Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I just realized that I’ve given you over 150 tips since I started this blog! And I haven’t missed a Friday yet. (I shouldn’t say that. Now I’m going to jinx myself…)

Today’s tip:

Set deadlines

Even if you don’t have a show on the horizon for that new act, costume, trick, &c., make a deadline anyway. Most of us work better with a concrete deadline instead of an open-ended “someday”. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate or get distracted with that deadline lurking ahead, even if it’s completely arbitrary.


Published in: on 18 July 2014 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Small Steps

Dear Constant Reader,

First of all, happy anniversary! I’ve been sending you letters for 3 years now! Well, my first missive was 3 years ago yesterday, but who’s counting?

I bet you thought I had forgotten all about my 1933 evening gown. Not so! I’ve just been horrifically busy. I managed to carve out a little time to get this gown started.

Here you see the bodice all cut out. What’s with the hideous green fabric? Before I cut my lovely silk, I want to make sure everything fits properly. I learned my lesson with the Fit & Flair dress! The fabric, by the way, is left over from a Tinkerbell costume from many, many years ago.

Hopefully soon, I’ll baste them all together and we’ll see if the pattern needs tweaking. I’ll probably add some shortened versions of the skirts too.

This is my lovely fabric from Dharma Trading. Those neatly folded piles are silk charmeuse for the gown and habatoi for the lining. I’ll be turning them silver grey with the dye in the jar. The bottle is a textile detergent for both pre- and post-dye washing. Wish me luck! It’s been a while since I dyed silk.


Published in: on 14 July 2014 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been a bad blogger recently. I feel like I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing that’s been keeping me away from my correspondence. You deserve better, my faithful reader, and I’ll try to get back to my writing desk more frequently. But at least I still manage to send out your tips every Friday!

Today’s tip is about performances at parties.

Performers are not party guests.

Performers: When you’re hired to perform at a party, you’re there to do your show, not to join in the party. It may look like fun, but only mingle with the guests if it’s specified in your contract. Making a personal appearance is work, just like being on stage. Also, avoid the refreshments unless invited to indulge by your employer. Even then, it’s better to have the food & stuff in your dressing area rather than out with the guests. Be friendly & polite, but head out when you’ve fulfilled your obligations (and after you’ve gotten paid). You want to be remembered as professional.

Hosts: When you hire performers for your party, they are there to do a show, not join in the party. They’re not going to mingle with your guests unless that’s been prearranged as part of the gig. Being “on” off-stage is work too. It’s nice to offer the performers some food & drinks, but have it in their dressing area. Always have a private dressing area available. Being told “you can change in the bathroom” will make any performer’s heart sink. Lastly, pay them promptly. It’s never fun to play “hostess hunt” to get the money so the performers can go home.

Just a few simple courtesies and everyone will have good time!


Published in: on 11 July 2014 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Here in the Northeast, we’re awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Arthur, which forced the Boston Independence Day festivities a day early. Despite the holiday, I would not neglect your tip!

Declare your independence!

No need to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trends. Don’t pattern you act after someone else just because she’s getting a lot of buzz. Just be yourself, your style.

That said, ruts are bad too. Don’t stay in the same comfortable patterns. Push yourself and expand your horizons!


Published in: on 4 July 2014 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Madame Burlesque 6/20-21

Dear Constant Reader,

We kicked off our summer tour with two shows at The Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth, NH last weekend. This is our 4th year here and I think it’s the only venue we’ve hit every summer. Historically we’ve only done one night there, so we were pretty excited to have a two-show run. Our show this summer is Madame Burlesque, which is the first show we performed at this venue! We’re performing some favorites from the original version, a couple of numbers that have been entirely revamped, and some new acts.

Friday afternoon much of our time was taken up with load-in and tech requirements. I’m was told that the usual house lighting had been adjusted before we got there to add some of our usual requirements, like an MC spot stage left. It’s nice to have a long-standing relationship with a venue.

We had a great crowd, but the show was a little rocky. I had a massive wardrobe malfunction in a group number. The stage was slippery and Brigitte went down in two different numbers, once while supporting Evie. A comedy bit happened too early, which could have played havoc with the lighting cues. Fortunately, everyone handled everything with professionalism.

And after the show — the drinking. : )

Saturday started for us with an appearance at Roissy Intimates, a very exclusive lingerie shop, usually by appointment only. We might have also done a little shopping.

After the appearance we had a break for food before call, but it was too early for dinner for me. All I really wanted was a cold drink and some fresh fruit and Scratch knew just the place. We all converged on Popovers on the Square and I believe everyone got exactly what they wanted, whether that was coffee, a salad, a popover bigger than your head, or a mocha brownie (I don’t judge).

The show was a little more frantic for me as D.D. wasn’t in it. So, I went from being in 2 acts to 4, as I did “The Stripteaser’s Education” solo and took her place in the closing trio. Betty filled in for her in “Factory Girls” and Stella played the spider in Betty’s Zorita tribute.

Normally, in “Factory Girls”, D.D. does a backbend over a chair and Betty was picked to replace her because she could also do that move. However, we’ve replaced the chairs with small trunks. (So much better for touring. They’re props *and* storage! And besides, it’s so much fun to talk about stuffing things into our boxes — and they’re bright pink!) Given the new dimensions, plus the slipperiness of the stage, neither dancer could safely maintain the backbend. We quickly put our heads together and came up with substitute choreography which I think worked just as well in both cases.

The show went very well and afterwards we were besieged with photo requests. Not that I’m complaining! We’re happy to pose with our fans. Within reason. we did have to turn down the roller derby team’s request that we form a human pyramid with them.

Because everyone is wonderful and worked really hard, we had the show struck about an hour before our deadline for vacating the theatre.

Unlike the last time we performed this show, it will never be the same twice! The shows further from home will feature only 3 dancers (plus Scratch and special guests) and when we appear with all of us again in Cambridge at the end of August, we’ll change up some of the acts. It makes for kind of crazy rehearsals, but a lot of fun.


Published in: on 30 June 2014 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Today’s tip is more serious than I usually get here.

Don’t touch the performers.

It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how many people just grab and fondle burlesque performers in ways they’d never consider doing to anyone else.

This was sparked because at the show this past weekend, Olivia, our stage kitten, talking woman, and magic assistant, was wearing a corset that gave her some major pushup. During intermission she was helping out at the merch table when a woman said some very flattering things to her and asked if they could take a picture together. Just before the camera clicked, the woman suddenly stuck her face in Olivia’s boobs. Olivia was stunned, to say the least.

Folks, this is not okay. I know we dress scantily, move provocatively, and some of us take off our clothes on stage, but it’s not consent to be touched.

There have been too many stories from showgirls and boylesquers alike about being groped, stroked, grabbed, licked, bitten, and fondled while interacting with the public. So often it happens in the split second before a picture is taken — the offender knows what they are about to do is wrong and times it for maximum surprise.

You may think that this is just the kind of naughty behavior we burlesquers should expect and I’m making a big deal out of a funny photo. I consulted Red the Lawyer and she says this is battery and possible sexual assault.

Get it? That “harmless” action could get you arrested.

If you want to take a salacious picture with a performer, ASK. She may be perfectly happy to let you motorboat her boobs or he might say no to letting you grab his junk. We all have different comfort levels.

And sad as it may seem, sometimes unwanted groping goes on between performers, particularly at festivals or big shows. For some of us, a casual boob-grab is the equivalent of a hug, but don’t assume that’s the same for everyone. Same rules apply: unless you’ve been given permission, no touching. Respect everyone’s boundaries.

I feel so terrible that Olivia, who’s brand new to burlesque, had to experience this behavior from a patron. But it shouldn’t happen to anyone.

And now to lighten the mood, here’s Albert wearing a feather boa:


Published in: on 27 June 2014 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Review: Der Vampyr

Dear Constant Reader,

This review has absolutely nothing to do with burlesque, but it is a local production that features a couple of folks that have been involved in Boston Babydoll shows.

Last week Mr. Scratch & I attended opening night of OperaHub‘s production of Der Vampyr at the BCA. It had a lot going for it: it was about vampires, the libretto was written by our friend John J. King, and it was free (well, they asked for a donation). As a bonus, the AD & fight choreographer was Joe Kidawski, who staged managed Madame Burlesque the first time around.

They kept much of the music and the rough plot, but “adapted” the libretto. That is, rewrote it completely, cramming it full of references to Dracula, Buffy, Dark Shadows, and Twilight, plus a bunch of other pop-culture jokes. After all, this is from the man who brought us the Shakespeare/James Bond mashup From Denmark With Love last year.

The script may be full of jokes, but the singers and orchestra are seriously good. And despite the lightness of the text, there’s a deep thread of feminism. The traditional passive vampire victim trope is turned on its head with independently-minded female characters (who are also strong sopranos). For example, Della Swann refuses attempts by both father and fiancé to control her destiny and feisty Muffy the Vampire Nay-Sayer chafes at being protected by Giles, despite her proven skill with hurling a stake.

Be aware that it’s long. It’s listed at two and a half hours with an intermission, but the theatre has, in Scratch’s words, 90 minute seats. I found that the vocal stylings sometimes made the clever lyrics unintelligible to my ear, but that’s a problem I have with opera in general. Perhaps someday the libretto will be available and I can see what I missed.

It’s at the BCA until Saturday and all performances are free (though you really should throw something into the hat). And pick up a hand-painted flask, made by the librettist himself.


Published in: on 25 June 2014 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m headed up to Portsmouth, NH in a few hours for our show Madame Burlesque. We’re exciting to bring a new version of our first touring show back to one of our favorite venues!

Here’s your tip:

Drink lots of water!

Warm weather is here (finally) and we all need to stay hydrated. Water is the best drink for the job! If you don’t like plain water, add a piece of fruit for flavor: a slice of lemon is traditional, cucumber is very refreshing, and watermelon is amazing.


Published in: on 20 June 2014 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

My Latest Literary Endevour

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m not sure I ever actually announced that my article on the exhibit I curated at The West End Museum was in print! It’s in The Berlesker, volume 2 and available here. I’m delighted to be sharing the pages with some wonderful performers (and writers), like Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Trixie Little, Nasty Canasta, and Jo Weldon.

I hope you enjoy it.


Published in: on 16 June 2014 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip.

Stage names are not necessarily the same as Facebook handles. Confirm the correct name before using in publicity or press.

Because Facebook hates pseudonyms, burlesque performers often have to change the spelling of the names or break them oddly or add extraneous names, such as…

  • Kitt En de Ville: actually Kitten de Ville — why FB thinks that “Kitt En” is more of a “real” name than “Kitten” is beyond me.
  • Stevi Sailor St Claire: Sailor St. Claire — FB suspended her account until she used her “real name”. “Stevi” isn’t any more “real” than “Sailor”.
  • Alegsandra Malone: Legs Malone — I think this one is a particularly nice dodge.
  • Mizter Scratch: it’s just “Scratch”, but FB won’t let you have a one-word name and they don’t allow “Mister” or “Mr.” as a name, but apparently “Mizter” is legit.
  • Always confirm the preferred spelling, spacing, punctuation, and capitalization with the performer her/himself or by checking their website (of course they have a non-Facebook website; they read that tip).


    P.S. In case you were wondering, it’s “The Boston Babydolls”, not “Boston Baby Dolls”.

    Published in: on 13 June 2014 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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