When you float around in a community you end up meeting people of similar interests.  In this case performing, and producing events.  This burlesque bombshell is not only an amazing performer but a laugh to hang out with over a sneaky tipple or two.  I recently worked with her at the December Dr Sketchy at the Wine Cellar and am looking forward to working with her again.  I’m guessing from this interview she’s a little bit of a workaholic, much like myself, filling up every spare moment with creative flare!  Guess life is too short to waste being boring right – Hope you enjoy this interview with the Lovely Lilly Loca!

What does a girl like you on a normal day “at work”?

Well, I’m a drama teacher at a local high school and I am also the Creator, Producer and MC for ‘Lilly Loca’s Vaudeville Cabaret’ and am also a performer myself. So.. on a typical workday, I will wake at 5.30am, go to the gym, get myself a soy flat white to jump-start my day, then teach on average four drama classes during the day, ranging from Year 9’s to Year 13’s. During my non-contacts I’m creating resources, doing admin, organizing scripts, marking and trying to save my sanity 😉 Then when I get home I’m usually on the computer organizing performers, run-sheets, schedules and all the admin associated with producing a ‘Lilly Loca’s Vaudeville Cabaret’ show. Then, if I’ve got a gig coming up that I’m performing in, I’ll try and get some practice in. I live a very busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How did you get into the industry and what made you decide this is what you wanted to make a living out of?

Teaching wise, I love working with young adults and really honing their skills and developing them as people and performers. Nothing is better than getting what I call ‘proud mummy syndrome’ when you’ve worked really hard with your students on a particular assignment and watching them get up on stage and blow you away with their performance. 

With performing, I have been performing since I was in nappies (literally). When I was younger I would put on skits for my parents and anyone who happened to be around at the time. My earliest memory of performing was me performing to ‘Ms Otis Regrets’ (the Bette Middler version). I started drama classes at the age of 8 and started Latin American and Ballroom Dancing from when I was 11. I grew up doing mostly theatrical performances and it was only in about 2009 that I started to spread out on my own and do live performance outside of theatre. I studied theatre at university and also took outside acting classes; I was always (and still am) looking for ways to professionally develop myself as a performer. In 2009 I created my alias Lilly Loca as a burlesque artist. When I started teaching however, I moved away from burlesque and have really developed Lilly into a character – she’s a juxtaposition of both extremes of my personality – crazy, loco with witty (and a bit inappropriate) humour and also a tranquil, peaceful and sedate side. I now put on my “Lilly Loca” character for MCing gigs like Dr Sketchy Auckland and my show ‘Lilly Loca’s Vaudeville Cabaret’ and I also do cabaret performances under that name. Last year I really wanted to get back in touch with my acting roots and this year I plan on trying to get more involved in theatre performances. I got to be involved in an awesome explorative new-age theatre show called ‘Stranger Things 4’ where I got to create a performance piece with writer Natalie Smith, which was a wicked experience. I’ve been lucky enough to branch out at work on shows like ‘Legend of the Seeker’ and work with some amazing photographers (Jocelen Janon and Bryan Lowe to name a few), producers and other amazing performers. I feel very fortunate. I feel like I’ve sort of found my “niche” as a performer now and just want to keep developing it. 
As a Producer…well…I created ‘Lilly Loca’s Vaudeville Cabaret’ because I saw a niche for a variety show in Auckland. I knew of one variety show (which was ‘Burlesque as you like it’ by The Dust Palace) but then it was from the burlesque angle. I wanted a show that appeals to everyone and had a bit of everything in it. I wanted people to feel the awe of seeing the feats a circus performer can perform; laugh and cry at the jokes of a comedian, be aroused and entertained by the tease of a burlesque artist; be moved by the movements of a beautiful and euphoric dancer; be seduced by the melodies of a jazz band and enjoy entertaining stories, monologues and performance art by actors. So.. that’s how the show came into existence!

What tips would you give new others who might be interested in a similar career?

Teaching wise, MAKE SURE YOU GO AND GET SOME EXPERIENCE AT A SCHOOL FIRST! I was lucky I worked as a Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre Tutor for a year and a half before I started by Post Grad Dip in Secondary Teaching, so knew what it was like to teach in a school environment. I think a lot of people have this grandiose idea what it’s like, then go to Teachers College and realise on their first practicum it isn’t what they thought and end up leaving. Plus, only ever take up this position if you are passionate about what you do. As a drama teacher, I may teach between the hours of 9-3pm, but after school rehearsals, performances, etc take a lot out of your spare time. I didn’t have any school holidays off due to rehearsing with my kids. This summer holiday is the only one I’ve had! Haha. Also, even as organized as I am, I still end up having to work weekends to mark assignments, etc…so if you’re not prepared to give up some of your “outside school” time to the profession, I suggest you look elsewhere. 

 For being a performer… I’m a big advocate of professional development. If you’ve never performed before, and depending on what avenue of performing you’re interested in, I’d go and do a course or some day courses to give you a good grounding. I’d also go and see as many shows as you can of what you’d like to do to get inspired. I think it’s SO important to make yourself original…I’ve tried to always push myself to be extroverted and different to everyone else as a performer…of course, I do take inspiration from people and shows, but it’s about taking influences and creating something of your own. Also, once you’ve got enough experience under your belt, approach and agent who can get work for you. The Human Agency (who I’m with) promote dancers, singers, circus artists and actors.

Producing wise…I think to get into it, you need to believe in your ideas, be meticulously organized, love what you do and not do it because you want to make money out of it. The last one I can’t emphasise enough. I do this show as a labour of love and because I LOVE it. If I make money, great, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about putting on a good quality show which showcases the best performers NZ has to offer. I get a kick of seeing audience members laughing and saying how much they enjoyed the show. I also love seeing NZ’s best on the stage and doing what they do best. It has allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people and I’m truly thankful and honoured. 

 When did you discover there was life outside the corporate 9-5 Office grind? Was there a specific event or epiphany that brought that about? 
Hmmm…I remember a defining moment when I left university and worked for a advertising company. We specialised in employment and when the recession hit, guess what was the first thing that went down the googler? Yep, jobs. So the company literally within 5 months of the recession hitting went into liquidation and I was made redundant. While working there, I felt a real void. I was so busy I couldn’t perform and performing was my life, so I thought “what the hell am I doing here?”. I decided when I was made redundant that life was too short and I may as well be doing what I love. So, I decided to do drama tutoring, found a company that had an opening for a Drama, Dance and Musical Theatre tutor and “hey presto!” I started living the dream. That job also allowed for me to have time to get into performing again and that’s when I started doing live performance.

Have you ever struggled to get what you do at work or out of work taken seriously?

Nope. I’m one of those lucky people who work within the performing arts, so my whole world is revolved around it.

Your work is very specialized – is this something you’ve learned in an education system or did you fall into it?

I did a Grad Dip in Secondary Teaching at Auckland University, but I also did a Bachelor of Arts double major in English and Classical Studies, as well as doing a minor in Theatre. Producing wise, nope! I had been involved with many theatre shows and had been around long enough to know the ins and outs. I basically tried to be at meticulous as I could and it worked! Haha. 

What effect has the Internet had on the way that you work? 
HEAPS! Where the hell would I be without Facebook! It’s been a great promoting tool as well as a great way to network. I do the majority of advertising for my show online through Eventfinder, who also has links to NZ Herald, etc. I am starting print advertising this week for my next show ‘The Wunderbar Spectacular’.

What is the biggest, most exciting project you’ve worked on / are most proud of?

It would have to be my show. The first show ‘The BIG Reveal!’ was photo-documented by Jocelen Janon and Bryan Lowe of ‘Light Traffic’ Photography and they made a book on my show. The show also sold out three days beforehand. Our second show ‘The Big Timers!’ brought in 70 people on the night of the NZ vs. France semi-final for RWC so I thought that was quite a feat! This next show ‘the Wunderbar Spectacular’ is probably the most elaborate with some amazing internationally recognized performers. I also have some awesome businesses on board such as Miss Piggy’s Cupcakes who will be selling cupcakes at the show and BodyFX who have sponsored some body art for the show.

Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline that you would like to share with us?

YES! Come along to ‘The Wunderbar Spectacular’!   Friday 20th & Saturday 21st January, 2012 Eventfinder   Vaudeville (noun): A type of entertainment popular chiefly in the US in the early 20th century, featuring a mixture of specialty acts such as burlesque, comedy, dance, acting, circus and live music! The Vaudevillians performing in ‘The Wunderbar Spectacular’ are:  Venus Starr (next on my wish list to interview!), Mark Scott, Kozo Komatsubara, Anastasia Elektra, The Spietatet, Lilly Loca, (the gorgeous) Vivien Masters.

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