Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre

The U.S. tour of the hit Star Wars burlesque parody The Empire Strips Back has begun previews at the Montalban, with opening night on November 30th

Interview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre

The U.S. tour of the hit Star Wars burlesque parody The Empire Strips Back has begun previews at the Montalban Theatre, with opening night on November 30, 2022. This unique show is best described by its creator Russall S. Beattie who let me beam into his creative brain a little.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Russall!

What was the original catalyst for your creation of The Empire Strips Back in 2011?

Honestly, it was just as a joke. At the time we were doing these super serious, more artistic type of shows. The idea was to do one-off joke style shows in-between seasons. Little did we know the joke show would become the main show.

When you were playing one-off, three-night runs, did you ever imagine it to morph into seven national sold-out Australian tours, and more recently a sold-out 2022 U.S. tour?

DInterview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre eep down I did think it would have the potential, just because of the early reaction to it. People just enjoyed having fun with the concept. That was very refreshing, to have an audience just open to have fun from the very moment the curtain went up.

How many performers and backstage crew do you tour with?

It varies depending on the version of the show, but generally around fourteen performers and six crew (who also sometimes end up on stage behind a mask). L.A. will be getting the biggest version of the show to date.

Do you try to attend all the cities Strips Back plays in? Or just a select few?

The show is kinda hardwired to my brain, so I attend and work pretty much every show at the moment. I think I've only missed maybe one or two shows out of thousands.

DInterview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre id you ever sneak into a burlesque show when you were a teenager?

Classic Burlesque had kinda died out and the revival hadn't started yet. So, I didn't catch my first burlesque show until I moved to London in 2003 at the infamous Whoopee Club. But I have a vivid memory from when I was maybe four or five years old that is burnt into my brain. My cousin Brent and I snuck down to where my uncles and the men gathered to see strippers hired for a party. I remember seeing a half-naked woman dancing who was lit only by a giant bonfire. The image will stay with me till I die and the power of it definitely made a big impact on me... well from what I saw till I got caught by my mom.

Burlesque today does not have the taboo stigma it used to have. What do you think changed society's perception of it?

Interview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre That movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera. I joke, but there is some seriousness in that. I think burlesque has become a little safer since the revival. More about the aesthetics than the art. So even though the stigma of it being a low brow entertainment art form might not be as strong, it has been replaced by other stigmas that hinder its growth as an art form.

Are all the major Star Wars characters portrayed in one form or another in Strips Back?

We can't do every character, but we cover all the major ones and plenty of minor roles. We have no shortage of storm troopers, aliens, droids and everything in between.

Are you an avid Star Wars fan?

I was born in the early 80's, so yes, it's very ingrained in my childhood. But I'm also a fan of everything. I love pop culture, so I'll take any chance to flex my nerd cred.

WInterview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre hat would your three-line pitch for The Empire Strips Back be?

This is not burlesque performers doing Star Wars.

This is Star Wars characters doing burlesque.

Combining the best things about being a kid with the best of things about being an adult

Would you recommend a non-Star Wars fan to catch one of the Star Wars films before attending Empire Strips Back?

We do recommend that you should see the original trilogy at least... they are great films.

But the show is designed that you can enjoy it even if you haven't seen any Star Wars. Just more fun if you have context.

As popular as your tour turned out, did you have to deal with any royalties or permissions? Or are parodies exempt?

These are not the droids you are looking for... Move on.

But seriously there are a lot of rules and legalities in doing a show like this. So short answer is ... Yes.

Interview: Chatting With Russall S. Beattie On THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK At Montalban Theatre Do you have a new show percolating in your creative brain?

Always. We have three that are ready to bring over. The Empire Strips Back is the Trojan horse for the rest of our productions.

What's in the near future for Russall S. Beattie?

I'm currently finishing post-production of a feature film I directed during COVID and I'm publishing the follow-ups to my book Gotham 1919-1939.

Thank you again, Russall! I look forward to exploring the far-out galaxies of Beattie.

For tickets to the live performances of The Empire Strips Back through January 1, 2023; click on the button below:



SoCal Pop-Rock Trio EMBLEM3 to Present Virtual Album Release Party Tomorrow Photo
LiveOne (Nasdaq: LVO), an award-winning, creator-first, music, entertainment and technology platform, will present an exclusive virtual pay-per-view (PPV) showcase in celebration of Emblem3's highly anticipated new album, Songs From the Couch Vol. 2, set to release on February 8, 2023.

Ophelias Jump Theatre Presents WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN Beginning This Week Photo
Ophelia's Jump Productions (OJP) is proud to launch their 10th Season with Carmel Dean's musical, Well-Behaved Women. The production will be performed at the Ophelia's Jump Studio Theater, located at 2009 Porterfield Way, Suite H, in Upland, from February 11 through March 12, 2023.

Premiere Of Monthly Nomadic One Act Plays Come To Lincoln Beer Company This Month Photo
'ONE ACTS SOMEWHERE' welcomes you to enjoy four one-act plays from a group of amazing independent playwrights. 'The White Knights of Progress' by Max Marsh, 'Blame' by April Littlejohn, 'Five Years Time' by Amaris J. Gagnon and 'You Want It Darker' by Chris Haas.

Cast Announced for ETTA & ELLA ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE at REDCAT Photo
One of the American theater's seminal writers, Adrienne Kennedy captures the Black experience in America in the 20th century with a trademark embrace of symbolism, lyricism, and mythic figures. In this world premiere production, Etta and Ella Harrison are talented academics on the Upper West Side – as well as sisters and rivals.


From This Author - Gil Kaan

      Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas of film, television, and stage in... (read more about this author)


Interview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway DivasInterview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway Divas
February 6, 2023

Musical director Joseph Thalken will be accompanying one of his long-time collaborators Patti LuPone in her cabaret show Don’t Monkey with Broadway February 9, 2023 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Interview: Actress/Writer/Theatre Lover Kirsten Vangsness Stars as NIMRODInterview: Actress/Writer/Theatre Lover Kirsten Vangsness Stars as NIMROD
February 3, 2023

Theatre of Note world premieres Phinny Kiyomura’s Nimrod February 10, 2023 (with previews February 8th & 9th).  TV’s Criminal Minds favorite Kirsten Vangsness stars as Nimrod. Kirsten managed to find time in her hectic, busy schedule to answer a few of my queries.

Interview: Ben Vereen's STEPPIN' OUT at The Catalina Bar & GrillInterview: Ben Vereen's STEPPIN' OUT at The Catalina Bar & Grill
February 1, 2023

Legendary star of Broadway (and all other mediums of entertainment he undertakes) Ben Vereen will be bringing his latest cabaret act Steppin’ Out With Ben Vereen to the Catalina Bar & Grill February 24th & 25th. 

Interview: Kristina Wong Brings Her SWEATSHOP OVERLORD to the Kirk Douglas TheatreInterview: Kristina Wong Brings Her SWEATSHOP OVERLORD to the Kirk Douglas Theatre
January 25, 2023

Kristina Wong’s Pulitzer Prize finalist “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” will open at The Kirk Douglas February 15, 2023 (with previews beginning February 12th). Chay Yew directs this coproduction of Center Theatre Group and East West Players, with additional support from the Skirball Cultural Center. I managed to catch the ever-in-motion Kristina in Tempe, Arizona where she is the ASU Gammage Artist-in-Residence for three years.

Interview: Director Halena Kays FEELS Amazing Collaboration With This ANGERInterview: Director Halena Kays FEELS Amazing Collaboration With This ANGER
January 9, 2023

Circle X Theatre Company starts off their new season with the west coast premiere of Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s Do You Feel Anger? opening January 21, 2023 at Atwater Village Theatre. Halena Kays directs the cast of Tasha Ames, Charlotte Gulezian, Rich Liccardo, Paula Rebelo, Casey Smith and Napoleon Tavale