Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Center Stage

Stripping and swinging and inviting the whole country.


One weekend, four events? With acts that range from swinging on a star, sort of, to stripping down to skivvies, sort of? Plus a national competition?

“We’d chatted about collaborating,” says Felicia Coe, a.k.a. Iowa Fly Girl, one of the women behind the whole whoop-dee-doo. “But we couldn’t figure out how.”

Aerialist Felicia Coe — a.k.a. the Iowa Fly Girl — will perform at Misfit Cabaret, Aerial Expo and  Aerial Competition July 25-27 at the Des Moines Science Center.

Aerialist Felicia Coe — a.k.a. the Iowa Fly Girl — will perform at Misfit Cabaret, Aerial Expo and Aerial Competition July 25-27 at the Des Moines Science Center.

“Finally we had this idea,” says Leo LaFlash, burlesque queen and co-conspirator. “We’d put these unique acts together. Put people together and expose everyone to fresh possibilities.”

So was born a combo you won’t find anywhere else in the nation. Besides a night of Misift Cabaret, what La Flash calls “a variety show with an edge,” the Science Center will host three days of Aerial Expo. This will entail both workshops and performances, topped off Saturday night with a national competition. Aerial artists are coming from as far off as Los Angeles.

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The Expo is the real challenge, for both the Fly Girl and LaFlash. They’ve put on the Cabaret twice before, last time at The Garden, a fitting spot for a revue that includes both burlesque and Boy-lesque (just what it sounds like), gravity-defying aerial work, and an emcee the women call “an act in herself.” That would be Prunella DeVille, who does a lot more than introduce the acts. Rather, says LaFlash, she “likes to blow up Gramma’s skirt a bit.”

Entertainment is the point of the Expo, too, certainly. Both its Saturday and Sunday matinees, “Desire” and “Inspire,” toss burlesque and other performance into the mix. Also the flying around, either on trapezes or what Coe calls “aerial fabric,” can be jaw-dropping. The Fly Girl has been a standout at both the Art Center’s Big Hair Ball and the Social Club’s New Year’s Bash. This weekend, she won’t be performing — “just pulling all this together is enough,” she says — but she’s leading workshops and, for the competition, she’s brought in an entire “community” of artists. You can catch the exploits of Fly-Folk all over the country.

According to Coe, this community reflects a fundamental recent shift for this sort of performance.

“What I do,” she explains, “used to be all trade secrets. Nobody learned the tricks unless they were planning a career in the circus.”

Lately, though, aerial work has been attracting people who’ll never work under the Big Top. Coe herself caught the bug during a stay in Salt Lake City, where she was surprised to find classes, as well as enthusiasts like herself. Once back in Iowa, she began to mix performance and teaching (now at Ankeny’s TGR Fitness, soon at the Social Club). Soon enough, she crossed paths with LaFlash, busy with burlesque. Then they hooked up with others like DeVille, like Sweet Lilly Pie and Lady May the Force, and next thing you know, it’s a community, all high-flying misfits.

Overheard in the Lobby: Urbandale Community has returned with “The Music Man,” and Winterset Stage has added a dinner option for this weekend’s shows.” CV        

John Domini is Cityview’s “Play Mate” theater critic who pens our weekly Center Stage column. He is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

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