Burlesque off Bourbon Street, Beneath the Sea? An Interactive Show for Adults Only

by Carolyn Sotka


One of the mermen featured at the Mermaid Masque. Photograph by Sarah Brown.

If you find yourself in New Orleans this weekend, and up for a wildly different take on a burlesque show, check out ‘Splish’, running October 23-24. Set in the converted warehouse ‘PORT’ in the 9th Ward, the space has been transformed into an undersea world where the Mermaid Masque’ will unfold.

Splish will showcase the mermaids and amphibisexuals of the once-famous night club “The Show and Tail.” According to a review of the production in The Guardian, “The story is a meld of the cult Paul Verhoeven flop Showgirls with a reverse spin on The Little Mermaid, as new-to-town Polly auditions for a mermaid cabaret called Show and Tail”. This interactive and multimedia production is hard to capture in words, but guaranteed to entertain and amuse, if not to leave one perplexed.


Audience members can unleash their inner mermaid in the staged photo booth. Photo by Meg Turner and posted Splish’s Facebook page

Filmed by Daniel Ford.

The show even tackles social influences and environmental issues in the Cresent City such as NYC hipsters moving in and, as explained to The Guardian, “There’s also a much larger idea. In a recent stark report by Climate Central, projections have shown that climate change could see the city of New Orleans under water by the year 2100. Although this is an obviously serious situation with huge social and economic implications, it wouldn’t be New Orleans without at least a glimmer of gallows humour”.


Construction of one of the many props of undersea critters on set. Art and photo by Chelsea Wagner.

All casting is gender nonspecific. There are over 70 installation artists, musicians, and performers that together have brought the theater form known as the masque back to life. Performers include New Orleans drag queen Neon Burgundy, with live music compositions led by Meschiya Lake. The original script is co-written by Ellery Neon and Jeff Stark.

As reported in The Guardian, “The group have taken inspiration from the kind of mermaid shows that grew into curiosities and roadside attractions in America: the mermaid rooms at the ill-fated Brookdale Lodge in Santa Cruz, California, for instance, and the famous underwater mermaid theatre at Weeki Wachee in Florida, which thrives to this day”.


old fashioned mermaid poster

Be sure to leave the kids at home–numerous innuendos and “interspecies sex and deep sea monsters abound.”

Strap on your snorkel and take a breath, because once hooked, anything goes… – CS

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