What began as a fundraiser for the local Planned Parenthood clinic in Sitka is now a bonafide cabaret company. While Ramshackle Cabaret specializes in spicy performances, the group has also evolved into what organizers call a safe zone of sexual empowerment and body positivity.
“OK, condom roses tutorial, you wrap it around …”
Teal Gordon is the co-director of the Ramshackle Cabaret. The night before the debut she was running around getting everything in order—the larger than life playing cards that act as set pieces, bean-bag sized dice and teaching her performers how to make flowers out of 400 prophylactics.
“As long as you don’t poke holes in them that’s rule No. 1,” she said. “And don’t worry if they’re not perfect. Last year we had some really funny ones.”
Gordon was a performer in the first show four years ago.
“The whole night was so magical,” she said. ‘It was incredible.”
The organizers had decided to donate proceeds to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sitka and thought they would only raise a few hundred dollars. In the end, they raised $7,000. The cabaret has snowballed from there, raising some $10,000 last year for the reproductive health care organization.
This year, some proceeds from the shows will go toward renovating the shelter run by Sitkans against Family Violence. Although the local Planned Parenthood office closed last year, other funds will be donated to Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest and are specifically earmarked for low-income women in Alaska.
The fact that the cabaret empowers women and supports sexual health is important for Casey Rhea, the show’s aesthetic director.
“It’s OK to be comfortable with your body of any type and be comfortable with sexuality in general as long as you’re safe and educated it’s not a bad thing,” Rhea said.
She says the boundary-pushing performances that involve nudity and suggestive themes are really a creative outlet.
“It has such a negative undertone in the entertainment realm in thinking that it’s just cheap and provocative when really it’s an art form,” she said. ‘Burlesque is a really classic form of art.”
The show this year has stand-up comedy, belly dancers, fire-breathers, glowing hula hoops, and even a boa constrictor. The organizers have really gone all out. There’s even a male revue for the first time.
At eight months pregnant, Margaret Hart is the big mama of the show. She’s wearing a skin-tight gold sequined dress. And it’s sexy.
Being a part of the cabaret helped Hart embrace her body.
“It’s a challenge for me personally to feel good about myself in my body,” she said. “I’m a curvy girl and it makes me really like myself and say, ‘hell, yeah, this is my body,’ and people love it. They enjoy what I give them when I give it to them, it’s also about personal choice and when they can see things and when they can’t.”
And the guys like it, too.
Adam Litten is one of the emcees this year.
“It’s the greatest show the town does every year,” he said. “It’s the only thing that’s straight up an adult entertainment show that is fun and safe and promotes the right values of women’s health and the right amount of appropriate sexuality that is sometimes repressed in this town.”
And just in case anyone’s been a little too repressed, the Cabaret is heavily-staffed with security, and no photography whatsoever is permitted. The only things audience members can take with them are their memories, and a bouquet of condoms.
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