Velvet Hearts! Burlesque, drag, and the murder of playboy Jami Starling | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Velvet Hearts! Burlesque, drag, and the murder of playboy Jami Starling

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PJ Patella-Rey
The Storyville Lounge and its aptly dressed guests
A bookshelf creaks open to reveal a hidden door in the back of Dr. Tumblety's old-timey curiosity shop, and people begin to slip into the narrow room that stretches the length of the building. Antique oddities and once-stately furniture line its walls. Step closer and you see red lights gleaning off pennies arranged into intricate patterns underneath a bartop. Music is playing. You’ve been transported to an old-fashioned speakeasy.

Though the scene may already sound fantastical, it’s about to get another layer of intrigue — a murder. Notorious playboy Jami Starling has been found dead, and you, the audience, must solve the mystery. A classic whodunit but with a twist: the suspects are all performers — burlesque dancers, drag kings, and a jazz singer — from a local troupe called the Velvet Hearts!. Investigator Britsa N’Ass leads the proceedings as, one-by-one, Venus Stardust, Rebel Royale, Leah Nightingale, Esai!, Iris Adair, Brutus Rex, Vesper Lamarr, Ra!, Sara Bellum, and Alana Afterdark all take the stage; their acts offer potential clues as to who is capable of such a heinous act. (Spoiler alert: None of these suspects exude innocence.) Ultimately, it is up to you to decide who will be led away in cuffs.

If you missed this March event, never fear, we sent our brave crime photographer to record the evidence.

Tickets for future Velvet Hearts! performances can be purchased here.
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