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Boise is home to a burgeoning artistic scene. Artists from different genres are collaborating in interesting, and sometimes challenging ways, pushing Boiseans to new understandings of art.With the shadow of the Great Recession still hanging over them, a group of emerging artists have decided to make Boise their springboard – potentially changing the city’s cultural landscape forever.We'll introduce you to these five Boise artists who are making a name for themselves. Plus, find behind-the-scences photos and video, and learn more about the artists at our blog.00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff727c0001Name: Anne McDonald aka Frankly FrankieArt form: Burlesque danceAnne McDonald fell in love with burlesque almost ten years ago. A few years later, she formed The Red Light Variety Show and has been pushing the envelope with her dance and performance art ever since. Anne – whose stage name is Frankly Frankie – leads the Frankly Burlesque show every Sunday in downtown Boise.Anne’s headed to NYC for some special cabaret training this summer, where she hopes to book a couple of shows before returning to Boise.Hear her story.00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff727e0002Name: Jake FulliloveArt form: FilmFilmmaker Jake Fullilove is full of ambition. At 21-years-old he’s already started his own film equipment rental company, and is in post-production for his first short film. "Spring Garden" is a psychological thriller filmed in Boise last summer. Jake says it was his most challenging (and exciting) creative project yet. Jake wants to help put Idaho – and Boise specifically – on the filmmaking map. 00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff72800000Name: Danny KerrArt form: MusicMusician Danny Kerr is an in-demand guy. He composes music and does sound design for film projects, plays bass in a young rock n’ roll band, regularly packs the dance floor when he DJ’s at the Neurolux, and runs the sound for touring and local bands playing at The Crux. He’s also been sitting on his second solo album for months, making sure it’s perfect before releasing it to hungry Brother Dan fans. 00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff72820000Name: Cody RuttyArt form: PaintingCody Rutty made painting his fulltime job a couple of years ago. Since then, he’s sold work to people from all 50 states and more than 20 different countries.Cody studied architecture at the University of Idaho before deciding to follow his childhood dream of being an artist, but the drafting board still influences his work. He’s been an Artist In Residence through the city’s Arts and History Department, and has an upcoming solo show at State and Lemp this June. Hear his story. 00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff72840000Name: Heidi KraayArt form: TheaterHeidi Kraay is one busy playwright. The 30-year-old’s latest play is called “DIRT,” and it runs through May 31 in Boise.Heidi is also a Theater Lab teacher, helping teens learn how to write, produce and perform their own plays at Boise Contemporary Theater. This summer she’s participating in the renowned Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, and she was recently accepted to a MFA program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.Hear her story.This series was made possible by a grant from the Boise City Department of Arts and History.

How Anne McDonald Makes Art Accessible With Boise Burlesque Show

Kate Grosswiler
for Boise State Public Radio
Anne McDonald (stagename Frankly Frankie) during a trapeze number at the Red Light Variety Show. McDonald studied theater at Boise State, where her interest in burlesque took off.

Like a lot of people, Anne McDonald’s basement is a bit cluttered. But it’s safe to say the things strewn about are a little more interesting than your average basement clutter.

“This is Prudence, the rhinestoned and feathered rubber chicken who has a removable head," says McDonald. "And it’s kind of bloody because she’s been used a couple of times on stage.”

No, McDonald is not a hoarder with eclectic tastes, she’s a performance artist, specializing in burlesque and cabaret. Her basement is her wardrobe, prop closet, and rehearsal space. There’s a brightly colored tumbling mat on the floor and a trapeze hanging from the ceiling.

"I have some sequenced mouse ears," she says. "There’s strawberries over here, I found these at a thrift store -- and I really would love to make an enormous headpiece of fruit.”

McDonald often performs in feminine dresses, heels and glittery makeup -- her stage name is Frankly Frankie -- a nod to her spunky and beloved grandmother. On stage she has a lot of energy, but she’s surprisingly low-key in real life. She wears Birkenstocks and a sweatshirt, her hair is tied back in a ponytail.

The 32-year-old Boise native co-founded the Red Light Variety Show in 2008. It’s a modern vaudeville-style cabaret that includes everything from trapeze and comedy acts to striptease and singing.

The shows at Boise's Visual Arts Collective regularly sell out.

Credit Kate Grosswiler / for Boise State Public Radio
for Boise State Public Radio

McDonald studied theater at Boise State. Although she was trained in classical acting, she says it wasn’t until she found burlesque that things really started to click.

“Burlesque means to make a spoof of or make fun of, and you can do that easily while strip-teasing," she says. "There are comedians and there are underlying social commentary, it’s very low-brow and accessible.”

On a recent Sunday, the artist is getting ready for her next performance at a downtown Boise bar.

“I’ve got the setlist handwritten, I’m taping it up here and then I’ll put another one up backstage as well.”

Besides the Red Light Variety Show, McDonald also started the Frankly Burlesque show, which has a classic vaudeville feel. She uses it to try out new material and experiment.

"You see all the strings attached," she explains. "If you’re over there you’re seeing the performers waiting to come on. There’s no theater magic here, which I like a lot.”

The performer says burlesque lets her connect closely with her audience. McDonald's acts deal openly with gay rights, gender issues and liberal politics, and she’s not afraid to push the sexual envelope with her strip tease either.

Her pieces can be didactic, but are balanced with a healthy dose of humor. On stage McDonald has seemingly boundless energy that keeps her audience on its toes.

“That kind of element of surprise allows you perhaps as an audience member to shift the way you were thinking about something, it allows you to go along with Anne because she’s knocked you off balance a little bit,” says Boise State theater professor Leslie Durham.

She taught Anne, and has watched her evolve since then. The professor says the young artist’s business savvy makes her unique. Durham says McDonald’s offering something different to Boise.

Credit Kate Grosswiler / for Boise State Public Radio
for Boise State Public Radio

"She combines things in really intriguing ways," Durham says. "So Boiseans will be lucky if she stays here for a while, but I think she could certainly succeed very well in a much larger market in a different part of the country if that’s where her ambitions take her.”

In a couple of weeks, McDonald will be headed across the country for some special training. She and her partner Dan Costello -- a Boise musician -- won a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. They’re using the money to go study a classic Italian style of comedic acting in New York City.

She’s also landed a gig to perform at the New York School of Burlesque, and McDonald says she’s planning on taking what she learns this summer and incorporating it into a project she’ll debut in the fall.  

Right now, the artist’s performances alone don’t pay the bills. She helps manage a local restaurant to help make ends meet, juggling her many artistic projects on the side.

Despite that struggle, McDonald isn’t planning on leaving Boise anytime soon.

“It’s not completely saturated with performers and artists," McDonald says. "There are a lot here, but people are still excited about it and they want to go see it, whereas in New York or Seattle these things happen all the time.”  

McDonald says in Boise, there’s enough room to experiment in the arts -- and if an act falls flat or she falters -- her audience will still show up to support her at her next show.


Today’s profile is the third in a series we’re calling “Artist Statement.” The Boise City Department of Arts and History is providing funding for this project.

You can also check out more about this project on Tumblr and tweet to @FABarnhill using the hashtag #BoiseArts.

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.