artists as unnecessary.
I think that despite Zoom performances and the pre and post show chats we can still have as artists, there’s nothing that replaces the nervous excited vibes backstage, the warmth of stage lights, and the release of having drinks and a dance with other performers after the show finishes. It’s all the physical sensations that can’t be replicated in digital form. I also just really miss the excitement of being in a screaming audience! I try to clack as hard as I can on my keyboard but it’s not the same!
8. I really miss that aspect of live performance too. You have performed in a few online shows, what was the experience like compared to a live event? What sort of things do you consider in creating an act that would be different to a live show?
I’ve never had to think so hard about sight lines, lighting and backdrop as when I’ve done Zoom shows. You have to be more concerned with the staging than you ever have to when you bring your gear into a venue like The 86! This has affected my acts positively in a sense though, because the acts I’ve done via Zoom work with shadows and camera angles to create mood. If you’re performing to a camera, you can manipulate the perspective of a live audience all at once, which is powerful.
9. Are you working on anything new whilst in isolation/iso-projects?
I’m getting very interested in wig styling, my new candy floss king wig is based on pictures I was researching of 18th century wigs. I’m gearing up for a (digital) appearance at the Australian Burlesque Festival and I’ll be in a competition later in the year. As for The Pelvic Thrusts, we’re also looking into how we can bring our usual movie magic to life later in the year!
10. What is your proudest moment as a performer thus far and why?
BIG QUESTION! I really do feel proud of how I went in Miss Burlesque Victoria last year, as well as my work producing shows for the Sunday Movie Club with Wyndham City Council. Truly though, when we’re up in front of an 800 strong crowd at the Astor with The Pelvic Thrusts, putting on a show to celebrate an iconic movie and welcome the queerest, weirdest, loudest parts of our audience, I am so proud of myself as a performer, and as a person.
11. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a performer?
I want to be known as a charismatic performer with a beautiful artistry who really blended burlesque and drag together, served fantastic looks and inspired others to show more of their inner fantasy world.
12. What are your future plans/goals as a performer?
I want to perform in more Fringe shows! I want to tour with a show! I want to develop my own show from the concept up! I want to compete in more burlesque and drag competitions! I want to specifically perform boylesque! I have a LOT of act ideas that I want to get off the ground and make bigger and more beautiful than anything I’ve done previously. Truly I just want to keep going in my direction but harder and faster. Follow Ira online by clicking the links below: Facebook Instagram The Pelvic Thrusts