Hailing from the San Francisco Bay area with traditional theater roots, Sheba Queen of the Night is a well known burlesque performer, producer, model, and sex coach in the Tampa Bay area.
In college, she studied dramatic arts and technology, learning theater and television production. And it was her work with various productions of “The Vagina Monologues” – both as an actor and producer – over the past decade that shifted her perception of what theater and performing arts could accomplish.
“It was activist theater. It was like a really powerful feminist art form where I was doing monologues about women and we’re raising money for stopping violence against women. So, it was just, like, a really empowering art form,” she said.
Sheba’s Foray into Burlesque
Then, Sheba was introduced to the art of burlesque through a college friend who moved to New York and became a burlesque performer.
“Burlesque made me feel the same way” as taking the stage for “The Vagina Monologues,” she said. “I felt like it was a physical, feminist art form, where instead of, you know, doing monologues, we’re using our body in our performances. It just kind of was like an extension of what I was already doing, but in a new fun way.”
In addition to the empowering message of burlesque, she was drawn to the art form for other reasons – the costumes, the makeup, the stunning artistry of the performers, which were all “super exciting” for her.
After returning from visiting her friend, she embarked on her own burlesque journey, first as a solo performer and, eventually, producing shows. She launched the queer cabaret show, Séduction Féroce – French for “fierce seduction” – inviting drag kings and queens, burlesque artists, circus performers, and others to take the stage.
“I just wanted to bring all of the different people in all the different shows in the Bay area, where I lived, and come together for a celebration,” Sheba said.
Sheba’s Move to Tampa Bay
After years in Oakland, she became enamored with another Bay area – Tampa Bay – while visiting her partner in Sarasota. She’d never considered Florida before but fell in love with the Gulf of Mexico beaches and the warm weather. During her visit, she was also surprised by the large, vibrant LGBTQ community she encountered during St. Pete Pride.
“Stepping onto the street, Central (Avenue), and seeing the queer community and coming from going to the Castro (District) in San Francisco, I was like, yeah, these are my people,” she said. “When you think about Florida, you don’t think ‘thriving, queer place to live,’ which it’s amazing that was the opposite of my experience. It was kind of refreshing to come from San Francisco to Florida and see Florida’s gay as fuck. Like, I had no idea. I don’t know if the gays have been keeping it a secret.”
As an artist, she discovered “top-quality entertainment” when she moved to the region four years ago and immediately began performing and producing shows, bringing her first Florida show to Blur Nightclub in Dunedin.
The Gulfport resident still hosts her signature event, Séduction Féroce, as well as other showcases, including Beautiful Anarchy, featuring live rockabilly bands and other performances. In addition to Pin-Ups in Paradise, in collaboration with Mimi de Seda of The Rum Syndicate.
She’s also produced “The Vagina Monologues” in St. Petersburg, as well, donating proceeds to the St. Pete Free Clinic and Planned Parenthood.
Sheba’s Determination During COVID
When the world shut down in March 2020, like many performers during the pandemic, Sheba went into “preservation mode.” She organized virtual showcases with Mitchell Ames called Coast to Coast Cabaret. The focus was less on making money and more about bringing the community together.
“We didn’t make money, but we were able to give performers a little bit of support,” she said. “It was really a saving grace for a lot of performers to have an excuse to put on their drag and get into their costumes and, like, I get chills just thinking about it. Because that really saved me as an artist to have an outlet and to keep making art.”
Sheba’s Upcoming Shows
Now, she’s back to live performances. Coming up next is Beautiful Anarchy – Gilligan’s Island Brunch Show on April 9 at 82 West Distilling in Tampa.
She’s excited to bring the community together in person, again.
“I want queer people at my shows. I want to support queer performers. I want to bring the people who are excited about queer entertainment out. I want to build queer community. This is a big part of why I’m excited about what I do,” she said.
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