“Memories of Marion” Burlesque benefit raises funds for Arts, Veterans.
Saturday, January 25, family and friends gathered at Le Chat Noir on 8th Street to remember Rachel Miller, an artist and performer known to many as “Marion the Librarian.” She passed away suddenly in June 2019, from complications due to a blood clot caused by long air travel. Part art auction and part tribute show, the evening’s proceeds were dedicated to causes Rachel was passionate about – supporting local arts and our veterans.
The night began with a silent auction of artwork that Rachel created at life drawing classes in Augusta and Aiken. It was only in recent years that she had delved into visual art, but the watercolor paintings on display showed great natural talent. Her family donated several pieces that sparked good-natured bidding battles as friends vied to take her work home to treasure.
The tribute show was held in the black-box theater Le Chat Noir where Rachel created artwork of another kind – performance. A co-founder of Augusta Burlesque and first director of the Dirty South Burlesque & Cabaret, Rachel created the character of “Marion the Librarian,” who was a cheeky, intelligent, empowered woman not unlike herself.
For the tribute show lineup, returning members of the troupes performed acts from her own burlesque repertoire and some of her favorites by others. Performer Princess Augusta said, “it only seemed fitting to give everyone one more opportunity to see her work showcased and to help her provide support for the causes close to her heart.”
Many of Rachel’s acts were inspired by pop and geek culture– everything from Tetris, comic books, movies, and musicals. Performer Carmilla Allure described her creativity, saying, “She always supported any crazy idea I had for a routine but also encouraged me to forever think outside the box and challenge the status quo.”
Memories’ director, Caressa Mann, was a close friend and coworker of Rachel. She reflected on the experience of organizing the show, saying, “Reliving Rachel’s acts was humbling, cathartic, and an essential part of our healing process. We knew she was there with us all night. She was everywhere.”
Though many acts in the show inspired tears of laughter, the audience fell into silence during the last act of the night. The performers honored her memory by leaving an empty chair on stage– in the spirit of the “Missing Man Formation” flown at funeral services of fallen pilots — as they danced to “Mein Herr” from the musical, Cabaret.
Rachel Miller was an Air Force veteran herself, and inspired her fellow performers to greatness as well as the soldiers she served alongside. She was multi-talented; she led with integrity, knew multiple languages, was a skilled artist, performer, actress, film director and an amazing cook on top of her work as an airman and linguist. She loved her friends fiercely and her family even more so.
Another featured performer of the night who goes by the name Baron Von Schadenfreude credited Rachel with inspiring his own interest in the spotlight. He said, “I was never a theater kid in school, but seeing her up on stage inspired me to try. I found a passion I never knew I had because of her.”
All in all, over $4,000 was raised through tickets sales and the art auction for donation to the Greater Augusta Arts Council and Forces United in her honor. The performers, friends, and her family who worked to bring the auction and show together hope that Rachel’s memory will continue to inspire others to live their own creative lives.
“She saw the best in people and she helped to make them see it in themselves.” said the performer Titanya Tuneyaup. “Thanks to Rachel, I have this wonderful performing family and I truly would not be here today if it were not for her… She will forever be loved by all who knew her.”
By Christina Berkshire
About Burlesque in Augusta
Burlesque is a performance art that originated as bawdy parodies of serious theater in the late 19th century. The modern interpretations of burlesque empower both the audience and the performers to accept themselves for who they are, both in humorous and risque ways. In 2010, a group of coworkers decided they wanted to start a burlesque troupe locally, and Augusta Burlesque was born. They started out by performing at Club Sparx, then moved to the stage at Le Chat Noir. In 2013, a restructuring brought about the Dirty South Burlesque & Cabaret. You can see performances by this group of local performers throughout the year. To learn more about burlesque in Augusta, visit dirtysouthburlesque.com.