For the last six-and-a-half months, La Fusion Lounge in the back of Dung Phat Plaza at 11th and Washington has played host to the era-appropriate ’80s look and feel of “NEON: A Boylesque Experience.” The Miami-vibe location was an exceptional live venue for NEON’s colorfully playful nights of male-identifying burlesque — always a mix of trans, gay and drag performers — put together by Adam I. and Josh Schonewolf.
On July 22, however, the every-third-Sunday NEON moves to its new location at Old City’s Brit-inspired Victoria Freehouse.
“Our first night at La Fusion was when the Eagles won the NFC championship,” recalled Adam I. with a laugh. “Everyone had to run home early after that win.”
Schonewolf and Adam I. held some vibrant parties at La Fusion, but are now leaving the Italian Market area for greener pastures. Adam I. — famous for his Envoute presents “The Blind Tiger,” Speakeasy Sundays and other historical and cinematic-themed burlesque events at L’Etage — called Victoria Freehouse “a godsend to the performance community.”
What made the NEON duo move toward male-identifying burlesque with a gay and trans perspective comes down to comfort levels. For host Schonewolf — famous for “Mr. Everything,” “Bearlesque,” and “Daddy & Friends” party-promotion fame — it is “part of my thing,” he said. “I dig doing events with female burlesquers such as Sister Bear, but I love working with the boys, and love building new ways and new venues for male-identifying burlesquers.”
Adam I. calls the NEON in-your-face style a combination of his and Schonewolf’s most entertaining work, refined and condensed in one highly accessible show. “Some people want to kick back and be entertained. It will always be interactive and inclusive, meaning that if you’re in the front row, you’re fair game to the performer. We do them in the round or in three-quarter rounds so that everyone feels a part of the show.”
At a time when so much drag and burlesque have a sharply savage political edge as inspired by the current administration, the two performers said theirs is not an overt brand of protest.
“There have definitely been significant changes socially and politically — the scene is highly political and filled with performers with very real qualms about our government — and we have and want performers who make their own statements, but overall I try and stay away from charged shows,” said Adam I., adding his L’Etage Envoute events focus more on screen themes and different eras, from Westerns to James Bond to the AMC television show “Mad Men.”
Schonewolf also acknowledges that NEON focuses more on entertainment than going into the darkly socio-political.
“Some people just want a night off,” he said with a laugh. “But if our artists want to portray something political, we say go for it. We’re at a weird time for queer artists in America. So many wish to get their aggressions out on a stage, or tell a story they need and want to share. What makes a show more exciting at NEON is when we follow that up with the glamour boys, the weirdos, the raunchy guys, the magicians. It’s nice to have that mix — you never know who you’re going to connect with at NEON.