Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

Creating the order of acts for a show is an art and a science.

When creating a show’s running order, there are artistic decisions and practical ones.

On the artistic side: Creating a show that flows smoothly and is interesting. Spacing out acts of a similar mood or tempo. Also, spacing out variety acts. Placing particularly strong/exciting/crowd-pleasing acts to start and end the show. If there’s a story line, making sure the acts tell the story clearly.

On the practical side: Making sure everyone doing multiple numbers has time to change costumes. Keeping acts with a lot of set up and/or clean up separated. Trying to accommodate performer’s preferences about the order of their acts (e.g. the one with the complicated costume goes first). If there’s a story line, making sure the acts tell the story clearly.

Scratch tends to use spreadsheets, like the one above, for a clear picture of the show.

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.

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Published in: on 16 February 2018 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Small Kindnesses

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been a couple of lousy months, dear reader, and I’ve been feeling a bit down. I try to be positive in public fora, like here, but there’s been a lot of self-doubt in my life. Am I just shouting into the void? Does what I do make any difference?

Yesterday, I posted a picture for Valentine’s Day on various social media and received this comment on Instagram from one of my former B.A.B.E. students:

Awesome. Absolutely awesome. Much love. It’s been 7 years since I’ve seen you, but will never forget how empowered I felt– and still do every time I hear Peggy Lee’s version of “Fever.”❤️

I was touched. Moved to tears, in fact. It was exactly what I needed to remind me that yes, what I do does make a difference. Thank you so much.

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 15 February 2018 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Valentine’s Day Treat

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate it and happy Wednesday to those who don’t. And for those who were celebrating Mardi Gras yesterday, I hope your hangover has eased by now.

Whatever you celebrate or not, here’s a sweet treat for you from me.

Mina curtain
Photo by George Ross

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 14 February 2018 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Blini

Dear Constant Reader,

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras! And Shrove Tuesday! And Maslenitsa*!

At The Manor that means pancakes. Actually it means blini. Blini are Slavic yeast-raised buckwheat pancakes that are fairly involved to make. Usually we made quick blini, which are easy and good, but don’t have the flavor you only get with a yeast batter. Then I found Ruth Reichl’s recipe, which is much simpler than traditional blini and still so delicious.

1/4 cup buckwheat flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill, my go-to for unusual grains)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix together flours, sugar, salt, and yeast. The sugar is just there to give the yeast something to eat. These pancakes aren’t going to be very sweet.

Melt the butter into the milk in a small saucepan. Cool until it’s just warm. If you put a drop of milk on the inside of your wrist and it doesn’t feel hot, it’s about the right temperature for the yeast. Whisk the milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

Cover the bowl — plastic wrap is fine — and put it someplace warm to rise until doubled. My fancy new oven has a bread proof setting, but I used to set the bowl next to one of our cast-iron radiators. Rising will probably take about an hour and a half. Once it’s doubled, whisk in the eggs.

Now stash the batter in the fridge until the next day (that’s why I’m giving you the recipe today instead of tomorrow). You could make your blini right away, but they’re better if the batter rests overnight. Stir the batter well before using and let it sit at room temperature just a bit to get the chill off.

To cook, generously butter a frying pan or griddle. Really be generous with the butter. Maslenitsa means “Butter Week”. Pour out some batter into the hot pan. You can make huge blini the size of the pan or little bitty ones. Totally up to you, but they should be thin. The blini only need to cook for about a minute on a side. The first couple are going to be terrible looking, so eat them right away before anyone can see the evidence.

As the blini come out of the pan, put them into a low oven (about 200F) to stay warm.

Serve with melted butter, sour cream, jam, and/or caviar. If your blini are thin enough, you can roll them around the fillings for an elegant presentation. I usually don’t bother.

I served the ones in the photo with sour cream and homemade sour cherry jam.

Enjoy!

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

*which actually starts today, but it lasts a week.

Published in: on 12 February 2018 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Sometimes we perform in spaces that aren’t exactly theatres and the dressing room is nowhere near the stage. Today’s tip is a simple way to make sure you don’t miss your cue.

A baby monitor lets you hear what’s happening on stage.

Some theatres have an intercom system so the performers can hear the stage while they’re in the dressing rooms. This is our low-budget version. We stick the transmitter somewhere unobtrusive near the stage and set up the receiver in our dressing room/green room/backstage area. We even have two receivers, just in case we’re spit up.

It was really useful at our show at Deacon Giles last week (where I took the blurry photo). Our backstage (the distillery) is separated from the stage (in the tasting room) by a soundproof glass door. We could see Scratch introducing us, but not hear a word he said! The monitor was a show saver.

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 9 February 2018 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Boston BeauTease Do It Again 2/2/18

Dear Constant Reader,

This past Friday we were performing at Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab in Salem. It’s a small space, so we do two shows, an early and a late. As usual for us, there aren’t any performance photos or video, alas.

Since it was Groundhog Day, Scratch had a fun idea for the show. Every act ended with a snippet of “I Got You Babe” and then Scratch went into his introduction. The same introduction every time. Perhaps a bit more frantic or frustrated or bored, as the evening went on. That was the obvious reference. I’ll see if you can figure out the more subtle one.

  • Betty Blaize: “Harlem Nocturne” (Les Brown)
  • Artemisia Vulgaris: “Love Potion No. 9” (Artemisia singing)
  • Mina Murray: “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (Ute Lemper)
  • Brigitte Bisoux: “Night Train” (Harry Zimmerman)
  • Devastasia: “Tombstone Blues” (Johnny Staccato)
  • Scratch: Magic
  • Mina Murray: “Harlem Nocturne” (Sam Taylor and His All-Stars)
  • Devastasia: “Love Potion No. 9” (Herb Alpert and His Tijuana Brass)
  • Artemisia Vulgaris: “Mack the Knife” (Bobby Darren)
  • Betty Blaize: “Night Train” (Alvino Rey)
  • Brigitte Bisoux: “Tombstone Blues” (Ronnie Magri and His New Orleans Jazz Band)
  • Did you get it? Do you see what we did there? Each half of the show was the exact same set of songs, only different arrangements and very different styles of acts. We’re so clever.

    We’re also so clever in that the plan was that everyone would use one existing act and create one new one. It turned out that I used two existing numbers, because Artemisia was so in love with “Mack the Knife” (I use the German version), while she created one new act and learned a song.

    We had some fun and excitement backstage. Just before the doors opened, Brigitte was getting out her pasties for “Tombstone Blues” and being a little smug that she only had to put on one pair for the whole evening, since “Night Train” was a tap dance with no stripping. Then one of the tassels just exploded into it’s component strands. Yikes! What to do?

    First we realized that Betty had a pair of tasseled pasties that would match Brigitte’s outfit, but she was wearing them for one of her numbers. However, since Betty was wearing them for the first act and Brigitte would need them to close the show, there would be plenty of time for a hand-off. Then Betty asked if I had black thread in my emergency kit (yes) and said she had repaired tassels before. Before the second show, that tassel was good as new and ready to be twirled!

    In Betty’s version of “Night Train”, she’s a computer geek who gets super excited about technology. At the climax, she rips off her t-shirt. She forgot to pack a second shirt for the later show, but Deacon Giles provided her (and the rest of us) with shirts.

    Guilted Lily, our favorite stage kitten, came all the way from RI to help out and insisted on wearing the torn shirt *and* having Betty sign it and then her boobs. You can see it happen right here:

    And here’s a bonus picture of Lily wearing Scratch’s hat & jacket. I think it’s no contest — she wore it better!

    After the show we hung out and had marvelous cocktails with the staff. Mine was a simple mulled cider with spiced rum.

    We’ll probably be back in a couple of months. If you want to see us sooner than that, we’ll be at the Mardi Gras Ball on Saturday with a brand-new group number and I’ll be reprising my fan dance from this show.

    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 7 February 2018 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Tonight I’ll be at Deacon Giles in Salem for The Boston BeauTease Do It Again, our tribute to Grounhog Day. It’s a clever premise, which I’m not going to spoil for you. Come to the show and see if you can figure it out!

    Also Universal will be at the early show giving away goodies and tickets for Fifty Shades Free! And of course there will be creative cocktails made with Deacon Giles’ very own spirits, distilled right behind our stage!

    And here’s your tip:
    In a pinch, conditioner can be used as shaving cream.

    Conditioner is particularly good for shaving areas of coarse hair because its purpose is to soften, which makes for an easier shave.

    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 2 February 2018 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Babydollmas

    Dear Constant Reader,

    The other day the troupe celebrated Babydollmas. We’ve thought about changing the name Beauteasemas, but we’re traditionalists. It’s a chance for us to get together and celebrate after the craziness of the holiday season has wound down. We go out for dinner or have a potluck and exchange small gifts — usually something handmade or burlesquey or tasty.

    Scratch gave us all silver and rhinestone initial letter necklaces, for times we want to be more subtle than our classic rhinestone name necklaces. Devastasia, queen of snacks, gave us bundles of fancy treats, including some lovely dark chocolate. D.D. made everyone glitter-laden body lotion (and an unglittered version for the guys). Artemisia gave us very pretty bath bombs. Brigitte selected truffles from the oldest candy company in America. Betty made us all gorgeous matching fascinators (except the guys who got rhinestones ties). She made me a special one with a band instead of a comb like everyone else, since things tend to slide out of my fine hair.

    I gave these useful little zipper bags with a travel-sized bottle of Atomic Cosmetics hand sanitizer.

    Of course I couldn’t give one to Scratch as-is, being as he isn’t a girl, so did a little careful editing.

    There’s a little piece of ribbon with new letters painted on which was sewn over the inappropriate letters. I was pretty pleased with the results. I guess I did a good job, because at first Scratch didn’t realize it had been doctored!

    What were some of your favorite gifts, giving or receiving, this holiday season?

    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 29 January 2018 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    Your secret weapon for cleaning is distilled white vinegar.

    I don’t cook with this kind of vinegar, but I do clean with it. It’s so useful! It’s a mild bleach, slightly anti-microbial, and a deodorizer. I’ve tried to make the tips below vaguely related to the life of a showgirl.

  • Pour half a cup into the washing machine during the final rinse to remove detergent residue that can dull colors.
  • Use it to clean your makeup mirrom and your smudgy device screens.
  • Wipe down your fingernails before putting on polish to remove any buildup.
  • Gently clean and polish leather shoes and purses with a soft cloth lightly dampened with a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and water.
  • To get the smell of smoke out of your costumes, hang your costumes in the bathroom, fill the bathtub with hot water, dump in a cup of vinegar. Shut the door and let the steam do its magic.
  • Just to be clear, you know that I’m talking about cheap distilled white vinegar, not wine, not balsamic, not that fancy herb-infused stuff at the back of the cabinet, right? Of course you do!

    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 26 January 2018 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Quiet

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I’m sorry for my relative silence this month. I do have things I want to share with you, like book reviews, recipes, a look at my new act and costumes for it, but I just haven’t had the energy to write. To be blunt, January has been a bitch of a month.

    In brief, it’s been filed with a car accident, injury (not me), extreme weather, illness, death (thankfully no one very close to me, but people I care about are hurting), and other lousy, time-consuming, emotionally-draining things.

    I’m hoping February will bring a fresh start and help me find my motivation to write. We’re starting off the month with a really fun Groundhog Day show at Deacon Giles!

    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 25 January 2018 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment