Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

B.A.B.E. had the first of two comedy workshops last night. There’s still time to register for the second one —Developing Comedy Acts  — on the 28th.

And here’s your tip!

Watch that you don’t block your face during your removes.

It’s usually a glove remove that’s causes the problem, but I’ve seen it happen with stockings too. 

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 11 Patrons. Thank you so much, especially my newest Patron, Coney Bow! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 22 January 2021 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Just a quick note — B.A.B.E.’s workshop series on burlesque comedy starts on Thursday. Enrollment is limited and there are only a few spaces left! Go to studyburlesque.com/workshops to sign up.

Here’s your lip, I mean, tip!

Use two colors of lipstick to change the appearance of your lips.

After you apply your usual lipstick, use a second color to change the emphasis.

For a fuller-looking lip, use a paler color in the center of your lip. Be sure to blend it well around the edges so there’s a natural looking gradation of color.

To create a flapper-stype pout, use a darker color lipstick to fill in the cupid’s bow area of your lips. Don’t blend this one; you want it well-defined.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 10 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 January 2021 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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2020 in Review

Dear Constant Reader,

2020 was a very hard year, as it was for all of us. There were a few bright spots, here and there, but mostly it was one challenge after another. I’m going to try to focus on the positive.

January
Scratch reintroduces Taste O’ Burlesque, a burlesque “open stage” and light-hearted competition. The troupe  bookends the competition section and I get to do my David Bowie number. The show goes over so well, the venue suggests a monthly event. Scratch wisely counters with every couple of months.

On a personal note, I make a close to last-minute trip to see my mother for her birthday (and see her in a play). In hindsight, I’m so glad I insisted on coming down, because my planned trip in April for my father’s birthday will be canceled.

February
We perform a Valentine’s Day show at Deacon Giles. It’s so much fun, as usual. Little do I know it’s the last time I’ll set foot in the Speakeasy Lab until the last day of December.

My doting mother and Scratch team up to give me the most amazing Broadway birthday celebration in NYC.  Looking now at the dark theatres, I am beyond grateful to have seen two remarkable shows that day.

March
We open the month with the second installment of Taste o’ Burlesque. I give Guilted Lilly a basket I made for her woodland frolics and she gives me a big hug. I don’t realize at the time, but it’s the last hug I’ll have from someone outside my household.

Then the world shuts down. I close B.A.B.E. for the rest of the month. Brown Paper Tickets stops paying anybody and owes the Academy a bunch of money. The Expo team tries to figure out what to do about the event, which is supposed to happen next month. The inaugural RVA Burlesque Festival, at which I was to perform, is postponed a year.

I record a reading of The Masque of the Red Death for my Patrons.

April
I re-open B.A.B.E. virtually, offering the March and April students their lessons on-line. It’s a learning curve, both technologically and pedagogically. I also start offering free mini-lessons on IG Live. And I record another story: Dracula’s Guest.

May
We release our first virtual show Live(ish) from Deacon Giles (sort of)!. It’s weird, performing at home for a camera. I also appear on Booklover’s Burlesque reading a selection from a just-published novella written by a friend of mine.

June
I am very quiet in June. Too many things bigger than burlesque are happening.

July
I am running (and mostly teaching) workshops twice a week at B.A.B.E. It’s kind of exhausting. Also I dive deeply into a bit of forgotten burlesque history and make some exciting discoveries.

August
We release The Underwear Academy. B.A.B.E. takes a break. I spend a lot of time helping set up a museum

September
The American Burlesque Collection opens! 

October
We release H.A.U.N.T. (Here’s Another “Unprecedented” Night of Theatre), our Halloween show. I sit for a virtual photoshoot with La Photographie. My editing skills get so much better as I struggle though making a video about cooking this mid-century delight.

November
It’s BurlyCon time! I teach (and create a recorded version of one of my classes), take classes, participate in a master-level scene study and some community events. I miss seeing people. I miss traveling.

December
I appear in three shows! All of them virtual… The BeauTease Holiday Special is filmed at The Manor and we have a lot of fun. It’s almost like a party, even if everyone who’s not on camera is masked and keeping their distance (it’s a big house). I also appear in two shows on Velvet Revue.

In a year of turmoil and tragedy, I felt stuck and stagnant. It’s good to look back and see some accomplishments.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 13 January 2021 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! Here’s your tip! Lighting has become so important as we spend so much time in front of cameras.

Soften harsh lights with a diffuser.

The theatrical solution would be to use a diffusing gel, but if you don’t happen to have one of those lying around, you can improvise. If you’re using an LED bulb, it doesn’t get hot and there’s lot of things you can use to put in front of the bulb to get a softer light– sheer fabric, a stocking, wax paper, &c. In a pinch we once used a white trash bag over a LED worklight.

If you are using a bulb that gets hot, be very careful with what you put in front of it. You don’t want anything to melt or burn. Baking parchment paper is a safe solution (thanks to Foxy Lexxi for the suggestion!).

Experiment with lights and materials to find an effect you like. 

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 8 January 2021 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy New Year! May 2021 be better and brighter for all of us! (but no pressure…)

Often I suggest setting goals for the new year, but 2020 was a *really* rough year. Instead:

Look back on all your accomplishments, no matter how small. I bet you accomplished more than you think!

Stay well everyone! I hope we can be together again this year.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 1 January 2021 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Wishing a very merry Christmas to those who celebrate! For those who don’t, enjoy your take-out Chinese food and movie at home! (I’ll be watching Wonder Woman 1984 over my egg rolls tonight)

It’s still Friday, so here’s your tip, which is really more of a wish:

May next year be better and brighter! And may we all do all we can to make it so.

Thank you all for being here this year.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 25 December 2020 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Behind the Burly Q

Dear Constant Reader,

Ages ago I said I was going to review my way through my collection of burlesque DVDs. So far, with a big gap between, I’ve reviewed a movie, an instructional video, and a vintage burlesque film. Time for a documentary!

Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America by Leslie Zemeckis (2010)

You aren’t mistaken; I already reviewed Behind the Burly Q. But that was the book. The documentary came first. In fact, it turned 10 this year!

Zemeckis  traveled the country interviewing burlesque performers and others associated with the art or, in some cases, their descendants, to get as full a picture as possible of American burlesque. Seeing the interview subjects and hearing their stories in their own words has an impact the printed page can not match. Zemeckis herself is invisible, allowing the focus to remain on the history. She may be guiding the interviews off-camera, but she’s not a part of them and there’s no obvious agenda other than collecting the stories, where ever they may lead.

The interviews are interspersed with photographs, newspaper clippings, and film footage. Rather than a chronological history of burlesque, the stories are loosely grouped into sections like “Occupational Hazards”, “Too Many Husbands”, or “Big Money”. Of course many burlesque dancers are featured, some well-known like Dixie Evans and Tempest Storm, some more obscure, but the documentary also tells the stories of comics, singers, variety performers, producers, and more.

The history is further fleshed out by relatives of those no longer with us, such as the son of “tit singer” and straightman Robert Alda (actor Alan Alda), Lou Costello’s daughter, Ann Corio’s husband, Lili St. Cyr’s sister (burlesque dancer Dardy Orlando, who was also married to burlesque producer Harold Minsky). Zemeckis also includes a couple of modern day experts, like David Kruh and Kelly DiNardo.

Since the footage was collected, a number of the interview subjects passed away and in the ten years since, we’ve lost even more. With their words and images captured on film, this documentary is a precious record of our past.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 24 December 2020 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! How does that keep happening? Before I get to your tip, a few notes and advertisements.

We’ve got the first classes of 2021 scheduled at B.A.B.E. Head on over there to check out the current offerings.

Tomorrow night I’ll be appearing in Velvet Revue’s Premiere Show: US Edition at 9pm EST! You can also still see The BeauTease Holiday Special whenever you want or H.A.U.N.T., if you prefer your holiday season spooky.

And now for your tip!

Allow rhinestone glue to dry for 24 hours before wearing and a week before washing.

I know we’re always rhinestoning things at the last minute (guilty!), but try to plan ahead to give your glue time to set up and really secure your stones. To make sure all the stones are on there well, wait even longer before you get anything wet.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 18 December 2020 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2020: Teaching

Dear Constant Reader,

This year I taught two classes at BurlyCon. I’ve been teaching virtually at B.A.B.E. since April, but this wasn’t the same. There was a bigger audience, new (to me) tech, a moderator, and the class was going to be recorded for later viewing or purchase. I was kind of nervous, to say the least.

My first class was Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque. The whole thing is a presentation and I’ve taught it before, even virtually. Since I was using Google Meet for the first time, I did a trial to make sure my audience could see my presentation, that the film clips would run, and the audio on one of them could be heard. Everything seemed fine.

When class time rolled around, I discovered that unlike Zoom, when screen sharing in Google Meet, you can’t see the rest of the participants. I don’t know how I missed or forgot that. It was completely unnerving and threw me off my game. I tried a couple of different things that didn’t work for one reason or another. If I’d stopped to think, instead of panicking, I could have used my tablet alongside my laptop.

Anyway, I thought I did a terrible job. I get so much visual feedback from a class, even a virtual one, which just didn’t exist. I forgot things, I fumbled, I felt like I wasn’t explaining well, and the audio on that one clip didn’t work. When it was over, I knew that I didn’t want that class recording to be available. More on that in a moment.

My next class was Caring for Your Costumes. I have a lot of fun with it and student questions are a big part of it. I teach this one a lot. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve taught it at BurlyCon now. One of the pieces of feedback I got one year was that the student would have liked to have seen examples of things. The class covers a huge number of topics and it’s really not feasible for me to bring that much stuff when I travel. However, teaching from home…

I gathered a big pile of stuff and set it next to my desk, so I could just grab some show and tell when the topic arose. I realized the day before that something I wanted to demo was too complicated to do in front of my laptop, so I filmed a little video (and I’m inordinately proud of how it came out). I’m quite happy with how this class went and even more so that Christina Manuge told people it was a must-take class! (there might have been a little happy dance on my part…)

So that was the class I was happy with, what about the one I hated? I asked Iva Handfull, the Program Director, if I could re-record Who’s Who and replace the existing version. Yes!

Originally I was just going to record a voice-over and lay it over my slideshow. But then I thought about how much I hated not being able to see faces, so I learned some more about video editing and decided I would film myself talking and put the slide next to me, like on the news (I was actually thinking of Last Week Tonight, since that’s how I get my news, but you get the picture. So to speak). It took me four hours to film a 50 minute class. It was exhausting. At least it wasn’t four hours straight. I was filming on the last day of BurlyCon, so I took a couple of breaks for classes.

Then I started editing.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t restricted to the images in my existing presentation. I scanned pictures from my collection of Cavalcade of Burlesque (a magazine from the 1950s). The American Burlesque Collection let me use images of some of the items in the museum. It took me three days to edit, which was also exhausting, but I had a self-imposed deadline to hit. And I did. I’m pretty happy with the results!

If you would like to take Caring for Your Costumes or Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque, just click the link. Each class is $20 (of which I get $15) and they’re available until December 31.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 December 2020 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon 2020: Classes

Dear Constant Reader,

What was it like taking classes at BurlyCon this year? We had three options: on-demand classes which were available at any time, live classes via Zoom or Google Meet where you could interact with the instructors, and recorded classes, which are recorded versions of the live classes, which could be watched at your leisure.

I tried to take as many classes live as I could and here’s a short synopsis. This is over the span of two weeks and there were whole days I went without taking a single class, mostly because the scheduling didn’t work out for me. If the title of the class is a link, you can take the recorded class for $20 until the end of the month (and the instructor will get $15 of that).

You Down with MSP? (Shimmy LaRoux): This was part of the Master track, which as I mentioned previously is for seasoned performers and had an application process. MSP stands for “Minimal Stage-ready Product” and the class is about using a similar technique for creating an act as bringing a product to market. It’s an on-going process of questioning and refinement.

Blues Burlesque (Zelia Rose) If we hadn’t been doing this virtually, it would have been impossible to take a dance class with Zelia Rose, who is in Australia. I set up in Albert’s room, with my laptop broadcasting to the TV and my webcam broadcasting me. Albert was completely uninterested in all this and snoozed the entire time. I discovered, as I lost the connection to Zoom multiple times, that the most convenient place to set my laptop is also a mysterious Wifi deadspot. How annoying. But my tech woes are unimportant. The class was about improvisational blue dances, with three base steps and variations on them.

Best Face Forward (Zelia Rose): This was a BurlyLab, a limited enrollment, hands-on class. It also started at 9:45pm, my time. It’s been many months since I found myself in a full face of makeup at midnight. She had a few useful tips I’ll probably incorporate and it’s just nice to shake things up with a different makeup style.

Pleasure and the Art of the Eyefuck (Jo Weldon): This is not a skill that comes naturally or easily to me and I was looking forward to learning from a master. I was wondering how well this would work virtually and the answer was VERY well. I could see Jo’s face, especially her eyes, much better than in a traditional classroom.

Cohesive Costume Design (Christina Manuge): I have to be honest; I was a little disappointed in this class. I think Christina was too. We watched her three excellent videos on costume design, but that was really all we had time for. I wish there had been more time for discussion. Still, I came away with one new nugget of information.

Fantastic! Advanced Fan Dancing (Coco Lectric): I should have taken the time to set up in Albert’s room, like I did for Blues Burlesque. Instead I thought it would be fine in my sewing room, forgetting completely that I now have a ceiling fan in there. Ooops.

Rhinestone & Embellishments (Frankie Fictitious): Frankie’s costumes are so beautiful and I knew I could learn some new ideas from her. I think I’ll also watch her BurlyLab and see if there’s anything else she covers there.

Illusions of Glamour: The Costumes of Burlesque (Rosey La Rouge): Rosey wrote The Book on the history of burlesque costumes (and I really ought to review it soon). Her presentation was a quick and well illustrated run through that history, plus a little bit about her experience creating the book. Very inspirational.

Closing in on the Reveal: Your Key to Better Burly Closures (Christina Manuge): This was an Intensive class with limited enrollment and I’m lucky to have gotten in because I decided to take it at the last minute. There was a series of videos to watch in advance and the class was a Q & A about them. I had seen them on Christina’s Patreon (if you make burlesque costumes, you really ought to join), so my last minute decision didn’t leave me behind. How wonderful to be able to ask questions “in person” of someone so skilled!

Fundamentals of Online Education – Adapting & Empowering (Robyn Swing): What a great way to close out BurlyCon! Not only did this class give me great ideas for continuing to teach on-line, it also showed me a new way to think about teaching in general. I’m definitely making time for a rewatch before it disappears.

So that’s 10 classes over two weeks (and I taught 2), which is exactly the same as last year, although packed into four in-person days. At least I’m consistent!

I also attended three social events. There were two dances, although I just relaxed and listened to the excellent music. During the first one, we played a party game for a bit; it was fun to connect with people for a while.  Albert stole the show during the second one just by lounging with me. I meant to attend the Jewlesquers’ Shabbat, but there were some tech issues. I also joined in the last minute Teaching the Tease caucus for teachers — thank you Saffron St. James for organizing! It was so great to connect with fellow educators and discover many of us had similar issues and challenges. I felt a little less alone after that.

I’m not including the classes I took (and am continuing to take) via recording. That may become a post of its own. I also didn’t include the classes I taught because those get their own post. Stay tuned!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 December 2020 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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