Topeka welcomes first ever burlesque festival

Abbie Stuart

There are many people in Topeka who believe in the potential that this city has and are working hard to give Topekans a sense of pride in their city. Rosa Cavazos, tourism development manager for Visit Topeka, is one of those people. Cavazos is the mind behind many of the new festivals that have come to Topeka, including the new burlesque festival.

On Oct. 2 and 3, Topeka will host its first ever burlesque festival. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Jayhawk Theatre, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The theatre closed two years later and efforts to restore it began in 1993 by Rev. Richard Taylor, Don Chubb and the other members of the Historic Jayhawk Theatre, Inc.

The festival will consist of an art show, a movie, a dinner, and a live burlesque performance. 

“October 2 coincides with First Friday Artwalk. We’re doing burlesque style art at the Jayhawk theatre again, and a portion of the proceeds [of sold artwork] will go to the Jayhawk,” Cavazos said.

Also on Friday, the Jayhawk will show “The Lady of Burlesque” at nine. Tickets will be $10 and are available for purchase on the Jayhawk Theatre website.

On Saturday, there will be a dinner and live show. The dinner is limited to 80 people and participants are welcome to go to just the dinner, just the show, or both. Tickets for the dinner are $35, not including a service fee, and are available for purchase on the Jayhawk Theatre website. Tickets for the show, which is at Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC), are $30, not including a service fee if purchased through TPAC.

“I wanted to make it affordable for people, but I still wanted to make it classy, so I didn’t want to make the tickets $15,” Cavazos said. “Plus with it being a fundraiser for the Jayhawk, it just kind of fit.”

The show will feature 21 performers from all over the country.

“We have people from Lawrence, Kansas City, Shawnee, Wichita, St. Louis, Chicago; so it will be a nice variety,” Cavazos said.

Participants must be eighteen or older to attend the live show.

“There’s no complete nudity in any sort of way, so it will be tasteful,” Cavazos said. “I think that it will be a really good time. I just think it will be a really good, upbeat vibe.”

Cavazos said the inspiration behind the event came from the story that Gypsy Rose, an old burlesque dancer, preformed at the Jayhawk Theatre.

“Some people say ‘No, she never did,’ and some people say, ‘Yes, she did.’ When I looked at the history of it, it seemed like she was at the Jayhawk, but didn’t do a performance until the next day or two in Kansas City, but some people said, ‘No, that’s not right,’ that she did preform there, so I don’t really know,” Cavazos said.

“There are people who have never been to a burlesque show, so this will be great for them,” Cavazos said. “I’m thinking people who would like the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ might really enjoy this, because it will be fun.”