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Emilie Autumn's world is a stage ' and a large one at that

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By Rege Behe
Monday, Feb. 20, 2012

Emilie Autumn devised a plan she thought would pique interest in her new record.

She'd tour before "Fight Like a Girl" officially was released. Fans would be forced to focus on the new songs, especially the lyrics, and every concert would be akin to a surprise party.

"What I really didn't think about was that my plan was only going to work for a day," says Autumn, who appears Tuesday at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale. "After that, because of the magic of YouTube, it was already up there. Everybody knew the words by the second day."

That's the kind of devotion Autumn inspires among fans she lovingly calls Plague Rats. A classically trained violinist, she's equal parts musician and performance artist, inspired by the Victorian era and Victoria's Secret. Her vocals are those of a lusty rocker, and YouTube clips illustrate her knack for stagecraft with the assistance of the Bloody Crumpets, her able cadre of female cohorts.

This diversity has a purpose.

"Definitely, it's crucial to not just be a singer or a writer or anything," Autumn says, "but to be able to really tell a complete story. And, moreover than that, to build a world, so it just isn't about me, this girl who's singing songs. It isn't about me anymore -- which is nice, it makes things a lot less awkward -- it's about this asylum world, this stark Disneyland that has gone from being something that was exclusive in my brain to a complete physical reality for a lot of people who are now establishing roots in it on their own. But in order to make that, a lot of skills are needed."

That world is a cross between "Les Miserables" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," with a dash of "Pee Wee's Playhouse" thrown in for good measure. But it's also borne from harsh realities. A few years ago, Autumn tried to commit suicide and was subsequently sent to a psychiatric ward in Los Angeles. While committed, Autumn kept a journal which eventually become the basis for her book "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls."

All of these experiences influence Autumn's art.

"In my case, it's very much about not having all of that stuff that happens to a lot of people be wasted time, be wasted experiences, just because they're awful," she says. "My ultimate revenge has always been this goal to not only turn all of those things into something that's good, that's useful and helpful to people, but into something that's honest-to-God beautiful."

For her current tour, Autumn and her fellow performers have created everything from the costumes to the sets. But she envisions a large-scale production worthy of the biggest stages, "three times as long and with a cast of 40 people."

"I have an absolute goal, and this is not going to fail," she says. "Within a few years, this is going to be a Broadway musical. It's done. My theory is simply in another reality, it's already happened, and it was awesome. I just have to catch up to it."

Additional Information:

Emilie Autumn

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $17; $15 advance

Where: Mr. Small's Theatre, Millvale

Details: 866-468-3401 or website

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