Go Deeper

Chlamydia dell’Arte: Q&A with Gigi Naglak

Posted September 11th, 2009

Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams want to talk about sex. Chlamydia dell’Arte is a burlesque show will cover everything that you didn’t learn in high school Sex Ed., and a little more. Hint: Chlamydia is not a flower. It opened Wednesday at the Second Stage at the Adrienne Theater , but will have one more performance tonight at 10:00 pm. Gigi took a few minutes to talk to me about the show.

Why choose burlesque as a medium to discuss sex and sex education?

Meghann and I are very passionate about sexuality and we find that sex education often can be too serious and a little misinformed. We’re also dismayed at the notion that a lot of sex education is primarily focused on abstinence. Such a focus often casts sexuality in a shameful and forbidden light. Our goal is to take sex education in the opposite direction and we think burlesque offers a unique platform to discuss these issues.

Burlesque is also interesting because not only does it have such a long tradition in theater, but also hints at multiple layers of sexuality. There’s a lot of interaction between what you do see and what you don’t. In short, we thought burlesque offered an opportunity to make sex education funny. When you make people laugh, they’re more willing to open up and talk about something they initially thought was taboo.

Tell me about the structure of Chlamydia dell’Arte.
The show is a series of vignettes performed by Meghann and me that includes dance, reinterpretation of Shakespeare, infomercials, and performance art. Each segment is introduced by elderly sex education teachers on video. Additional video work features several different women, including our own mothers, discussing their sexual experiences. We want to offer the audience different perspectives on sexuality that expand upon what we are showcasing on stage.

It look likes you and Meghann are going to cover a lot of material. How many topics will you discuss?
Meghann and I came up with the material for the show based on the question, “If we could teach Sex Ed., what would we cover?” We plan to discuss everything from anatomy to sexual transmitted infections to the difference between a transvestite and a transgender person. We’ll also cover material that people are generally too afraid to talk about, such as what happens when your wife wants to wear a strap-on to perform on you, the husband. I should mention that we’ve based our performances on experiences we’ve had or have heard about from others.

You mentioned earlier that the show offers different female perspectives on sexuality. Will you explore topics that involve men’s sexuality?
This is a question we struggled with. We felt that, as women, we could not accurately represent a male’s perspective on sexuality. We also received most of funding from the Leeway Foundation, which specifically funds women and transgender artists. However, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of feedback we’ll get from male audience members. So far, to our surprise, it’s been quite positive.

Is the show “family friendly”?
This is a hard question to answer. It really comes down to your personal beliefs. The content of the show deals with a lot of adult situations, such as anal sex and rape, which some parents may consider to be too inappropriate for their children. That said, I welcome my child to see the show. This is why we say our performance is for mature audiences; define mature as you wish.

What are your plans after the Philly Fringe?
We’re going to take the show on the road to other Fringe festivals in New York and Boston. Meghann and I hope to tour colleges and universities as well, because we feel the audience would very receptive to our message. Also, we have recently partnered with Planned Parenthood and we’re excited to begin new initiatives with them.

Finally, what will you and Meghann be wearing?
I’ll be wearing old dance costumes I found in a closet at my mother’s house. Though, you can expect Meghann and I to be wearing very little.

Chlamydia dell’Arte closes tonight! The last show is at 10:00 pm, at 2nd Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia. $15.

–Spencer Silverthorne

Photo by Andrew Beal.