09.20.13 // Burlesque, Video Games, and Princess Zelda: JOYstick! Level 2
By Steven Stone, co-owner of Smooches and Science Presents, former staff member for GeekGirlCon
Let’s talk video games, shall we? I have been a gamer all of my life. It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t have a controller or keyboard in my hands. From the NES to the Genesis to the PSX to the Xbox 360, I’ve been all over the map of types and builds of consoles. Another thing I’ve been a proponent of over the past couple of years has been burlesque. I’ve been everything from a host to a prop.
Last year, I, alongside former GeekGirlCon staff member Kelly Clark, was able to help put together a burlesque show based on our love of gaming. It was called JOYstick! It was a fundraiser for GeekGirlCon, and it was a dream come true. We had a Samus Aran constructing her armor, a Psycho Mantis controlling the minds of audience members, and, most importantly, Link dancing to a Ke$ha song. Link’s act was fun, goofy, and held a special place in my heart. The Legend of Zelda has always captured my time and attention and has usually been the game series I employ to introduce friends to gaming in general. It’s able to be an innovator graphically and gameplay-wise despite always seeming to deliver a similar story. With the Link act, the audience was allowed to have fun in the moment, connecting with Link in ways they didn’t even know was possible. Something though, was missing.
Thinking back on The Legend of Zelda, the story has never been about Link, really. I mean, he’s not even worthy enough to be given space in the title! Zelda has always been the through line to me. She was the one who split the triforce apart to protect it from Ganon in the original game. She was the one who helped teenaged Link through the tougher dungeons through her alter-ego Sheik. She was the young pirate who helped Link out on the high seas when he needed it most.
To me, Zelda has always represented a different side of the helpless princess. Unlike Princess Peach, Zelda always seemed to have an understanding of what was about to occur and planned appropriately. She represented the crafty princess, aiding and, in some cases becoming, the hero when the time and circumstances called for it. Unfortunately, as Anita Sarkeesian points out, Zelda’s role eventually does revert back to being a damsel in distress, traditionally being kidnapped to begin the final act of the game she is in.
How does this relate back to burlesque? As a feminist artform, burlesque represents to me that moment when a woman (or man) is given the chance to take the main stage and capture the audience through their physical qualities and abilities. For JOYstick! Level 2, we hope to challenge some notions of the video game world. We want to showcase the heroine that Zelda is and the important part of video game lore that she represents. Princess Zelda will be given a starring role in a solo act by the ever talented Olatsa Assassin. She takes Zelda from damsel to hero in a very specific way…and you’ll just have to attend the show to find out how!
JOYstick! Level 2 is the second show dedicated to the the world of video games from producers Smooches and Science Presents. This year, beyond featuring Zelda, we hope to have fun and challenge norms. From characters that represent the misogynistic side of video games (through the jerk that is Duke Nukem) to games that we love simply because they involve rolling things onto a ball, we aim to have it all. We hope to blow minds and earn achievements.
Smooches and Science Presents will be showcasing JOYstick! Level 2 at the Columbia City Theatre on September 20 and 21. Tickets are $20 and can be found on Brown Paper Tickets.