When J.K. Rowling first put pen to paper on what would become Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (later published as and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.) back in 1990, perhaps she had visions that the books would become a transcendent print and box office franchise. Maybe she even dared to dream that her words would make her the first billionaire author. What she, nor anyone else, couldn't have foreseen is that Harry Potter's alma mater, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, would inspire a successful burlesque show.
Two years ago, the Texas-based troupe Her Sins Burlesque & Cabaret premiered their first Holiday at Hogwarts production at The Parish in Austin and Viva's Lounge in Dallas. After seeing the audience's positive response, the troupe decided to expand production, taking the show on the road in 2018. Their regional tour consisted of 14 shows in 12 cities across four states.
Founder and producer Sabra JohnSin explains how Her Sins was formed: "Our family of weirdos started to come together in 2012, a year after I began as a solo performer in Austin. At the time we were known as Sabra JohnSin Burlesque."
The troupe changed its name to Her Sins Burlesque & Cabaret in 2016 to include the variety of performers that joined.
"Our monthly themed productions such as Prohibition: A Cannabis Cabaret, Follies, eXplicit and Heat Wave gave us a chance to stretch our creativity and really connect with audiences on a personal level," JohnSin adds.
That personal interaction is often literal, because Her Sins will at times leave the stage and do a portion of their performing among the audience.
"It's really amazing to see the same faces year after year, and we have such a special place in our hearts for our extended Sin family out there," JohnSin says.
JohnSin doesn't use the term "family" lightly. If the audience are her extended family members, then performers within her troupe are definitely chosen immediate family, and she speaks about them as such when listing her current roster.
"There are seven Sins (Troup members), which is a fun coincidence," JohnSin says. "Besides myself, we have co-producer JameSin b'Twixt who is my love, my partner in life and in business. There's Phearia JohnSin my drag child and one of the original Sin members. Frankie Sinister is one of my oldest friends from before I was doing burlesque. MadaSin Bordeaux is my siren of Sin, Cherry Sinatra my aerial extraordinaire and Kimber CrimSin Fox my best bud. Emphasis on the bud," she says jokingly.
Fox, who lives in Dallas, was instrumental in the expansion of Her Sins as now producer of subsidiary burlesque company The Erotic Side of Sin. Fox has made a name for herself as a performer by creating boundary-pushing, kink-based shows.
The idea for a Hogwarts themed show is rooted in Sabra JohnSin's childhood.
"The Harry Potter books and movies have been near and dear to my soul since I was a kid," she says. "I was always at the midnight releases for both. In my adult years I loved revisiting the series around the holidays because it has this intangible, extra-magical feel once there's a chill in the air."
After casually discussing Harry Potter many times with her troupe, JohnSin discovered "how many of us have a deep love and connection with this series," she says. "What better way to pay tribute as adults than to embody your favorite, or notorious character, and perform a striptease."
The requests made by fans via social media asking for Her Sins to perform their Hogwarts show in different cities is what ultimately prompted the troupe to take their show on tour.
"Having the opportunity to take this production on the road to people who share our passion has honestly been one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives," JohnSin says.
Planning for the tour began six months in advance. JameSin b'Twixt assumed the role of tour manager and worked out the logistics.
The Hogwarts tour was an ambitious venture, especially considering Her Sins as a group did not have any experience producing a regional tour and had only traveled around the state of Texas.
"Contacting new venues about a show that was clearly only a year old and produced by a troupe they had never heard of was a challenge at times," JohnSin says. "We'll forever be grateful for those host venues that took a chance on booking a new show by a troupe they didn't know of from a different state."
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In preparation for the 2019 Holiday at Hogwarts Tour, Her Sins will be performing two shows for an event collectively dubbed The Fantastic Fundraiser. The first will take place Friday, July 19, at The Parish in Austin, and the second will be Saturday, July 27, at Viva's Lounge in Dallas.
The rigors of life on the road can be telling when it comes to personal relationships, either making people closer or causing them to grow apart. JohnSin says the former was the case with Her Sins.
"It takes a special kind of human to load into a van with 10 other people, load in then load out an entire production van and trailer every night before and after the show during the cold winter months," she says. "You pretty much share your entire life together for weeks. It was amazing to see how our tour family came together and delivered stellar performances night after night. Everyone pulled together in a beautiful display of solidarity and teamwork."