Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This is my 300th tip!

Plan to decorate your costumes in stages.

We often don’t have the time or the money to realize our costume dream all at once. If you plan out how you are going to decorate in phases, you end up with a coherent design that looks good at any time. Create an over-all plan, which you can break down into stages.

For example, you’ll start with a spattering of rhinestones on the cups of a bra, but you’ll place them so you can add additional stones in other colors and sizes later. Next time, you’ll add some fringe, which is easy because you made sure to keep the fringe area clear of rhinestones in your first phase. Then, some more rhinestones, which integrate into the ultimate rhinestone pattern. Later, some swags of beads. More rhinestones. &c ad infinitum.

The bra to the right, isn’t the best example of this, but it’s the one I had to hand. And I know how much you love pictures. I think it took 3 decorating sessions, with performing in between, to get to this point. Betty is really terrific at this form of incremental decorating.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming Events

Dear Constant Reader,

Last night one of my students asked if I had any upcoming shows and should she check my blog for the schedule. I keep a schedule on my website, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to also post it here. This is going to be a long one…

This Sunday, July 23, I’m heading to Maine with Betty, Scratch, and one of our new interns, Artemisia Vulgaris, for a private show. It’s a Vegas-themed birthday party and I’m looking forward to wearing my new showgirl headdress.

The following Saturday, July 29th, I’m teaching and performing at the Mini Expo. You can catch me and my bathtub at the Late Night Lust show at 10:30.

The very next weekend, I’m heading to Jim Thorpe, PA for the Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival. I’ll be performing at the Friday Night Delight, then teaching two workshops on Saturday as part of the Burlesque Boot Camp. If that weren’t enough, I’ll be performing again Saturday night in The Big Reveal competition, as a soloist and as part of The Boston BeauTease. Wish me luck!

Next up: I get a blessed weekend off.

Then I hop on a plane to New Mexico for ABurlyQ! Burlesque and Sideshow Spectacular, August 17-19. I’ll be teaching Friday morning and then performing Friday night in The Wild Ones showcase. I’m there for the whole weekend (although I’m sad to miss the Sunday field trip because Southwest doesn’t offer flights after 5pm. What?).

While I’m off in the Land of Enchantment, The Boston BeauTease will be bringing you Cover Girls, an evening of familiar music with a twist. On Friday night they’re at the Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab in Salem, MA and on Saturday at the Strand Ballroom in Dover, NH.

I’ll join the cast of Cover Girls on August 25-26 at The Thalia.

Seeing it written out like this is exhausting, but it’s going to be so much fun!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 20 July 2017 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Spiced Cherry Soup (1958)

Dear Constant Reader,

For a couple of weeks in late June and early July, it’s sour cherry season at The Manor. We are constantly picking, pitting, and cooking cherries from the orchards (all right, it’s just one tree). I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting cherry recipes to add to our arsenal of favorites.

Recently Scratch gave me a clutch of vintage recipe pamphlets which included Good Housekeeping’s Around the World Cookbook: specialty recipes with a foreign flavor. I was surprised at the variety of countries represented and the sophistication of the recipes, especially compared to some other cookbooks of the era and their idea of “international” cuisine.

Hungary was one of the countries well represented with many recipes. Since Scratch was recently in Budapest, Spiced Cherry Soup (Hideg Cseresnyeleves in Hungarian) sounded perfect. It specifically calls for sweet cherries, but of course I used our sour ones.

Pit and stem cherries. Remove strips of zest (no white pith) from half a lemon. Stick whole cloves into the peel. Put the cherries and lemon peel into a sauce pan along with a cinnamon stick, some sugar, salt, and water. Simmer. Stir in tapioca and bring to a boil. Add red wine then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon then chill.

Serve cold garnished with a thin lemon slice and a dollop of sour cream.

It make a deliciously tart and refreshing soup, great as a starter or as dessert. The tapioca thickens it, but doesn’t make it utterly gloppy, which I had feared. I think the lemon garnish is optional, but the sour cream (in the original recipe as “commercial sour cream”) is mandatory.

I made only one change (besides using sour instead of sweet cherries). In the original recipe, you add the wine after taking the soup off the heat. I find the raw alcohol taste unpleasant and prefer to let it simmer for another moment or two to cook out some of that harshness.

Here’s the recipe, slightly modified:

1 lb. cherries (washed, pitted, and stemmed)
1 lemon
6 whole cloves
3” piece of cinnamon stick
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups water
3 Tbs. quick-cooking tapioca
1 cup red wine

With vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemon in strips; stick cloves into peel.

In saucepan, combine cherries, lemon rind with cloves, cinnamon, sugar, salt, water. Simmer, uncovered, 15 for minutes.

Gradually stir in tapioca; bring to boil; then stir in wine; remove from heat; allow to cool. Remove and discard lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon; then refrigerate until serving time.

To serve, ladle ice-cold soup into individual soup bowls or plates; top each serving with a lemon slice and spoonful of sour cream.

Makes 4-6 servings

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 July 2017 at 2:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Meet your deadlines.

Even better, beat your deadlines!

Nobody likes having deadlines hanging over their head! Unfortunately, sometimes the reaction is to panic and ignore them, which is the worst thing one could do.

Deadlines are a cascading thing. You need to send your music to the producer. The producer needs to get the music to the audio person. The audio tech needs to check the music file and get everything properly set up for the show. One break in the chain causes failures down the line. Scrambling at the last minute is no fun for anyone.

Do what you need to do to make sure those deadlines aren’t forgotten. Maybe that’s a reminder on your phone (there’s plenty of apps out there to help with scheduling). Maybe it’s a big note on the calendar hanging over your desk. You know how fond I am of appointment books.

Whatever method you use, meet those deadlines. It feels so good to mark that item as “done”!

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 14 July 2017 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Growing Up Naked

Dear Constant Reader,

Scratch got me a copy of Burlesque West: Showgirls, Sex, and Sin in Postwar Vancouver for the holidays, but that’s not the book I’m reviewing. I’ll get to it. Eventually. Early in the book, the author mentioned a book I’d never heard of, I was intrigued, and found a copy. And here it is.

Growing Up Naked: My Years in Bump and Grind by Lindalee Tracey (1997).

Lindalee Tracey began stripping, underaged, in an unspecified Canadian city in the 1970s, a transitional time for burlesque. She worked at Eden with angry, artistic Emma, Ruby who would spread, elegant Yvette who was once on a bill with Lili St. Cyr, and beautiful, bitter Sugar. She discovered the joy and power of dancing on the club stage. She also dealt with backstage jealousies, sleazy management, and a trial for lewdness. After being forced into a humiliating publicity stunt, she left Eden to tour in the U.S. There she discovered some unfortunate truths about Americans, in the industry there and in general.

She returned to Canada in time for the Olympics and found a home in Montreal at the SexOHrama. Some of her colleagues from Eden had also made the move, but their lives and fortunes had diverged from hers. After a while, she began drifting away from stripping to concentrate on her writing. Before she left the business entirely, she founded the Tits for Tots strip-a-thon, which raised both money for a local children’s hospital and the esteem of the participating strippers. Her final project before leaving stripping entirely was to be involved in a feminist documentary, which didn’t quite go as she’d hoped.

Her writing borders on poetic (not surprising, since she also wrote poetry). It’s all present tense, which gives it a sense of immediacy, but it has a misty quality of looking backwards as well. Unlike some other burlesque memoirs, she often looks inward and describes her feelings and emotional experiences, not just events and actions. Her story is interspersed with letters from some of her fans and her own poetry.

One of the aspects I found interesting was the changes in burlesque during the author’s career. When she started in burlesque, features (strippers) were still performing 20 minute sets. Early in her career the author muses on themes and songs for an act. Also, the features never mingled with the audience. It was go-go dancers who hustled drinks for tips. Periodically the go-gos would come on stage for a “paltry” three-song set. Then the go-gos were being brought on stage en masse for what became known as “the meat market”. The features were trying to compete with twenty girls at once (many of whom would “spread”) but also with porn movies being shown in the clubs. Once table dances were introduced, some strippers chose to step down in status to become a go-go for the increase in income via tips. You can see the evolution into the present day strip club.

It’s clear Lindalee loved stripping and what it had been when she started. She felt it made her more, bigger, stronger. She fought constantly against being diminished and demeaned by her employers, the audience, and others who wouldn’t see the power the performers had on stage. When she left, striptease had changed completely and she mourned the loss of what it had been.

Besides her published writings, Lindalee Tracey also made films. At some point, I’ll review her documentary The Anatomy of Burlesque.

I filmed myself reading a short passage from this book, but only my Patrons can see the video. The rest of you will have to content yourself with this photo.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 12 July 2017 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Today’s tip continues the series on dressing room and backstage etiquette:

Respect other’s backstage rituals.

People prepare for the stage differently. Some are social and chatty. Some are quiet and meditative. Some listen to their music. Some stretch. Some work on costuming or other handwork. Some need to keep moving. Whatever you need to do to get ready for your performance is fine, as long as it doesn’t encroach on someone else’s needs.

So, wear your headphones. Keep the conversation to a moderate level. Find some space out of the way. Explain your needs in a clear and polite way. Everyone should be able to get their energy up and focused in their own way so you all can have the best show possible.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 7 July 2017 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Big Props: The Picture Frame

Dear Constant Reader,

Continuing in my big prop series, The Picture Frame was built for the same show as The Paintbrushes, The Fine Art of Burlesque. We used it as both a back drop for the whole show and as a silhouette screen for my number “An Invitation”.

The base of the frame is sturdy metal pieces that bolt together. They are concealed behind decorative molding, painted with a metallic finish. The two frames are held together with tiny bolts, which allow the metal to slide under the molding to make corners that are neat and securely-attached. The whole thing is supported with wooden feet and braces, painted black for unobtrusiveness. The scrim is made from a king bedsheet and is held in place with Velcro. That was a bit fussy (I was the one who sewed it), but after I added some subtle clues as to which side was up, it became much easier to attach correctly.

Brigitte got this backstage shot of the setup (I’ve since gotten a better backlight):

Once broken down, the frame packs into The Big Red Box along with the paint brushes and would ride on the roof thusly:

In The Big Time Pearl used the frame without the scrim to portray a dancer in the vein of Degas, who steps out of her picture and into the real world for a while.

Pros: packs down fairly small, albeit long. Versatile — I can think of a few neat effects we can do with the scrim that we haven’t tried yet.
Cons: a bit complicated to put together if you don’t know what you’re doing.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 5 July 2017 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! A happy Independence Day weekend for my US readers! I’m continuing with tips on home to be the sort of person with whom people love to share a dressing room. Here’s the latest:

If you’re going to use hairspray, loose glitter, spray-on stockings, &c, ask permission of the other inhabitants of the dressing room.

If your dressing roommates are okay with it, spray or dust yourself pointing away from people, costumes, and food. If someone has an issue, check if there’s some other place you can take care of this part of your beauty ritual.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 30 June 2017 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Big Props: Evie’s Oyster

Dear Constant Reader,

I’d like to return to the theme of big props. I haven’t covered all the big props in the BeauTease collection, before I even get to the props we built for The Big Time. This is one of my favorites, because it looks great and the construction is so clever: Evie’s Oyster

Evie was our Oyster Girl for Madame Burlesque, so obviously she needed an oyster. We were touring with this show, so the oyster need to break down for transport, but it had to be large enough that Evie could fit inside with a minimum of contortion (she’s pretty bendy, but still…) Also, it needed to be light enough that the two sea nymphs who danced with Evie could carry it onto stage with her inside.

And this is how it appeared:

It’s very cleverly made from two papasan chairs. Betty sacrificed one for the cause and I think the other was a Craig’s List find. The two seats and one base were covered in fabric and decorated with “seaweed” and pearls, then securely fastened together with zip ties. We tried some other methods of attachment, but those proved the best, even though we had to cut them off after every show.

And when the oyster opened:

There’s Evie!

Behind Evie’s arms, you can just see the two golden cords inside that keep the lid from falling back when the oyster is open. What you can’t see is the wooden platform Scratch built for Evie to sit on, so she could just step out instead of clambering up.

Her pearl was made from a battery-powered accent lamp, so it gently glowed.

The only real problems I remember having with the oyster was a venue with a stage entrance that was so narrow the oyster had to be carried through sideways and Evie had to hop inside once it was positioned on stage and another one where the tiny backstage area had no room for it at all. For the most part it’s a good example of “packs (relatively) small, plays big”.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 27 June 2017 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

Keep your dressing room footprint small.

Most dressing rooms are not large or lavishly appointed (oh, I could tell you dressing room horror stories) and a lot of people need to use them. You don’t want to take up more than your fair share of space.

Keep your stuff (make up, costume, hair tools, &c.) compact and under control, rather than sprawling all over. Not only does it make you a more pleasant person with whom to share a dressing room, it keeps your things from getting lost, damaged, or accidentally appropriated. Also, you’re ready to leave more quickly at the end of the night, if you re-pack as you go.

If there’s somewhere else you can hang out if you’re not actively getting ready, you should leave the dressing room for those who currently need it. If not, be as out of the way as possible, especially keeping clear of those performers who are going to come racing in for a fast change. If you’re one of those, warn everyone in advance. Not only will people stay out of your way, you’ll probably even get some offers of help.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 23 June 2017 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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