Rachel Rouge from The Menagerie

Rachel is a top-notch woman who does some amazing things. She’s been a burlesque performer for over 10 years and is an active and hugely valued member of the Wellington arts scene. She currently runs The Menagerie – a monthly variety show. This month’s is Sat 28 Jun and promises to be a special evening of performance, spoken word and more. Buy tickets now.
© AJ Photography

© AJ Photography

1) Please, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a burlesque backpacker who enjoys live comedy, cooking my friends and leaving out commas. – I just cut and pasted that from my online dating profile.

2) You run The Menagerie, a regular variety night held at The Fringe. What made you want to start producing this?
I have a passion for unusual and diverse live performance. I also have a short attention span. I wanted to create the kind of show that I enjoy watching; one full of humour, a carnivalesque atmosphere and loads of skilled acts from all genres of live performance.

I’ve been a burlesque performer for over 11 years, and have been fortunate to have been part of a lot of variety and cabaret shows, I’ve performed in tiny pubs, gorgeous theatres, on huge festival stages, on coffee tables and in backyards in NZ, Europe, the US and Australia. I fell in love with the variety shows and I wanted to bring that same range of skills, delightfulness and unpredictability into a regularly occurring show in Wellington.

3) What’s your favourite part about producing a show like The Menagerie?
The people. I love bringing together different people with different talents and skills and creating a great show. Our main objective, above all else, is to entertain. We want to provide our audiences with a fantastic night out that gives them something new, interesting, fun, sometimes creepy, sometimes serious, or sometimes just plain weird, but always entertaining.

I also enjoy the logistics of putting the show together too, making sure each performer has what they need to really shine and making sure each show flows well. And I love the marketing & promotion. Also finding new performers for each show means I have to go see a whole lot of different local shows, which is a fantastic job.

4) And the flip side… what’s the biggest challenge?
Sometimes working with a wide range of performers is like herding butterflies. Also having enough time to do everything can be a challenge. I aspire to have my own venue one day so I can make producing my full time job.

5) Where do you take visitors to Wellington?
To the top of mount Victoria (walking so we earn that sublime and windy view), out to Island Bay on the number 1 bus for fish and chips on the beach, and to Hawthorn Lounge for an old fashion and marshmallows by the fire. I also like to take guests to see a local comedy line up, I love Raw Meat at The Fringe on Monday nights and The Medicine at Cavern Club on Wednesdays, a guaranteed laugh, super causal and a good cheap night out.

6) What’s an upcoming project that you’re excited about?
The next Menagerie show on June 28th is a collaboration with Jo Paku who is organising Te wiki o Matariki week at The Fringe Bar. She is co-producing this show with me, and has brought in some great ideas and amazing performers to fit with a Matariki theme celebrating the Māori/pacific new year.

7) Who is your role model and why?
Kermit T Frog. He knows how to hold together a variety show like no other producer, curator and stage manager. He surrounds himself with a huge amount of talent and diversity, he embraces everyone’s differences including his own, and he brings out the best in everyone. Kermit is fearless in trying new things (he’s been a film actor, news anchor, straight man, model as well as MC, singer, dancer and businessfrog) and never seems to be flustered by the chaos of his surroundings and one way or another he gets stuff done. He’s pretty awesome.

8) What’s your favourite Wellington meal? 
Grabbing a roast chicken meal from Charcoal Chicken at the top of Cuba street, grabbing a bottle of wine and having a picnic, in the gardens, on the beach or up a hill.