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Naughty fun with Wayward Girls School of Burlesque

Chip Ellis
From left to right: Penny Maple, Elle Xohmbeah, Cat Schrodinger, Luna L'Enfant, Susie Sketchman and Ruby Rouge. The Wayward Girls School for Burlesque brings camp, color and creativity to the classic striptease.
WANT TO GO?Wayward Girls School of Burlesque St. Patrick's Day Bash With music by Trielement and HARRAHWHERE: The Blue Parrot, 14 Capitol St.WHEN: 10 p.m. FridayTICKETS: $5INFO: 304-342-2583 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Penny Maple joked that there's a reason why something like the Wayward Girls School of Burlesque should exist.She said, "The only way to get adults to look at dance is to take your clothes off."Not everyone is going to agree with that, but the Wayward Girls do draw a crowd.The troupe will be performing Friday night at the Blue Parrot as part of a St. Patrick's Day Bash. The night will also include music from rock bands HARRAH and Trielement.The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque arose from the ranks of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a burlesque-style figure-drawing class held monthly at local bars and theaters. Dr. Sketchy's takes traditional nude or semi-nude figure drawing and turns it on its head with pop-culture camp, costumes and party games. Its monthly "class" is at 7 p.m. Sunday at Uncork and Create, 1031 Quarrier St. (Admission is $8. Email for more information.)Maple, one of the troupe's administrators, said she and Pepper Fandango, both models for Dr. Sketchy's, started the Wayward Girls in December 2011 after Dr. Sketchy's hosted Brooklyn-based burlesque group, Dangerous Curves. The touring troupe wanted an opening act for the show, but no one in Charleston was doing that kind of entertainment.Still, it didn't seem such a far leap from what Fandango and Maple did with Dr. Sketchy's, and Maple, at least, had a background as a dancer."So we said, 'Sure. We'll give it a try,'" Maple said.
A few months later, the duo appeared at the Sound Factory as the opening act for Pretty Things Peep Show."Ugh," Maple frowned. "That was our worst show ever. We danced to canned music and had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions..."
They revealed a little more skin than intended, but the pair didn't quit, and after a show at last summer's Shocka-Con horror and science fiction convention, they decided to expand.She added, "We just reached out to some of the self-starting art models we'd worked with at Dr. Sketchy's and just kept going."Wayward Girls School of Burlesque has since expanded to include seven performers, though the group isn't strictly the teasing sort of dance most often associated with burlesque shows.Pepper Fandango and Cat Schrodinger dance and also play music. Fandango is often accompanied by her rockabilly/punk band. There's comedy, and most of the performers have either developed a particular gimmick or they're working on one.
Elle Xohmbeah said, "I do a lot of gender play. I like to think of it as stripping away masculine elements to reveal the feminine inside."I'm kind of big on the mustaches."Ruby Rouge, "The Red Baroness," wants to make hula-hoops a more prominent part of her show, while Lavender Menace has elements of roller derby in her act.Maple added, "But we have the classic burlesque tease. Lilli Legosi is kind of our classic dance tease specialist."A lot goes into every performance. Hours and hours of rehearsal, plus the troupe relies on a group of friends and helpers, referred to as Kittens, to manage productions, sell tickets, make props/sets and do a wide variety of odd jobs."You can't call them roadies," Maple said. "A roadie won't build you a set of Tokyo."Chase Henderson, founder of the Charleston Dr. Sketchy's, is kind of an official hanger-on."He's our official photographer," Maple said."Or just a weird uncle," he replied.After this weekend's show, Maple said the group might be taking a bit of a hiatus -- at least in Charleston.Maple said that some of the girls and their supporters are from outside Charleston, and the troupe wanted to visit a few of those towns."But, sure, we'd love to work with FestivALL," she said. "We should call them."Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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