Russell Taylor began performing in 1988. He blends vaudeville, burlesque, music and film. (Rick Bielaczyc)
Chances are if you’ve participated in Metro Detroit’s art or music scene in the last quarter century, you’ve run into performance artist Russell Taylor’s alter ego Satori Circus.
Often using his own body as a canvas (usually with black and white clown make up), Taylor’s shows blend vaudeville, burlesque, music and film. He says his style is so diverse because of his varied background, which includes art, music and even sports.
“Coming from art and hockey and being a knucklehead and playing in punk bands, you get influenced by so many different things,” says Taylor, who sang in a local punk band in the ’80s, playing clubs like the Token Lounge, Traxx and the Ritz.
“It is an amalgamation,” he says. “I use videos, films, dollar store props and costumes that I make or find. It’s part vaudeville, it’s part cabaret, it’s burlesque, it’s silent film, it’s whacky dada and surrealism and elements of Weimar Republic German Theater.”
Taylor will celebrate his 25-year milestone as a performance artist with “63 Mins (of Random Balance),” a new piece of work that he will show twice Friday at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The piece features a brand new script and music, but he says he will be harkening back to his earlier shows when he used to make lights with painted coffee cans and knobs from the hardware store.
“Even though we have the capability of using all kinds of tech and great big expensive things, we’re keeping it kind of in the vein of how earlier shows used to be with dim lighting and cheesy props,” Taylor says.
“63 Mins (of Random Balances)” features a live band and additional performers — such as burlesque dancer Lushes LaMoan and Scott Dambacher, lead singer of the local band the Stoned.
Taylor started as a performance artist in 1988. One of his first notable shows was 1994’s “Adam,” which he took to the stage of 1515 Broadway in Detroit. Not only did that show earn him a Detroit Music Award for “Best Live Performance” and a Michigan Artist mini-grant, but he also earned a scholarship to University of Michigan to work on his masters of fine arts degree.
Since then he’s performed short pieces at alternative art events such as the DAMNED show, Dirty Show and Theater Bizarre. His production “Funy as Hell” also ran at Meadow Brook Theatre and Yale University.
He has more in the works, too. Taylor is collaborating with video and film producer Sean Redenz to create a mockumentary that will tell the story of the Satori Circus character’s origin. And he’s putting together an a capella choir to perform songs from all of his past shows.
Satori Circus: '63 mins (of Random Balance)'
7 and 9 p.m. Fri. (doors open 30 minutes before each show)
Detroit Film Theatre
5200 Woodward, Detroit