We had the good fortune of connecting with Eva la Feva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eva, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
For myself (and many stage performers), the ghosts of pre-Covid identity still haunt us. In niche art forms like burlesque, hustle culture weaves a narrative that success can only be attained by pushing beyond limits, accepting an imbalanced effort/income ratio, creating art that is profitable instead of artistically fulfilling, and tamping down mental health issues. The burnout can lead to a downward spiral in which identity is defined solely by artistic output, and the joy of performing begins to have diminishing returns.
Pre-pandemic, I was running an event space (The Newport Theater in Chicago, a fringe theater for artists to self-produce content) plus trying to juggle a full-time performance/event production career. I found myself hitting wall after wall in my burnout, and often had to sacrifice my work/art/happiness to keep the theater running. I have a tendency to try to take on all of the tasks and my people-pleasing nature meant I was often giving all of myself out into multiple directions even after I had nothing left to give. When the shutdown was first announced, the relief at getting a chance to just collapse and regroup for a minute was overwhelming, and I gratefully accepted the respite.
Once it was clear that the shutdown was not going to be the two-week break we first anticipated, the fear and stress started to hit. The thought of losing a place that I built from the ground up and fought so hard to build was a mixture of terrifying mixed with some guilty relief. I took some time to really evaluate what I needed to do so that when we returned, I could work at Newport and have the energy to keep it alive.
During the pandemic, I began working on my own short film series entitled “Ghost Light,” which explores one character’s ongoing search for identity through a series of chapters addressing topics like pre-Covid nostalgia, financial insecurity, mental health battles, and rebuilding self via dance, film, paper crafts, shadow puppetry and projections. Through this work, I used the abandoned Newport stage as a blank canvas to explore the effects of “hustle culture” on myself, my art, my sense of self.
The impact that prioritizing myself and my artwork fundamentally changed how I want to approach reopening the theater now that the pandemic is winding down. I’m learning that I can lean on others for help, and I’m learning how to identify the people that are best equipped to help me. I’m trying to automate processes to be more efficient so I have time to continue prioritizing what fills MY cup so that I have the energy to pay it forward to others.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a Chicago-based artist that pulls from a background in belly dance/burlesque to create performance art pieces that combine her love of movement, costume construction, paper crafts, and storytelling.
In 2016, I formed “Feva Pitch Productions,” and event production company specializing in burlesque/nightlife entertainment.
In 2019, I opened The Newport Theater, a burlesque/variety/fringe arts theater in Chicago that allows artists a space to debut (and profit from) self-produced content.
Working full-time as a burlesque performer/producer means that I am my own marketer, sound engineer, video editor, promoter, costume designer, dancer, and agent. Working this career path as a freelancer means that the road forward is never easy, but the flip side is that I am in control of the art I make, the music I dance to, and the image/personality/brand I present to the world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would definitely take people to a show at the Newport Theater (shameless plug!) – we feature nerd-based productions, burlesque, belly dance, pole dance, comedy, story-telling, opera, music, partner dancing, and more. We try to give back to our community by offering resources, scholarships, and mentorship programs to help artists succeed in the city.
I also love the Drifter, a cocktail/variety performance space in the basement of the Green Door Tavern. It’s a true speakeasy with a killer drink menu!
Live music at Rosa’s Lounge is also a must!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Po’Chop is an incredibly inspiring artist that is making waves by increasing the visibility of burlesque in the grant application game and is creating impactful art through her Litany series and her show, the People’s Church of the G.H.E.T.T.O
Photos by Greg Inda and Thalia Ramirez