Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here is your tip!

Acknowledge and echo.

When you’ve been given a piece of information, especially some place noisy and active, like backstage, acknowledge that you’ve heard it and then echo back the critical information to prove that you understand it.

For example, at a Boston BeauTease show, the stage manager will announce to the dressing room, “Fifteen minutes to places, ladies and gentlemen, one-five.”* We will then chorus “Thank you, one-five!”. We know we have 15 minutes before the show starts and the stage manager knows we know it.

This method, albeit with different conventions, is used in the theatre, commercial kitchens, shipboard, in the military and other places where it is critically important that information be conveyed and understood accurately

Also, Scratch reminds me, whenever you are given a string of instructions, it’s worth it to repeat them back to make sure both parties have the same understanding and expectation.

M2*”Fifteen” and “fifty” can sound very similar, so we use “one-five” and “five-zero” to avoid confusion. I was once in a show where this convention wasn’t used and the opening act thought they still had half an hour to get ready when places was called. Not fun.

Published in: on 20 November 2015 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

BurlyCon 2015

Dear Constant Reader,

Just a quick note that I am returned from BurlyCon and almost back to normal after an intense weekend of glitter and classes. I’ll tell you all about it in my usual day by day fashion. Perhaps next week.

All the badges! I only missed one year, when it conflicted with The Wrathskellar. BurlyCon seems to have settled down into early November where I hope it stays.


Published in: on 19 November 2015 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’m at BurlyCon right now, but I wouldn’t forget your tip.

A sharp pencil is a more useful pencil.

Keep your cosmetic pencils nice and sharp.

A fine point will give you more control. Also, you’re exposing a fresh, clean surface.

There are a couple of different sharpeners pictured above. There’s a traditional square one. I also have one of those with a wide hole for fat pencils as well as a smaller one, but I have no idea where it is. The white pencil came with a cap with a built-in sharpener, which is very convenient, although you need to be careful handling it. The two-part one was a gift from Betty Blaize. It’s also a pencil cap with a built-in sharpener, but the blade is protected in a cover, so you don’t hurt yourself blindly groping around in your makeup case. Not that that’s every happened to me.


Published in: on 13 November 2015 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  

In the Kitchen: Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”

Dear Constant Reader,

Recently Eva (she played Blanche in The Wrathskellar) pointed me at a Buzzfeed article where the authors cooked and tasted some “vintage” recipes (ranging from 1955 to 1973) and found them disgusting. Knowing my love of the midcentury, Eva called on me to defend the honor of these maligned dishes. I’m going to do my best.

Since we were having a wrap party for The Wrathskellar, that seemed like a perfect opportunity to inflict serve some of these tempting treats. First up the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”.

I’ve made cheese balls for parties before and I wasn’t quite sure how this could be bad, unless you used poor-quality cheese. Because the party was just cast and crew, I made a half-recipe. I probably could have made a quarter. It’s a generously sized cheese ball.

I gathered my ingredients: cream cheese, crumbled blue cheese, shredded sharp cheddar, onion (not pictured because I’m a dimwit), Worcestershire sauce, chopped walnuts, and parsley. The onion and parsley got chopped finely and the walnuts toasted (nuts are always better toasted). The cheese was allowed to come to room temperature. The recipe didn’t say how much parsley, so I added about a tablespoon. Everything was tossed in the mixing bowl and combined. I ended up smushing it together with my hands.

Then it was molded into a rough porcupine shape, wrapped in plastic (like Laura Palmer) and stuck in the fridge for a few hours.

Here’s the little darling in all his glory, sprinkled with paprika and adorned with olives. I used multicolored toothpicks for extra festivity and Spanish olives, as the recipe called for, and not those nasty black olives in a can like the Buzzfeeders.

My taste testers universally liked it and left comments like “tastes good”, “almost too cute to eat”, “stinky, but in a good way”, “so good!”, “de-lish”, and “Yummy! Would go well with almost anything – fruity, nutty, cheesy. What’s not to love?”

It was indeed tasty, if a bit bland, which I suspected was going to be the case, tasting most strongly of the blue cheese. If I were to make this again, I would stick with the ratio of cheeses, but up the quantities of the onion, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley. The walnuts were probably about right. Also, I might add a dash of Tabasco. The olives were only there because the recipe was trying to sell Imported Spanish Olives. I think they could be left off without any harm. Also, if it were a larger party, I think multiple small porcupines instead of one big one. It’s cuter.

What do I think of the report that started this all? Not much.

The description of the dish by the Buzzfeed people was “Underneath all those olives, it’s literally just cheese. Mostly blue cheese. Melted and molded lovingly by hand into an animal with a face.”

Well, it’s a cheese ball; of course it’s just cheese. Had they never encountered a cheese ball at a party before?

It’s not “mostly blue cheese”; blue is the least of the cheeses (1 part blue cheese to 2 parts cream cheese to 4 parts cheddar), although the most pungent of the three. I can see how this would not appeal if one didn’t like strongly-flavored moldy cheese. Most of the comments from their tasters bear this out: “Just a big ol’ fungus ball.” “I didn’t want to eat it because a) the smell…” “It’s fouler than foul: like a roadkill porcupine that has been roasting on hot tar for several hours.”

I’m also not sure why it says “melted”. The cheese should not be melted, just brought up to room temperature so everything can be combined, chilled to let the flavors mingle, and then brought up to room temperature before serving (most cheese should not be served cold). If they actually melted the cheese, I can see why the results would be unappealing

One person said: “How do you even ruin cheese?” How did they? This is a super-simple, if plainly flavored, cheese spread. My only guess is that none of them knows how to cook and that they used cheap crappy cheese. On a different dish they noted with pride that they used the cheapest imitation crab they could find instead of the shrimp the recipe called for.

I would consider Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” to be redeemed.

For those who want the recipe in easily readable form. This is as writ from the original:
Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”
4 oz. blue cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Spanish Green Olives

Allow cheese to soften at room temperature. Mix with parsley, onion, Worcestershire sauce, nuts. On waxed paper form mixture into oval shape. Refrigerate 2 hours. Roll “porcupine” in paprika. Let stand at room temperature 1/2 hour before serving. Garnish with Spanish Green Olives on wooden picks for “quills”. Serve with crisp crackers.

Lest you think the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” was invented by the Spanish Olive Council, here’s a cheese porcupine from 1964, made of cream cheese and butter, flavored with beer, decorated with breadcrumbs and pretzel sticks for quills.

I’ve got one more recipe that I made at the party to report on and I’ll be trying even more as soon as I can find an occasion and an audience.


Published in: on 10 November 2015 at 2:38 pm  Comments (1)  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Dawn dishwashing liquid will remove lipstick stains.

It’s almost miraculous. In the photo below you can see my gloves from the opening act of The Wrathskellar. Every show for a month I did a double glove pull with my teeth, thus getting a smudge of lipstick (Bitchcraft by Atomic Cosmetics, if you must know) on the middle finger of each glove.

The glove on the left was untouched. The glove on the right was cleaned with a tiny bit of Dawn and minimal scrubbing. You can’t even tell there was ever a stain there.


Published in: on 6 November 2015 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! The Boston BeauTease are wrapping up our month of The Wrathskellar this weekend (you have 3 more chances to see it!). Last night was a little more problematic than we wanted it to be.

First off Scratch made us this wonderful glowing sign to hang in the mouth of the alley.
…and then discovered that the electrical outlet in the alley needed to be turned on… and no one in the building knew how.

And it was raining in The Diva’s dressing room. Really. First it was just some water on the floor when I arrived, and then there were few drips from the ceiling while I was getting ready. Before Act I started, it was well and truly raining in one corner.

But those issues paled in comparison to our Wench Scarlet being so ill that she rushed off to urgent care about half a hour before the house opened.

If you’ve seen the show, you know the Wenches are vital. They are ushers, stage hands, actors, and dancers. And we just lost one.

That brings us to today’s tip…

Don’t panic.

I know it’s practically a cliche, but they are wise words. Panic kills. Be calm and think through a potential disaster instead of losing your head.

The cast rallied with Scarlet’s departure. Jet stepped into her part in “Our Lady of the Underground”. Blanche took her place in “Kiss of Fire”. Brigitte filled in for “Le Port Amsterdam”. I’d like to point out that we have no understudies. All of these ladies took on their new roles with maybe 10 minutes of rehearsal each. Hazel, who is in all three acts, calmly taught & guided.

The Wenches and Klaus worked out amongst themselves how to divide up the remaining work, so that everything got moved, cleared, placed, and done seamlessly. At one point during the performance I suddenly realized that I hand Scarlet my boa. I prepared to improvise and there was Blanche, ready to take it. All night long, whenever we checked in with them, whatever it was had already been taken care of.

With such a huge issue solved, it was a small matter to buy some battery lights at the dollar store for the sign and to rearrange my dressing room to avoid the deluge (which ceased by the end of Act II).

Bonus tip: Surround yourself with good people.
My fellow cast members, you all are rock stars. Thank you for making the show possible last night.


Published in: on 30 October 2015 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Zorita’s Knish

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been a while since I got into the kitchen, since things have been so crazy with The Wrathskellar. The other day I was in need of a little comfort food, so I made knishes, which always make me think of Zorita.

Zorita used “knish” as a euphemism for a certain body part burlesque dancers weren’t supposed to show the audience, but often did. She famously said, when accused of “flashing” by the Toledo police, “And they said that they could see hair. I said, ‘That’s impossible, I haven’t had a hair on my knish in years.'”. This recipe is in honor of her.

Make the dough first. Take 2 eggs, salt, baking powder, oil and flour.

Beat the eggs with the salt, baking powder, and oil. Gradually add flour until the dough is soft and not sticky.

Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Form into a ball and put into a bowl with a little oil. Roll the dough around until it’s covered with oil. Cover it and let it rest for an hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling.
Take potatoes, onions, an egg, parsley, oil (or schmaltz), and salt & pepper.

Boil the potatoes until they’re tender. Drain them, let them cool, and then peel. Really, let them cool. Don’t be dumb and keep burning your fingers. Trust me.

While the potatoes are cooling, chop the onions and cook them in some olive oil or chicken schmaltz until they’re nicely brown. If you’re a really bad Jew, use bacon fat. I won’t tell.

Mash the potatoes. Get out all your frustrations on the poor tubers.

Add the onions (let them cool a bit first), a beaten egg, chopped parsley, and some salt & pepper to taste.

Now comes the fun/tedious part: actually making the knishes. These are bite-sized cocktail party knishes, not big old deli-sized ones. That means you’re making a bunch of the little buggers. I didn’t take any pictures of this step because I was working too fast to pause.

Roll out about half the dough on a floured board. Keep the other half under wraps so it doesn’t dry out. Roll the dough as thin as you possibly can. Thinner than that. Use a 3″ biscuit cutter to cut a circle of dough. As soon as you lift the cutter, the circle will start to shrink in on itself, so roll it a couple more times.

Put a tablespoon of filling on half the round of dough. Brush the edges with cold water and seal. You want to smush things around so the knish is oval, with the sealed edge down the center, not the side like a potsticker.

Now you need to decide. Do you want a lady-like knish, appropriate for serving to refined company? Put the knish on the baking sheet, seam side down. Want a more vulvar knish, in honor of Zorita? Seam side up. It will probably open during baking exposing the delicious filling.

Repeat until you run out of dough or filling. I got 36 with some filling left over. I might have been able to squeeze a few more out of the dough scraps, but I was tired of it and 3 dozen is a round number. I put the leftover filling into a ramekin and baked it alongside the knishes. You could also make it into little cakes and fry them.

Brush the knishes with beaten egg yolk thinned with a little water and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.


Here’s the recipe!

Dough: Filling:
2 eggs 1 lb potatoes
1 tsp baking powder 3 Tbsp schmaltz or olive oil
1/2 tsp salt 2 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp oil 1/4 c parsley
1 2/3 c flour 1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk beaten
w/ 1 tsp water
salt & pepper

Beat eggs with salt, baking powder, and oil. Gradually add flour, just enough to make a soft dough that is not sticky. Start with a fork then work by hand. Knead for about 10 minutes, until very smooth & elastic, sprinkling in a little flour if necessary.

Pour a little oil into the bowl and turn dough to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for an hour.

Boil potatoes until tender, about 25 minutes, then drain, cool, peel, & mash. Fry onions in fat until browned. Add to potatoes, add egg, add parsley, salt and lots of pepper.

Knead dough again and roll as thin as possible. Cut into 3” rounds.

Place 1 Tbsp filling on each round & seal with a little water. Shape them into ovals.

Brush with egg yolk and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.


Published in: on 28 October 2015 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Audiences Behaving Badly

Dear Constant Reader,

Theatre etiquette is fairly simple: shut off your phones and don’t talk loudly during the show. Don’t do anything to distract the performers or annoy the other audience members. A burlesque show has slightly different rules, in that you’re supposed to cheer and make other appreciative noises during the performance, but, really, the other rules apply too. Common courtesies will make sure the experience is enjoyable for everyone, fellow audience members and perfomers.

You know the saying about a few rotten apples? We had that experience at The Wrathskellar on Saturday with some disruptive audience members. I wish I could say it was an isolated incident, but we also had similar problems the previous Saturday. The Wrathskellar is a particularly atmospheric show and boorish behavior can shatter the mood.

It was mostly people at the expensive cabaret tables up front. Maybe they felt they were special. Maybe they couldn’t see the other audience members in the dark. Perhaps they confused the theatre with their living room. I’m sure the woman who kept putting her feet up on the footlights was under that delusion.

We had people having conversations at speaking volume throughout the show. We had people shouting their “witty” comments at the performers almost continuously, especially during the particularly dramatic or tense moments.

We even had one person on her phone. Despite the signs in the lobby and on the theatre doors and the preshow announcement asking people to shut off their phones, she just had to make a call during the show. Scratch, in character as Bücher, had to ask “Is our show interrupting your PHONE CONVERSATION?”, to cheers from the rest of the audience. Later, at intermission the offender complained that Scratch had “embarrassed me while I was on the phone”. Seriously?

When we’re putting on one of our usual revues, the MC or even the dancers can shut down an obnoxious audience member if necessary. In The Wrathskellar we are hobbled by the fact that we are playing characters and following a script. It’s really hard to get an audience member to just shut up and let everyone else enjoy the show when you’re in character and performing a choreographed routine. We tried. You would think someone would get the hint if a performer shushes them during a dance or the host bluntly tells them to shut up. And even more so when the rest of the audience applauds that action. Unfortunately some people are beyond oblivious.

If one would like a private performance at which one could shout, chatter, or ignore the performers as much as one liked, we would be happy to oblige for a mere several thousand dollars. Please contact our management for details.

We had audience members who were upset that these selfish idiots were ruining their experience. I am truly sorry and wish there was more we could have done. I wish we had security or bouncers, but the theatre doesn’t supply any and we don’t have the staff — our ushers are also performers. Please, if you’re at one of our shows and people are talking or being inappropriate, you as a ticket holder are fully empowered to tell these jerks to shut up. You have every right to enjoy the show.

Now, behaving appropriately doesn’t mean that you have to sit in silence while you watch the performance. You can cheer, applaud, ooh and aah, sing along during the audience participation section (you’ll know when it is; it’s really obvious), laugh at the funny bits (there are funny bits), gasp in horror, gasp in awe, sob quietly, &c. That sort of thing.

We want *everyone* to enjoy the show, not just a few assholes at the expense of everyone else.


Published in: on 26 October 2015 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Appreciate your tech people. Without them you’d be standing on stage in the dark and silence.

We can’t perform well without lights and sound. Be nice to the tech people before the show and say thank you afterwards. They make you look good on stage and get none of the glory.

On a personal note… I’d like to thank our tech crew of The Wrathskellar and The Woman in Black for all their hard and invisible work: Allison for lighting design, Caitlyn for sound design, Josiah for load-in and carpentry, Emily for stage management, and, of course, Hunter, our long-time technical director.

As long as I’m thanking people….

A special thank you to Stacey, one of my students, who designed the angel & devil we draw every night, and made the Lost Girl’s dollhouse look so eerily beautiful.

Also my appreciation to those who are doing double-duty by performing on stage as well as being ushers and stage hands *and* taking abuse from the principle characters night after night: Alice, Eva, Heather, Jennie, and Gabe.

We could not do it without you.


Published in: on 23 October 2015 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  


Dear Constant Reader,

Monday night The Boston Academy of Burlesque Education had its fall student showcase and what an amazing show it was. All the students absolutely rocked it!

First up we had the B.A.B.E alumnae*, strutting their stuff. Some of the acts I’d seen before, some were brand new, and they were all crowd-pleasers.

Sadie Hunter started things off with a smoldering classic-style strip with a boa to “Nasty Naughty Boy”.

Trixie Santiago brought in some humor with a “fan” dance in honor of Ivar Haglund, the clam king of Seattle. Yes, her fans were over-sized clam shells.

The luscious Viva Le Reve performed a sultry down-and-up strip to “Feelin’ Good”, starting in a robe and ending barely covered by a beaded evening gown.

Silki Velour presented a more traditional fan dance. If you missed it, I believe she’s bring it to The Teaseday Club in November.

Teaseday Cookie Queen Elsa Riot teased us with a glittering red cape that she used to reveal and conceal.

Scratch awarded them all cutesy, kitschy, back-to-school themed certificates, like “The Girl Most Likely To…” and “Class Clown”.

From left to right: Elsa Riot, Trixie Santiago, Via Le Reve, Sadie Hunter, and Shirley Rockafella (I’m not sure where Silki went…)

Then it was time to reveal what had been in the Mystery Boxes. I was dying to find out. This was the first advanced routine creation class that I hadn’t taught, so I had no idea what was coming!

This was day one:

Six of the eight students brought their act all the way from box to stage. Each box contained elements that the dancer had to incorporate into the act, including small props, costuming decorations, dance moves, costume items, a mood, and a piece of music.

The first three performers made their burlesque debuts!

Devastacia was a slightly gothy baker who proceeded to sensually frost a cupcake on stage (and present it to me. I’m so lucky!). I though the bejeweled spatula was an item from her box, but it was the cupcake! Her sequin-swirled bra was gorgeous. (By the way, she’s the artist who made The Lost Girl’s dollhouse so beautiful. Come to The Wrathskellar and see…)

Dimples DeVil was a slinky cat burglar with a thing for jewelry. She worked with Brigitte to up the “dirty” factor of her act and it showed. I loved her opening leg tease.

Jeanie Martini started out cute, then next thing I knew there was a shower of dozens of flowers — from her crotch! Totally unexpected and marvelous. One of her box items were jingle bells and her (very lovely) underthings were covered with them.

Honey Bee is a veteran of Burlesque Your Way and i was looking forward to seeing what she created this time. She was a bartender with a box full of props, including one of her requirements — a bottle, which she envisioned as a bottle of Jameson. My favorite moment was when she put a cocktail shaker between her thighs and pulled out a boa. One of her required items was a shimmy belt and she attached cocktail strainers to her hips!

Villa Lobos was the only student I didn’t know. I believe this was her first burlesque class, although she’s clearly a performer. She performed a dance routine with sheer wings and a hula hoop which looked unearthly under the strobe light. I know that one of her items was a turkey baster, which she transformed into a black rose.

Shirley Rockafella is the most experience student of the batch, having performed all over the place this past year. She closed the show out with an adorable strip, starting as a cleaning lady and ending up in a corset and ruffled skirt. She rhinestoned the crotch of her panties!

I’m so proud of each and everyone of them for taking on such a challenging class and acquitting themselves so well. Scratch had “Super Star” blue ribbons for each of them and they all totally deserved it! I just wish I’d gotten a class picture…

Our next student showcase won’t be until the spring, but I’m sure some B.A.B.E. students will be gracing the stage at The Great Burlesque Exposition in February!

*It’s not that they’ve graduated from B.A.B.E., since most of them still take lessons with us, but that they’ve graduated to the professional/semi-professional stage

Published in: on 21 October 2015 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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