Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Hocus Poke-Us in a church

Ottawa burlesque troupe Sexual Overtones brings smart and sexy with a magical twist

The Sexual Overtones last performed at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts over three years ago. Credit: Submitted

A local Ottawa church will soon transform, at least briefly, into a bathhouse.

The Ottawa-based, non-profit burlesque troupe Sexual Overtones will present a variety show at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, a building that was formerly a Catholic church. The event, called Hocus Poke-Us: An Evening of Magical Tails and Titillations, will include 12 sexy, silly and smart acts and a big group finale. Some of them touch on queer themes.

Laurie Hawco and a small group of queer men and women will perform an act called Handscruffed. The act, its name a portmanteau of “handcuffed” and “Scruff” (a dating app for men), is about our addiction to technology and dating apps in particular. They all play gay men, and the final scene takes place in a bathhouse.

“Through our act we demonstrate the liberation of disconnecting from your phone (that one-way relationship), and actually interacting with other human beings,” she says. “In the hottest way possible [we show] our vision of what getting un-handscruffed looks like.”

The decor and many of the acts will conform to the evening’s theme: magic. Hawco says that while there’s nothing magical about her bathhouse — and who could handle a magical bathhouse anyway? — it’s magical how the audience often gets dressed up to fit the theme of Sexual Overtones’ events. “The audience is just as invested in creating that space as you are,” she says.

The show is hosted by lesbian comedians (and couple, d’awww) Eman El Husseini and Jess Salomon. Local band the Moonfruits will play as attendees file in, and the night will include other burlesque troupes from the Ottawa area and special guests from such exotic places as Halifax and Vancouver. It ends with a dance party featuring DJs Hobo and Sweet Cheeks.

It’s a massive undertaking, with 52 people involved (both on and off-stage). The last show, which took place three years ago in the same location, sold out its more than 600 seats. Hawco, who is also on the troupe’s board, says she hopes for a similar turnout this time around.

All of Sexual Overtones’ events raise funds for local causes. Some of the recipients of the funds raised at Hocus Poke-Us are the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre and the Venus Envy Bursary Fund.