Madame Burlesque 6/20-21

Dear Constant Reader,

We kicked off our summer tour with two shows at The Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth, NH last weekend. This is our 4th year here and I think it’s the only venue we’ve hit every summer. Historically we’ve only done one night there, so we were pretty excited to have a two-show run. Our show this summer is Madame Burlesque, which is the first show we performed at this venue! We’re performing some favorites from the original version, a couple of numbers that have been entirely revamped, and some new acts.

Friday afternoon much of our time was taken up with load-in and tech requirements. I’m was told that the usual house lighting had been adjusted before we got there to add some of our usual requirements, like an MC spot stage left. It’s nice to have a long-standing relationship with a venue.

We had a great crowd, but the show was a little rocky. I had a massive wardrobe malfunction in a group number. The stage was slippery and Brigitte went down in two different numbers, once while supporting Evie. A comedy bit happened too early, which could have played havoc with the lighting cues. Fortunately, everyone handled everything with professionalism.

And after the show — the drinking. : )

Saturday started for us with an appearance at Roissy Intimates, a very exclusive lingerie shop, usually by appointment only. We might have also done a little shopping.

After the appearance we had a break for food before call, but it was too early for dinner for me. All I really wanted was a cold drink and some fresh fruit and Scratch knew just the place. We all converged on Popovers on the Square and I believe everyone got exactly what they wanted, whether that was coffee, a salad, a popover bigger than your head, or a mocha brownie (I don’t judge).

The show was a little more frantic for me as D.D. wasn’t in it. So, I went from being in 2 acts to 4, as I did “The Stripteaser’s Education” solo and took her place in the closing trio. Betty filled in for her in “Factory Girls” and Stella played the spider in Betty’s Zorita tribute.

Normally, in “Factory Girls”, D.D. does a backbend over a chair and Betty was picked to replace her because she could also do that move. However, we’ve replaced the chairs with small trunks. (So much better for touring. They’re props *and* storage! And besides, it’s so much fun to talk about stuffing things into our boxes — and they’re bright pink!) Given the new dimensions, plus the slipperiness of the stage, neither dancer could safely maintain the backbend. We quickly put our heads together and came up with substitute choreography which I think worked just as well in both cases.

The show went very well and afterwards we were besieged with photo requests. Not that I’m complaining! We’re happy to pose with our fans. Within reason. we did have to turn down the roller derby team’s request that we form a human pyramid with them.

Because everyone is wonderful and worked really hard, we had the show struck about an hour before our deadline for vacating the theatre.

Unlike the last time we performed this show, it will never be the same twice! The shows further from home will feature only 3 dancers (plus Scratch and special guests) and when we appear with all of us again in Cambridge at the end of August, we’ll change up some of the acts. It makes for kind of crazy rehearsals, but a lot of fun.

M2

Published in: on 30 June 2014 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Today’s tip is more serious than I usually get here.

Don’t touch the performers.

It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how many people just grab and fondle burlesque performers in ways they’d never consider doing to anyone else.

This was sparked because at the show this past weekend, Olivia, our stage kitten, talking woman, and magic assistant, was wearing a corset that gave her some major pushup. During intermission she was helping out at the merch table when a woman said some very flattering things to her and asked if they could take a picture together. Just before the camera clicked, the woman suddenly stuck her face in Olivia’s boobs. Olivia was stunned, to say the least.

Folks, this is not okay. I know we dress scantily, move provocatively, and some of us take off our clothes on stage, but it’s not consent to be touched.

There have been too many stories from showgirls and boylesquers alike about being groped, stroked, grabbed, licked, bitten, and fondled while interacting with the public. So often it happens in the split second before a picture is taken — the offender knows what they are about to do is wrong and times it for maximum surprise.

You may think that this is just the kind of naughty behavior we burlesquers should expect and I’m making a big deal out of a funny photo. I consulted Red the Lawyer and she says this is battery and possible sexual assault.

Get it? That “harmless” action could get you arrested.

If you want to take a salacious picture with a performer, ASK. She may be perfectly happy to let you motorboat her boobs or he might say no to letting you grab his junk. We all have different comfort levels.

And sad as it may seem, sometimes unwanted groping goes on between performers, particularly at festivals or big shows. For some of us, a casual boob-grab is the equivalent of a hug, but don’t assume that’s the same for everyone. Same rules apply: unless you’ve been given permission, no touching. Respect everyone’s boundaries.

I feel so terrible that Olivia, who’s brand new to burlesque, had to experience this behavior from a patron. But it shouldn’t happen to anyone.

And now to lighten the mood, here’s Albert wearing a feather boa:

M2

Published in: on 27 June 2014 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Der Vampyr

Dear Constant Reader,

This review has absolutely nothing to do with burlesque, but it is a local production that features a couple of folks that have been involved in Boston Babydoll shows.

Last week Mr. Scratch & I attended opening night of OperaHub‘s production of Der Vampyr at the BCA. It had a lot going for it: it was about vampires, the libretto was written by our friend John J. King, and it was free (well, they asked for a donation). As a bonus, the AD & fight choreographer was Joe Kidawski, who staged managed Madame Burlesque the first time around.

They kept much of the music and the rough plot, but “adapted” the libretto. That is, rewrote it completely, cramming it full of references to Dracula, Buffy, Dark Shadows, and Twilight, plus a bunch of other pop-culture jokes. After all, this is from the man who brought us the Shakespeare/James Bond mashup From Denmark With Love last year.

The script may be full of jokes, but the singers and orchestra are seriously good. And despite the lightness of the text, there’s a deep thread of feminism. The traditional passive vampire victim trope is turned on its head with independently-minded female characters (who are also strong sopranos). For example, Della Swann refuses attempts by both father and fiancé to control her destiny and feisty Muffy the Vampire Nay-Sayer chafes at being protected by Giles, despite her proven skill with hurling a stake.

Be aware that it’s long. It’s listed at two and a half hours with an intermission, but the theatre has, in Scratch’s words, 90 minute seats. I found that the vocal stylings sometimes made the clever lyrics unintelligible to my ear, but that’s a problem I have with opera in general. Perhaps someday the libretto will be available and I can see what I missed.

It’s at the BCA until Saturday and all performances are free (though you really should throw something into the hat). And pick up a hand-painted flask, made by the librettist himself.

M2

Published in: on 25 June 2014 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m headed up to Portsmouth, NH in a few hours for our show Madame Burlesque. We’re exciting to bring a new version of our first touring show back to one of our favorite venues!

Here’s your tip:

Drink lots of water!

Warm weather is here (finally) and we all need to stay hydrated. Water is the best drink for the job! If you don’t like plain water, add a piece of fruit for flavor: a slice of lemon is traditional, cucumber is very refreshing, and watermelon is amazing.

M2

Published in: on 20 June 2014 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Latest Literary Endevour

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m not sure I ever actually announced that my article on the exhibit I curated at The West End Museum was in print! It’s in The Berlesker, volume 2 and available here. I’m delighted to be sharing the pages with some wonderful performers (and writers), like Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Trixie Little, Nasty Canasta, and Jo Weldon.

I hope you enjoy it.

M2

Published in: on 16 June 2014 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip.

Stage names are not necessarily the same as Facebook handles. Confirm the correct name before using in publicity or press.

Because Facebook hates pseudonyms, burlesque performers often have to change the spelling of the names or break them oddly or add extraneous names, such as…

  • Kitt En de Ville: actually Kitten de Ville — why FB thinks that “Kitt En” is more of a “real” name than “Kitten” is beyond me.
  • Stevi Sailor St Claire: Sailor St. Claire — FB suspended her account until she used her “real name”. “Stevi” isn’t any more “real” than “Sailor”.
  • Alegsandra Malone: Legs Malone — I think this one is a particularly nice dodge.
  • Mizter Scratch: it’s just “Scratch”, but FB won’t let you have a one-word name and they don’t allow “Mister” or “Mr.” as a name, but apparently “Mizter” is legit.
  • Always confirm the preferred spelling, spacing, punctuation, and capitalization with the performer her/himself or by checking their website (of course they have a non-Facebook website; they read that tip).

    M2

    P.S. In case you were wondering, it’s “The Boston Babydolls”, not “Boston Baby Dolls”.

    Published in: on 13 June 2014 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Signal Boosting

    Dear Constant Reader,

    The Boston Babydolls have been nominated for Best Theatre Group by The Boston A-List. We’re delighted but we’d be even more so if we won (and you know how Brigitte feels about winning!). Please vote for us!

    And while you’re at it, please vote for B.A.B.E for Best Dance Classes.

    While I’ve got you in a generous mood, I’d like to mention The Wages of Sin, my favorite band for punk rock sea shanties & Appalachian death polka. I’m not kidding. The Wages are putting out a new album for the first time since, well, I went to the release party during the very first BurlyCon, so let’s just say that it’s been a while. Because they’re all old-fashioned and cool, they want to put their album out on vinyl (as well at the usual CD & download) and they’ve got a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. Check it out!

    M2

    Published in: on 12 June 2014 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Frantically Costuming

    Dear Constant Reader,

    This past weekend was the biggest event in burlesque, The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend (aka BHoF) in Las Vegas. Scratch usually puts in an appearance and plays in the poker tournament while I stay home and have a good time sewing something frivolous.

    This year Scratch wasn’t able to go, due to some communication problems. I still spent much of the time sewing away, but it was far from frivolous.

    Our summer tour of Madame Burlesqueis going to require that any 3 dancers be able to perform in the trios and duets. We’ve tried to make as many costumes wearable by as many people as possible (like an adjustable skirt that fits all dancers who know the #1 part in the duet), but sometimes that’s not possible.

    devora as gypsyLast time we did this show, Devora did a Gypsy Rose Lee tribute and there are no changes to her costume. Yay!. Except she won’t be in all the shows and Scratch feels the act is important to the theme. So, I’ll be doing it when she’s not available. What can I wear? Hat, gloves, parasol are all fine. The skirt is somewhat adjustable and works fine. I have my own corset & garter belt. That leaves the bra. You might have noticed that D.D. and I don’t have a similar sized bust…

    Here’s a crummy photo of my Friday night project. Fortunately, this came together pretty quickly. And matching fabric existed.

    Also accomplished were a pair of tear-away undies, a new hip belt, and making a fringe skirt stripable. And now I’m onto the tedious project of making 6 matching bras. 4 of which have to be finished by our first show, which is in 10 days. And there’s even more to do. Fortunately, I’m not the only person working on all this. Marion of Vixen’s Ahoy did some, Heather, our production assistant is also an able seamstress, Devora is doing some hand-work, Betty, of course, is working away on several items, and Scratch has projects of his own.

    Lest you think I spent the whole weekend toiling away on costumes, I also finished off these knitted wristlets, to fill the gap between glove and coat. Of course, I don’t need them until winter. I hope. You never know with New England. Alas, I never did get to the mock-up of the 1933 Evening Gown.

    Back to the sewing room!

    M2

    Published in: on 10 June 2014 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    This has been a crazy busy week for me: Sunday we performed at the “Pasties for Parkinson’s” benefit, Monday Brigitte & I rehearsed for The Teaseday Club, then of course, The Teaseday Club itself, Wednesday was usual Babydoll rehearsal. Tonight I believe you can find me in the hot tub.

    But I wouldn’t forget your Friday Tip!

    Don’t get too attached your eye makeup.

    Eye makeup, particularly liquidy stuff like mascara and eyeliner, make a great environment for nasty crud to grow. Replace it every three to six months (more often the more frequently you use it). Powdered eyeshadow will last much longer, but creams need to be replaced as above. Regularly sharpening your pencils will help keep the nasties off. Toss it all immediately if you get an eye infection.

    Never share eye makeup. Clean your brushes often. Disinfect your makeup. Wash your hands a lot. This is where I plug Dr. Jen’s makeup disinfectant, brush cleaner, and hand sanitizer. Again I swear I’m not a spokesperson for her, just a satisfied customer.

    I’m sadly a veteran of an epic eye infection (nothing to do with bad makeup, just bad luck) and it’s left me paranoid. If I even suspect anything is amiss, I disinfect what I can, toss what I can’t, chuck my contacts and lens case, and if I must wear makeup, use only disposable brushes (from makeup to eye, then discard) until I get the all-clear.

    Here’s wishing you healthy and beautifully made-up eyes!

    M2

    *

    Published in: on 6 June 2014 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    The Teaseday Club 6/3/14

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I love what I do and I try to give you a light-hearted look backstage without too many of the truly gory details. That said, last night was a real challenge and I’m going to share it with you.

    There were some scheduling mishaps with the Davis Square Theatre and The Teaseday Club found itself needing a temporary home for June and July.

    The Uniun, a new event space in Union Square was available and seemed to fit the bill. It was still under going renovations when we did the fashion show for Kawaii-Me in early April, but Scratch was assured it would be ready in a couple of weeks. They could provide seating and sound equpiment. However, he’d have to bring in his own lighting gear and some pipe & drape. Extra work and hassle, but we’ve certainly done it before. And it’s better than having no show.

    When the set up crew arrived, they found, in Scratch’s words, a shithole. The site was still under construction, it was full of old furniture, construction debris, and other random junk, it was dirty, and there were no bathrooms. It was in no way ready to be a venue.

    I got there in the late afternoon and over Scratch’s objections (“you’re dressed nicely”) began shuttling junk (a child’s bicycle, a table, some exit signs, even more) into what might someday be a bathroom. We swept up as best we could.

    We shifted the various couches and armchairs around to try to make some seating and there were a few random folding chairs. I guess that’s what they meant by providing seating. Eventually, very late in the game, some guys came and removed a small amount of junk from inside and outside the space. Some of the debris was cleared from the space we’d used as a dressing room for the fashion show to make it such again.

    At this point, the tech crew was trying to figure out why the sound system (which the venue provided, remember) was making everything sound like it was underwater and why one of Brigitte’s songs wouldn’t play at all. Through some wizardry Brigitte’s song was fixed, but there was something really wrong with those speakers and the sound quality was terrible for the whole show.

    I was so unhappy. The students from Brigitte’s intermediate class were performing for the first time and I wanted to give them a really good experience. Fortunately, they seemed to take the situation in stride.

    I need to give huge credit to Lia, Kendra, Nick, and Scratch for creating a minor miracle out of a potential disaster. Anything that was good about the show is due to them (and the performers, of course).

    Thank you for bearing with my litany of complaints. On with the show!

    Scratch hosted, Heather was in the box office, Lia on sound, Kendra on lights, Nick was follow spot operator, and Elyse was the stage kitten*. We also had video and photography, which I’ll share when they’re ready.

    Set 1

    Mina Murray: I opened the show with a fan dance to my signature song, “My Room”. I don’t do this version very often as it requires some specialized lighting, but it’s my favorite.

    Scratch did something amazing, defying the laws of physics.

    Bob DiCicco sang “Luck Be a Lady”, which Scratch declared was better than Marlon Brando’s version, but that’s damning with faint praise. Bob is a fabulous crooner.

    Brigitt Bisoux stripped to “Tombstone Blues”, a perennial favorite.

    Michele Mortensen bills herself as “The Lady Comic”, but she’s hardly ladylike in her stand-up set about sex, relationships and other adult matters.

    Lastly, Scratch took a few moments to bring Pinky Petite, one of the original Boston Babydolls, up on stage. Pinky performed with us in our early shows, like The Dollhouse at Axis (back when there was an Axis), Out for Blood, our very first Halloween show, and when we competed at Miss Exotic World. She moved to L.A. where she still performs. It was great to see her again!

    Then we all took a break.

    Set 2
    Brigitte Bisoux and Mina Murray opened the show with a little vignette we like to call “Mistress and Maid” about a naughty maid and her mistress’s skill with a hairbrush. Created for The Wrathskellar, Brigitte and I haven’t done this duet in a couple of years. We had so much fun with it!

    Bob DiCicco sang “My Kind of Town” with some clever substitutions to make it local.

    Michele Mortensen did some more stand-up followed by a song that sounded sort of familiar, but I don’t think those were the original lyrics…

    There was a brief distraction here while Brigitte annoyed Scratch in a classic bit of burlesque comedy.

    Brigitte Bisoux is the cutest ballplayer ever, stripping off her Red Sox uniform (new skirt by yours truly) to “Sweet Caroline”.

    And now the moment everyone had been waiting for…

    In April, Brigitte began teaching a routine to the intermediate students at B.A.B.E. They spent 6 weeks learning it from her and then diligently practiced it on their own for most of May. This was their burlesque debut. It’s a tough thing to take your clothes off in front of an audience and dance well while doing it.

    They did a wonderful job! They dealt with all the glitches of the day with grace and behaved professionally backstage. Brigitte had created a terrific choreography to Postmodern Jukebox’s rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and they performed it beautifully. I’m so proud of them all!

    Normally this is the point where I announce the Cookie Queen, but Scratch declared that everyone was a winner and passed out cookies to all performers.

    Next month The Teaseday Club will be at Naga in the back room at Moksa in Central Square. The line-up includes comedy from Nonye Brown-West, the lovely voice of Alissa Coates, burlesque from Peril S. Curves, Dagny Vanderlust in her farewell to Boston, and very special guest, Miss Hollywood Burlesque, Sheila Starr Siani!

    And just to leave you with a touch of the Glamourous Life, as if this all wasn’t enough. Sometimes zippers get vicious.

    This was my back after Brigitte and I rehearsed our duet on Monday and my dress was off-center when she zipped me up. I didn’t even feel it at the time. Brigitte put some cover-up make up on it last night and hopefully the audience didn’t even notice.

    How we suffer for art!

    M2

    * She’s a fantastic stage kitten. Not only does she work really hard and very well, she had put together an “Oh Shit! Kitten Kit” full of things a performer might need in a backstage emergency. And she had to clean up 10 dancers’ costumes and deal with the elaborate stage set up for “Mistress & Maid”. She rocks.

    Published in: on 4 June 2014 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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