Strippers on stage

Miss April teaches Fringe Festival a lesson in the art of exotic dance

Sex sells. This old adage has been put to use by advertisers television executives and virtually every other body within the mass media for the past five decades. Strip bars porn shops and love shacks pepper the streets in every city where the zoning laws allow it a concrete embodiment of the sexual side of our culture. Coming to the Calgary Fringe Festival this year is June Morrow’s one-woman depiction dissection critique and caricature of stripper culture the wonderfully titled Miss April’s Day School for Burgeoning Young Strippers. “You’ll come out of it thinking stripping is stupid — because it is” says Morrow. “There’s a lot of icky parts to stripping but I think the show deals with that in a funny way. It doesn’t ostracize the audience. It includes them. The whole premise of this show is that most people think about stripping as taking things off but to me it’s about putting things on. We put on all these psychological layers and it’s tiring to try to be someone else all the time.” Morrow’s background is in standup comedy and as such the bead she levels against the world of stripping often takes a laughs-first tack. The narrative is structured around a series of humorous lessons from Miss April (June’s stage name) as well as anecdotal stories that follow June’s journey through the world of stripping. With everything from lap dance etiquette to a parody of old Canadian heritage commercials covered Miss April’s Day School will be sure to get a few extra crumpled bills for variety at the very least. “It’s a story” says Morrow pointing out the key difference between her stand up act and her play. “When I do stand-up I’m not a storytelling person. I’m more of an observational comedy person. I did a Second City conservatory program that’s more like sketch comedy and improv. I wanted to be an actor but I also wanted to be a journalist. There were a lot of things I wanted to do with my life and I’ve managed to do a lot of those so that’s cool.” No matter how much fun begs to be poked at the world of exotic dancing however it’s hard to escape the common preconception that it’s a world with a very large very scary dark side. While Morrow says she never denies that this exists she’s very careful not to dwell on it. “It’s a kind of sad place where people get lost” says Morrow. “It’s all very competitive – there are girls who can’t stand each other who go out of their way to steal each other’s customers and that’s examined. There’s serious things that can happen but a lot of it is really dumb in the end. It’s just fodder for comedy really.” Despite her divorce from that world for the past few years June suggests that it’s a place that’s hard to lose touch with even if she hasn’t visited for awhile. Part of this comes from its inexorable tie to the “normal” world and the cultural flipside that many would rather ignore. “I think succeeding in that world is based on acting” says Morrow. “I think if you’re able to pretend that you’re really hot for your customer if you’re able to cast that spell over them that’s how you succeed. I do make this point in the play though: any job is like that. Some jobs less than others but you always sort of end up acting.”