Billtown Sideshow Extravaganza

Last night was the most memorable evening I have ever experienced in Williamsport! I attended the Billtown Burlescapades at the Pajama Factory. I decided to attend this event because I’m always looking for an excuse to visit the Pajama Factory. The Pajama Factory has become the artistic hub of Williamsport. Also, this event qualifies as theater.

This was a showcase of the best burlesque, circus, and carny performers on the East Coast according to the program. There were actually several shows with the entire event running from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. so it was a long evening. The first thing I noticed was a genuine, funky old circus bus parked in front of the Pajama Factory. The bus itself was very interesting and conjured up fantasies of traveling circus troupes. I think this bus brought the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue. It had a trailer for their stage and equipment. According to the program it was a red prison bus and definitely belonged to the Hellzapoppin troupe.

After a few brief magic acts in the courtyard, we moved into one of the many buildings of the Pajama Factory for a lengthy burlesque show. There were a few unusual aspects to the burlesque show. For example, there were artists working on sketches inspired by the performers. This was a nice touch. I’ve never seen theater try to involve artists like that. A few of the performers were from Washington DC and Philadelphia which I think is worth mentioning because it is evidence of the Northeast megalopolis, the concept of the East Coast being one huge urbanized region with a shared culture. Part of the show was an aerial dance with a dancer wrapping herself in a sheet suspended from the ceiling. I don’t know much about modern dance so I don’t know what you call that. It looked like some kind of performance art. The burlesque show also included some variety acts like the song “Anything You Can Do” from the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun and the old Abbott and Costello patter routine “Who’s on First?” starring Bob Taylor of Custom Taylored Productions. I recognized Bob Taylor from many Community Theater productions. He has mounted a few shows at the Pajama Factory.

The final part of the evening was the Hellzapoppin Sideshow Revue which was a sort of steampunk sideshow act. There were three performers; Bryce “The Govna” Graves, Chelsea NoPants, and Trixtah Rodriguez. Their show included fire breathing, sword swallowing, break dancing, walking on broken glass, and balancing acts. I loved the presentation which was very theatrical and clearly inspired by steampunk. They even used a Rammstein song.

The Billtown Burlescapades elevates my opinion of the local arts scene because it was genuinely awesome. I usually assume I have to travel to one of the East Coast’s major cities to find any alternative culture. Of course, some of the performers were not local but at least we finally have a venue for wacky creative people.

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