Lindsay Benner used to juggle for a living. After moving to San Francisco in the early 2000s and seeing her friends making a living as buskers, Benner decided she would dust off her juggling balls and hit the streets.
Eventually she combined her talent for keeping objects moving in space with her acting, creating a vaudeville act inspired by performers like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Phyllis Diller. After moving to Los Angles and taking her act to the many variety shows around town, Benner started to notice something was missing. She found that often she was the only woman on the bill of magicians, comedians and variety performers. After a great experience at a female-centered variety festival, Benner set out to create a show in Los Angeles that would feature women jugglers, contortionists, comedians, puppeteers and magicians. Called Women in Vaudeville, the monthly show launched in June.
Vaudeville was once the most popular form of entertainment in the United States. When attending shows the audience would expect to see dancers, comedians, magicians and a range of acts that might change depending on the region or troupe. Vaudeville was a live-on-stage spectacle, and many of the best-known performers of the time were women and people of color. Benner does not think of her show as strictly vaudeville but uses that word and what it evokes to create a live show that is dynamic and fun.
The location of her current monthly show, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, also is important to the feel of Women in Vaudeville. “I could tell the minute I walked in the theater that this place is saturated with so much love and dedication to creating a joyful experience for its audiences,” she says. “I feel like any show that happens there gets a great jump-start by being in that environment.”
This Saturday, Women in Vaudeville presents artist Andrea Weber, stand-up comedian Debi Gutierrez, ventriloquist Hannah Leskosky and unicyclist Nana the Cat Lady.
When asked what an audience may get out of seeing these performers live, Benner says, “What I hope for people to feel when they leave the show is a sense of wonder and delight in both a profound and simple way.”
Women in Vaudeville, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Echo Park; Sat., Aug. 26, pre-reception begins at 8 p.m.; $25. bobbakermarionettetheater.com/women-in-vaudeville.