Strip at the Crypt Returns to Olympia’s Cryptatropa Bar This May

by Molly Walsh

Through Strip at the Crypt, the art of burlesque is melded with elements of improvisational comedy into one tongue-in-cheek show that’s bound to skirt expectations. Unlike a more traditional-style burlesque show, each member of the diverse lineup will have no specific routine prepared, and instead will perform off the cuff with some help from the audience. And on May 18, lovers of the cinema who are 21 and over can look forward to the of-the-moment burlesque interpretation, with the backing of classic movie soundtracks.

Nani Poonani in the crowd, Strip at the Crypt Feb 2024. Photo by Scott Foster, courtesy of Hattie Hotpants.

Strip at the Crypt was established in 2019, and after experimenting with the layout over the years, each one-night show features around eight performers as well as a live song from co-creators and hosts, Hattie Hotpants and Vanessa the Witch. In addition to the movie-themed show on May 18, the next show on August 3 will follow up with beloved television tunes.

Both Hattie Hotpants and Vanessa the Witch have a rich background in burlesque performance, as well as in improv, including through Something Wicked, a former improv group that was created by Harlequin Productions in Olympia.

As the duo started to develop a blueprint for Strip at the Crypt, Hotpants said a primary objective along the way has been to upend expectations and invite a diverse mix of burlesque performers onstage, incorporating a basis of improv with traits common in burlesque, like the playful tongue-in-cheek tone, for a one-of-a-kind performance.

“You are trusting the audience is going to be there to hold you and applaud for you and give you the warmth that you need to do this,” said Hotpants. “And you’re trusting yourself to give it a shot. And it is kind of amazing, how that…random synchronicity thing happens.”

And so far, Hotpants has observed that both audience and performers have responded well to this impromptu arrangement during shows.

“Every single person who has performed with us has blown us away, we’ve never had a bad act, not that there is such a thing,” added Hotpants.

Leading up to showtime for Strip at the Crypt, each member of the show’s lineup will be aware of the possible songs that they may be asked to perform, but they won’t know their particular musical number until the time of performance.

“We want to kind of shake up people’s paradigms a little bit,” said Hotpants. “You don’t get to do the acts you normally do, and in the spirit of improv, you get your prompt on the fly.”

At the top of the show, the hosts will chat with the audience, discussing the show’s unique layout and list of songs for the evening, as well as consent. With the help of the audience, song selection begins, while the performer waits in the wings. And during upcoming shows, there may be new elements incorporated during the song selection process.

“We let them know the song list, and we have been having people choose at random from a caldron,” explained Hotpants. “So somebody gets the honor of picking, but they don’t know what they’re picking.”

Burlesque performers, both newcomer and longtime, will gather from across the Pacific Northwest, including hometown Olympia-based artists, as well as artists from Tacoma and Portland. The lineup for the May 18 show includes Ava D’Jour, Puff the Magic System, Solangerie, Baby Le’Strange, Ra D’Lyte, Hexy Lexi, Siempre Bruja and Nani Poonani.

Hattie Hotpants and Vanessa the Witch in the Crowd, Strip at the Crypt Feb 2024. Photo by Scott Foster, courtesy of Hattie Hotpants.

And this upcoming May show will be a special treat for viewers and fans of cinema, as this show looks to films with iconic songs and scores. Hotpants recounted that song selection has been one of the most difficult elements to prepare for, going through rounds of debates with Vanessa the Witch, and dancing through each song to determine how it might work with a crowd while onstage.

“We try to offer a spectrum,” said Hotpants. “So you might hear the “Imperial March,” you might hear the Psycho theme, you might hear something off the Clueless soundtrack. You know, we really want to give everybody something.”

This off-the-cuff arrangement for Strip at the Crypt is about breaking free from the mold, away from any preconceived notion for a certain kind of costume, glitz and glam, and instead, employs a more come-as-you-are experience. In the future, Hotpants said the production also hopes to increase accessibility, including finding ways to solve current space constraints so that wheelchairs can fit onstage.

“We want to provide a platform for people, audience and performer, and us as producing artists, to flourish in embodied creativity, to be in the moment together,” said Hotpants. “And to make something really special and unique that can’t be replicated.”

For those new to Strip at the Crypt, Hotpants described a welcoming venue that is home to many strains of live art, music and performance, and that this show carves out room for both performers and audience members to embrace their creative selves.

“A lot of times it feels like a…rock show, or a different live experience, because the performer’s so into it, the audience is so into it, nobody knows what’s coming next, you know. Nobody could have seen your act, it’s all brand new,” said Hotpants. “And that is really special to us, and that is why we keep it going.”

Strip at the Crypt

“Movie Things” Theme: May 18 at 8 p.m.
(Doors and tickets open at 7 p.m.; front seating begins at 7:30 p.m.)

The Cryptatropa Bar (The Crypt), 421 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501

$15 cash at the door (ATM will be available) Show is 21 and over with ID

Learn More:
@strip_crypt on Instagram, questions/accessibility requests:

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