Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip.

One thing at a time.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you have too much to do. Just pick one thing from that mountainous to-do list. And do it. Start with something you know you can accomplish. Don’t let yourself get distracted or try to do something else as well. Just work on it until the task is done. Then smile, breathe, pat yourself on the back, and pick the next item. Repeat.

Yes, you may find that you can’t complete a project for one reason or another, but don’t get frustrated or, worse, give up entirely. Just stop, breathe, pick something else, and get back to work. And take a break from time to time to clear your head and regain perspective.

This is me trying to take my own advice.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 23 September 2016 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

So Busy

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been so hard to find time to sit at my writing desk and pen a missive for you. There is so much going on in my life right now. Yes, some of it is that tedious real world stuff, but the rest I’m delighted to share with you.

Tonight (Wednesday) at 7pm Scratch will be opening Story Club Boston at the Dorchester Brewing Company with a tale of drunken adventures. Get there early because as soon as he’s finished he’s running out of there to get to rehearsal.

Speaking of such things, we are deep in rehearsal for Wrathskellar Tales, our new take on our haunting cabaret. This year the audience will explore the backstage abodes and spy on the private moments of the denizens. We’ve never done anything like this, although I think we were always leading up to it.

Transforming the raw space of what will become The Thalia into The Wrathskellar is a huge undertaking and if you would like to lend a hand, please let us know (thescoop at bostonbeautease dot com). There is work for skilled and unskilled labor alike.

The B.A.B.E. Student Showcase returns on November 6th at The Rockwell (formerly the Davis Square Theatre). Come see our current Burlesque Your Way students debut their new creations as well as performances from some of our alumnae and maybe even some of our instructors. If you are or were a student at B.A.B.E., we’d love to have you!

I’m afraid that’s all the time I can spare today. I have so many things I want to share with you. What would you like to hear about first? Book review? DVD review? Recipe? More about Wrathskellar Tales? Something entirely different?

In haste,

Published in: on 21 September 2016 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

There’s a difference between an introduction and a biography.

An introduction is what the host says on stage before you begin your number. It should be on the short side and include the most important thing about yourself. That thing can change from show to show and act to act. It’s your chance to set audience expectations and make them want to see you perform. Be entertaining, informative, and concise.

Scratch reminds me that it’s also good to include notes to the host, like how your name is pronounced and if there’s any thing you don’t want said, because it might give away a surprise in your act. Also, be prepared for the host to shorten your intro*, especially a festival or other long show.

A biography is something that’s going to be printed in a program or listed on a website. This is where you present your skills, qualifications, awards, &c., as appropriate to the occasion. That is, have a performance bio, a teaching bio, a producing bio, &c. and use the one that suits best. Again, be relatively concise and present the most important information.

Neither of these is a resume, which is a listing of your accomplishments, accolades, skills, publications, shows, classes, &c. If you’ve been doing this for a long time, you might restrict it to “notable appearances” and similar.

Sailor St. Claire teaches a lovely class called “The Art of the Performer Bio”. Take it if you get the chance.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.
*I was once at a festival where the hosts were reading the intros verbatim off paper. The last act of that very long night, had provided as the introduction (no exaggeration) a two-page list of everything that performer had ever done. The hosts just kept reading, trading off paragraphs as I recall. Exhausting for everyone. Don’t be that person.

Published in: on 16 September 2016 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When your back is to the audience, you must continue to engage with them.

Turning your back on the audience can be a powerful tease and build some tension, but only when you stay focused and give the audience the same energy you would if you were facing them. Even though you can’t see them, they see you. An effective performer remains aware of the audience and gives them attention, even without eye contact.

You may be taking care of a tricky remove out of sight of the audience, but dropping your head and your character to do so can make them lose interest in you. Project your character in every aspect of your physicality and you’ll remain intriguing.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Photo by Chuck Jones.

Published in: on 9 September 2016 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Wrathskellar Returns

Dear Constant Reader,

The Wrathskellar will once again be open in October, but it won’t be what you expect…

Instead of a night of entertainment in our haunting cabaret, our delicious guests are invited backstage to explore the labyrinth of personal spaces and spy on the denizens in their private moments. Perhaps you will even have an intimate encounter with one of us.

There are very few allowed into The Wrathskellar each night. It will sell out, so get your tickets with alacrity.

Today you are in luck because for 24 hours only, we’re offering discounted tickets. you can secure your admission *and* save a few dollars.


Published in: on 7 September 2016 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When producers ask you for something (music, a photo, &c.), give them exactly what they ask for.

If everyone involved in a show sends the producer what is requested, things will run more smoothly. If one person fails, it’s more work on the producer. If everyone ignores the specifications… it’s ugly.

Some common requests and issues:

If the producer asks for your music as a file, send the music file. Don’t send a YouTube link or an iTunes Store link. If a file format is specified (like mp3 or wav), make sure you’re sending the right format.

If the producer asks for a high-resolution photo, don’t send a web-resolution photo. If they’re printing promo material, a low-res photo isn’t going to look as good on paper as it does on a screen. Make sure it’s a 300dpi image.

If the producer asks for a link to a video, post your video on YouTube or Vimeo and send them an unprotected link. It doesn’t have to be publicly listed, but it shouldn’t require a password. Don’t send them the video file.

If the producer asks you to use a file sharing service, like Dropbox, don’t email the file. Huge files can completely overwhelm an inbox.

If the producer asks you to send something to a different person, like the stage manager or sound tech, don’t send it to the producer.

If you’re not a tech savvy person, ask for help, but not from the producer. The producer is busy enough producing the show and can’t also be your (or anyone else’s) tech support.

Respect deadlines!

If you do exactly as the producer requests, you’ll be seen as a professional who pays attention, follows directions, and makes the producer’s job that much easier. And people like that tend to be rehired.

The flip side, for producers, is that you must be very clear in what you need, when you need it, and how you need it.

Jo Weldon has a very informative class on how to deal with producers, festival organizers, and the press. Take it if you get the chance.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 2 September 2016 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Good News!

Dear Constant Reader,

The Thalia got some good news last week! First the Cambridge Zoning Board granted them the variance they need to open a business in what is technically a residential zone. Hurrah! After months of waiting, more wheels can at last be set in motion.

Also the Kickstarter campaign was successful, bringing in some much needed funds. However, it’s just a fraction of what an ambitious project like this needs. If you (or your rich uncle) want to help bring The Thalia to life, you can find out more about supporting it here.


Published in: on 31 August 2016 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday!

Just a reminder that The Thalia‘s Kickstarter ends tomorrow.

And now your tip! This piece of wisdom comes from Mr. Scratch:

Know your roots, folks. You may not like where you came from, but they made you who you are today. For better or worse.

Nobody springs fully formed from the brow of Zeus. All your experiences and relationships, good and bad, made you the performer you are. Ignoring any of them is being untruthful with yourself.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 26 August 2016 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

In the Kitchen: Peach Ice Water (1885)

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s starting to cool off a bit, but we had some terribly muggy days this summer. I recommend this delightful Victorian ice recipe to counteract such misery. It’s made with (no surprise from the name) water rather than a cream base. I think it’s more refreshing than ice cream on a really hot & humid day.

From The Book of Ices by Agnes Marshall (1885):

Peach Ice Water
Peel 6 good peaches, and crack the stones, and remove the kernels, which must be pounded; put in a stewpan with 1 pint of water, 4 ounces of sugar, and juice of 1 lemon, cook the fruit for 15 minutes, then tammy, and add a wineglassful of noyeau and 1 glass of orange flower water, a little carmine. Freeze.


I assumed that Victorian peaches were smaller than modern ones and halved the amount. This turned out to make the right amount for my ice cream freezer, so hurrah for me. It was a bit of a challenge to acquire peaches in the first place as the crop in the northeast this year suffered badly from our weird winter and the farmers’ markets have been lacking.

The ground peach kernels are used to give the ice an almond flavor. Rather than playing games with cyanide (this small an amount is probably safe, but still…), I used a splash of almond extract instead.

I know the picture shows a fake plastic lemon, but that’s because I took it after the fact and I had used my stock of fresh lemons. Someday I’ll remember to take the ingredient picture first.

A tammy is a fine hair sieve that you would rub the cooked peaches through. Because I don’t have servants, I used an immersion blender and resigned myself to a less than perfectly silky smooth puree.

My research showed that a Victorian wineglass measure was about 2 fluid ounces. Noyeau is a almond-flavored liqueur; I used amaretto. Orange flower water, like its cousin rose water, is very potent. I recommend using very little.

Carmine is a red food coloring made from cochineal, an insect. I actually have some cochineal in its raw form, but that seemed excessively authentic. I considered adding a little red food coloring, but I was out (blue and green coloring, yes, but no red or yellow. Why?). Besides, the puree had a lovely peachy color in its natural state.

If you don’t have an ice cream freezer, there are ways to fake one. Or you can treat this like a granita and freeze for a couple of hours in a shallow pan, stirring every half hour to break up the ice crystals.

Peach Ice

Peach Ice Water
1 lb. peaches
2 cups water
1/2 heaping cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup amaretto
1 teaspoon orange flower water
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)

To peel the peaches, dunk them into boiling water for a few seconds and then into ice water. The skins will come right off. Halve the peaches and take out the pits.

Cook the peaches with the water, sugar, and lemon juice for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree.

Add almond extract, amaretto, and orange flower water. Let cool completely.

Pour into ice cream freezer and follow the instructions.


Published in: on 24 August 2016 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Costume in Search of an Act

Dear Constant Reader,

Before I was a performer, I was a costumer. Thus when I am creating an act, the first thing I think is “what will I wear?” and that often dictates the choreography.

Sometime I make or acquire costumes and I have no idea how they want to be presented on stage. Case in point, this beauty.


When I joined the costume presentation “Victorian Secret“, I told myself I’d have to reuse the corset in a burlesque costume (I decidedthe chemise and drawers were exempt). Since then I’ve added a bra, garter belt, and side-tie panties. A skirt is in the works. Possibly gloves. Maybe a headpiece. It’s going to be stunning, if I do say so myself.

Except I have no idea how to use it. Nothing is coming to mind. No concept, no music, no hook. Nothing.

Alas. I shall keep working on the costume in hopes that inspiration strikes. However, soon I am going to have to set it aside in favor of costumes for Wrathskellar Tales.


Published in: on 23 August 2016 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment