Tosca Rivola And Her Crew Of Femme Fatales Work To Transform The Los Angeles Cabaret Scene And Create A Mainstay For The Burlesque Community
Tosca Rivola is an LA based performance artist reshaping the entertainment and cabaret scene through her live burlesque shows. While recent her claim to fame surrounds the ode to writer/director Quentin Tarentino known as TARANTINA, her latest project DESPERADA takes a more narrative-driven approach to burlesque entertainment. The projects are produced via her production company, Fatale Factory, which consists of long-time friends and collaborators. Rather than staying in the backdrops of events and mansion parties her shows bring the cabaret performance art to the forefront, seeking to make it a mainstay in the LA entertainment scene.
More about Tosca Rivola in the Q&A below!
Q: How did you get started in Cyr Wheel performing and eventually come to produce your own shows?
Cyr wheel started as a hobby when I tearfully decided to leave my dreams of playing professional soccer behind. A way kinder sport on the body, cyr wheel allowed me to channel a way more creative side juxtaposed against extreme sport. As a total amateur, a German agent found a single photo of me on the internet that was part of a free photoshoot I was offered by a gal couch-surfing at my house, and he went on to offer me a cabaret contract in Germany. I cut my teeth performing 10+ shows a week in the European cabaret circuit and when I returned to LA I just wasn’t seeing or being cast in shows that truly inspired me. LA barely has any running cabaret shows, and money somehow feels reserved for the film industry and not stage shows (I hope we can change this!). If you haven’t seen your favorite film, read your favorite book, experienced your favorite show you better go out and make it! Whether that’s a good financial decision or not, I am yet to find out 🙂
Q: What inspired you to create DESPERADA?
I actually created DESPERADA before TARANTINA many years ago for a company who failed to pay me for that work. Back then it seemed like I could never free it from this tangle, so I created TARANTINA as a pick-me-up or in reality a revenge fantasy out of frustration (and passion! and love for Tarantino films of course!) to fill that void. Many years later, during the height of the pandemic I decided to bring DESPERADA back out of its dusty vault. We started by filming dreamy outdoor mood films to set the stage for the physical show to come. I am from the Czech Republic, so growing up outside of the US and observing American culture from afar has lent a different perspective on American-ness that might reflect in the show. The mirage of the American dream is so fascinating to me, and one of those epic mirages is how we paint the American West. DESPERADA is a crack at telling untold stories of that era, redefining the West by a few new coordinates and exploring women in counter-culture, which is a definite through-line in much of my work
Q: How does this show differ from TARANTINA?
DESPERADA is my original work, a story that I co-wrote with my MC Miss Emmma. I dearly love Tarantino and his films, but you can only pay homage to other creators’ work for so long until you have to wander into the unknown territory of your own intellectual property! TARANTINA at its core is more of a true diver bar jaunt, a debaucherous variety show, littered in neons, a lot of nudity, a lot of profanity, just the way I like it! DESPERADA is driven by narrative and non-fiction, classier, higher production and the larger venue is allowing me to build more elaborate cirque acts, which I’m really passionate about. It’s been fun using much of the same cast to explore these two different styles with!
Q: Is it a collaborative effort between you and the other showgirls?
You bet! I couldn’t have done this alone by any measure! I carefully picked this cast and crew – these are mostly long time friends and fellow performers whose own visions I trust. I truly value that they’ve supported me throughout the long development process for this show, a lot of them yearning for the same things like me. For a more formal arena to showcase their niche talents. A lot of us, especially earnest cirque performers, are a little tired of performing at parties and launches because conditions are often not safe, there is no time to rehearse in the space and nowhere to grow from there because the events are one night only. Although a lot less lucrative than said mansion parties (we all have to do them to survive out here as entertainers), I hope that I can at least connect eager audiences to high level cirque and dance acts in this city.
Q: What challenges did you face bringing the project together?
Every challenge in the book! Starting with convincing the original entity in 2015 that an all-female Western is something anyone even wants to see. There wasn’t much of a Western trend to speak of, and people weren’t as enthusiastic about this concept for some reason. And then you know….. the classic grapple over IP, financing, covid, picking a residency venue, transforming said venue from a nightclub into a function theater, the list goes on. Putting on these larger scale live shows is never easy, especially in a city that doesn’t have a theater culture like London or NYC…but we’re getting there!
Q: Is there a part of this new act that stands out for you as a special or cool moment?
I think every act in DESPERADA has some elements that the public hasn’t ever seen before, or at least isn’t expecting. Most acts aren’t just a lyra act, or a dance act, or a burlesque act, they are a galvanization of story, movement, costume and swagger. But I have to say the moment in our “duel” scene where the two straps artists get lifted above the audience, pointing guns at each other slowly floating mid-air is pretty surreal. It somehow reminds of a scene from the Matrix, if the Matrix were Western and female haha!