Mini BurlExpo

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m so sorry for the recently silence. I have a lot of catching up to do! It’s been crazy busy for me recently and this was part of it.

Mini Expo PostcardThe last Saturday in July was the first ever Mini BurlExpo. The what? Every year Scratch hosts The Great Burlesque Exposition, a massive three-day burlesque event, which for various reasons beyond his control, has been held in February for the past several years. And invariably there has been a snowstorm that very weekend, causing chaos and disruption. He thought it would be fun to have a small, low-key version of the Expo in the summer.

Friday night there was a performer cookout, sponsored by Viva Vermont Burlesque, held in the backyard at The Manor. We cooked hot dogs and s’mores over the fire, drank local beer, and generally had a lovely time.

Next morning it was off to The Thalia for a day of classes. The regular Expo has 4 tracks of classes over 3 days, so a mere 5 classes (plus one on Sunday) was a bit more manageable. The offerings included marketing, ballet for burlesque, chair & floor work, and twerking.

In the evening there were two shows, as compared to The Expo’s four over three days. The first, The Mini Event, was a take off on The Main Event, the Expo’s competition. Instead of competing for serious titles like “Most Classic”, the performers were in the running for audience-voted awards like “Damn! That Was Awesome!” and ridiculously random trophies.

The show opened with an adorable group number from The Expositionettes, created by Betty Blaize and featuring her, Artemisia Vulgaris, Brigitte Bisoux, Devastacia, and Kitty Levesque. I’d like to point out that Brigitte was filling in for a performer struck ill and she only had one rehearsal. She’s just that good.

We had a whole host of performers, from all over the country, showing off the beautiful and the bizarre. There were veterans and neophytes and a whole range of performances styles, all creative and entertaining.

While the very official ballot-counters were tabulating the results (that would have been me and Betty), the audience was entertained by Diamond DeVille (Most Beautiful 2017), and Egypt Blaque Knyle (Best Solo 2016 and a huge number of other awards). I’m glad we counted efficiently and I was able to see most of Egypt’s remarkable performance.

The well-deserving winners were Bea Trouble who received “Greatest Googly-Moogly” for her cow-themed striptease (it was fabulously absurd and I’m not giving away the punchline), Mr. and Mrs. Fucksmart who were awarded “Most Pantsfeelings” for their sexy duet to “Tainted Love”, and Tapitha Kix was honored with “Damn! That Was Awesome” for her tap pointe striptease (yes, seriously, she can tap dance en pointe). Everyone put on a great show!

Then it was time for the second show, Late Night Lust, a passel of more risque acts. I was delighted to have the opportunity to perform my bathtub act with the lovely Artemisia Vulgaris as my lady’s maid. I really love this act, but it’s difficult to find a venue for it — it’s long (almost 8 minutes), it has a fussy set up, it requires a second performer to be my maid (it’s too complex a job to just ask a stage kitten to help) and requires a stage on to which the tub can be rolled (it’s really heavy once it’s filled with water, so carrying it up steps is right out). I feel so Lili St. Cyr-ish when I get to bathe. Maybe this time I’ll finally get some decent video — it’s been like a curse.

The next morning those that were up to it returned to the theatre for a little brunch and another class from Egypt (fantastic, by the way) and our little Expo interlude was over. It was a fun event for the middle of the summer. Who knows? it may become tradition! And now it’s time to start gearing up for The Great Burlesque Expo in January. Hope for no snow storms!

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 23 August 2017 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Show on the Road 7/23/17

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been a while since we went on a substantial road trip. We were hired to entertain at a Vegas-themed 18th birthday/graduation party in Greenville Junction, Maine, which is about 5 hours from Boston. The birthday girl originally wanted a trip to Las Vegas, but instead she got a party with gambling and showgirls.

Scratch, Betty, Artemisia, and I piled into the BeauTeaseMobile for the long drive. We broke the trip in Portland for a little fun. First stop, The Holy Donut. Their famous cheese and bacon-filled donut was as amazing as promised. The chocolate sea salt was also outstanding. Highly recommended, if you like donuts.

Then on to the Cryptozoology Museum to gaze upon the weird and the mysterious. It’s a fun collection of really eclectic stuff, like a Feejee mermaid, big foot track casts, and Wessie’s shed skin. The curator in me desperately wants to rearrange things and write wall text.

As luck would have it, the museum shares a building with Big J’s Chicken Shack, so that was the obvious choice for lunch. I’d been craving fried chicken recently (the problem with reading a murder mystery series set in the south), so I was not displeased with this turn of events.

I was, however, extremely displeased to drop my iPhone in the parking lot, scattering the screen into a thousand tiny fragments. This is why I was largely absent from Instagram for this trip and the pictures I did take are of dubious quality.

We all piled back in the car for the long drive up to our final destination. Once you’re off the highway (and we were on local roads for quite a while), it’s really beautiful. We passed through a bunch of charming towns, like Sangervile (Town of Two Knights) and Abbott (Maine’s #1 Town). Closing in on our destination, we weren’t sure we were ever going to make it, as the GPS kept taking us down deserted roads that dead ended at scary-looking industrial buildings. Probably not a wise idea to have the GPS voice set to “Dr. Nightmare”.

But we did finally make it to the venue, Woody’s Bar & Grill, without incident. The whole place was done up with Vegas-themed decorations and various table games. There was a small stage and a large dance floor, which is where we did most of our show — Betty and her giant dice were up on the stage. Appropriate to the gambling theme, but just part of the everyday decor, there are dollar bills stuck all over the ceiling, some very high up. Apparently there’s a way to toss them up there with a quarter and a tack and it seems to be a popular past time. The staff was terrific and very accommodating. I made a short video backstage before the show, which is available to my Patrons.

Keeping with the Vegas theme, both Betty and I had new showgirl headdresses for a couple numbers, as created by Scratch (yes, he’s multi-talented). This was Artemisia’s first show with us and not only did she sing, she also performed her first striptease! We were joined by local(ish) flow performer Lexi Go-go, who dazzled us with her hooping. Her first act was done with changeable LED hoops and the second with SIX hoops. There was also magic from Scratch as well as striptease from Betty and me. The audience was appreciative, but mostly importantly, the birthday girl was very happy with the show.

Afterwards, after dragging Scratch out of game of Texas Hold ‘Em that he was trying unsuccessfully to lose, we retired to the luxurious accommodations provided for us. I’m not being facetious — it was a huge suite at a lakeside lodging. We each had our own room — usually on these road trips, we get very cozy and friendly in a single hotel room. There was even a jacuzzi tube in the (enormous) bathroom and a stack of washcloths with a little note “for makeup removal”.

This was the view the next morning:

That’s Moosehead Lake. Pretty gorgeous, no?

It was a long, long drive back to Boston. Mostly uneventful, except for the pouring rain for most it and the GPS taking us down a series of progressively less road-like roads. Finally faced with a gravel track heading into the woods, we decided not to trust a GPS in Stephen King country and backtracked to civilization. We broke the trip in Portland for a fabulous brunch and continued on it the rain back to Boston.

This weekend is the Mini Expo and then we are back on the road!

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 26 July 2017 at 3:40 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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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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The Big Time

Dear Constant Reader,

This past weekend we finally opened our show The Big Time. It feels like we had been working on it forever. Well, it has been several months and we were often working outside of our normal rehearsal times.

The theme of the show was big props, and everyone built their own with help from Scratch. he had been pretty adamant that he would help and teach, but not actually do the construction. After all, there were 7 props being built and he couldn’t do them all. We used power tools, we used hand tools, we cut, we drilled, we sanded, we painted. We worked with wood and with metal, with plastic and papier mache, even electronics.

Here’s the results, in brief. I wish I had photos, but we were a little too busy to arrange for that.

Act I

Betty Blaize and Ruby Foxx: Spiderweb
This was one of the two existing acts which used one of three existing props. Betty is an old hand at getting trapped in the web, but Ruby was new to the spider role and she did a great job.

Pearl Buttons: Steam Heat
There’s no simple word to describe Pearl’s prop. It was two sets of stairs with a platform in between them, kind of like a bridge. She merrily danced up and down the steps and sprawled fetchingly on the platform.

Ruby Foxx: Orange Colored Sky
Besides being a stripteaser, Ruby is also a singer and she belted out this entertaining piece.

Jeannie Martini
: Piggy Bank
Jennie was dressed in layers of money, which she stripped off and dropped into her adorable over-sized piggy bank. Piggy is cleverly made from two half whiskey barrels and many cute decorations.

Scratch and Devastacia: Wall of Death
You might have seen Scratch doing this whip act before, but never with such a scary looking Wall of Death. Credit to Devastacia’s new-found skill with a nail gun.

Cara Siobhan: Waterfall
Cara got off easy in the prop construction department as we already had a free-standing doorframe that she modified to be her waterfall, but she challenged herself nonetheless. A novice seamstress, she sewed a hooded cloak with a lengthy train that flowed like water.

Mina Murray: Heavenly Body
I got to ride a shooting star! In reality, it’s a steel frame with a very solid wooden top, draped with black velvet and a shooting star mounted to the downstage side. It’s festooned with color-changing LED lights. I even have glowing reins for riding it. I admit that Scratch did much of the work, although I did cut the pieces for the frame and attached them together. With much cursing.

I’m really, really happy with how it came out. And I just love my costume. It’s the corset I made for Costume-Con, plus matching bra, panties, and garter belt and a poofy swirly skirt (6 layers!). Still needs some more rhinestones…

ACT II

Betty Blaize: Getting Lucky
This is Betty’s new number and I think she did the most construction work by herself of any of us. She built a towering stack of dice that she can climb, making her the tallest thing around, as she prefers. She also gets credit because her prop breaks down rather compactly.

Ruby Foxx: Hard-Boiled
Ruby, as a femme fatale, stepped out of a pulp detective novel. Literally. Her prop was a huge book with a cover that swung open.

Scratch: Martini Time
Here Scratch magically made vermouth bottles multiply until his table was covered with this. Not big in size, but big in numbers.

Pearl Buttons: Picture of a Ballerina
Like a Degas painting come to life, Pearl started behind a picture frame (seen here with a scrim in place) and danced her way into the real world.

Devastacia: Candelabra
Devastacia is so hot, she makes candles light up without even touching them (thanks to a little magic from Hunter). She’s a terrific artist and you would never realize her candelabra started its life as PVC pipe and newspaper.

Cara Siobhan: Why Don’t You Do Right?
Cara is also a talented singer and she crooned this classic tune.

Mina Murray: Midnight Bath
My beautiful, beautiful bath tub. It should get a post all its own, because it’s been a saga. I’ve wanted a bath tub since I started doing burlesque and I am so, so happy with everything about this act.

Scratch took this picture in rehearsal and I just love it:

We had our curtain call to a piece of music called “Big Noise from Winnetka”, kind of an inside joke for us.

Sadly, our usual curse was upon us and, despite trying to get video, technical difficulties kept that from happening. Someday…

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 23 May 2017 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Big Time Approaches

Dear Constant Reader,

Our new show, The Big Time, opens on Friday! We’re all very busy putting the finishing touches on our costumes and props for dress rehearsal.

Here’s an early look at my not-yet-decorated prop for my new act.

I also made a new costume. My Patrons got a backstage look, but the rest of you will just have to wait until showtime. Hint: part of it was made out of these fabrics:

I’m really excited to unveil this new act! We’re calling it “Heavenly Body” — you’ll see why this weekend

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 17 May 2017 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Big Time All the Time

Dear Constant Reader,

Just to give you a quick rundown of what’s going on right now.

The Boston BeauTease welcomed our newest batch of interns and other volunteers last night, which also happened to be Betty’s birthday. We don’t usual end rehearsals with a large spread of treats, but it was certainly an auspicious day to start working with us.

They’ll be helping out on our upcoming show The Big Time in two weeks. You’ll be able to see our current interns, Cara, Devastacia, Jeannie Martini, and Ruby Foxx, on stage showing off what they’ve learned, alongside The BeauTease.

Everyone will be performing brand-new, never-before-seen acts, expect Betty and I who will also be performing a second, favorite number from our respective repertoires. I’ll give you a hint: one involves a spiderweb and the other a bathtub.

The show is called The Big Time because we’re all using big props, most of which have been built expressly for this show, and have mostly been built by the performers themselves, with a *lot* of help and guidance from Scratch. We’ve been working in wood and metal and plastic and fabric and papier mache. We’ve been using power tools and paintbrushes and glue and electronics. Everyone has been working very hard and pushing themselves in many ways not just in building the props, but in all aspects of act creation.

I can’t wait for you to see what we’ve accomplished! Tickets are pretty cheap right now, but they’re going to go up at the door, so do yourself (and us) a favor and get yours now.

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 8 May 2017 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Teasing Tonight

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ll be performing tonight at The Teaseday Club! I was in the first show and every now and then I’ll make an appearance. I just realized that last month was the 4th anniversary. I suppose I should have performed then…

My co-stars tonight include Cookie Queen and singer Carla Carletti, comedienne Nonye Brown-West, and all the way from Chicago, burlesquer Mister Twister Maximus Sinsation. With those folks in the cast, I know it’s going to be a terrific show.

I’ll be bringing you two classic acts tonight. If you want to see something new from me, come to The Big Time on May 19 and 20 at The Thalia. There may be some teasers here in the days to come or maybe just for my Patrons.

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 2 May 2017 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Big Props: The Bench

Dear Constant Reader,

Burlesque Legends refer to something you could sit or lie on as a prop. This was inspired by a prop used by a Legend in the 1960s, who always referred to it as “The Prop”. We generally refer to this piece as “the bench”.

The main part is a nice solid wooden coffee table with legs that attach with bolts. Scratch cut the back of the table flat so we could attach a back piece to it. We glued some foam to the top of the table so it would be a little more comfortable to lie on and I sewed a drape for it. The drape is made of satin with a drawstring just under the table top to secure it. It has a skirt that hangs down to cover the legs, but leaves the back of the table open, so we could attached the back piece.

The back piece was cut out of plywood. The original was tiled, but I couldn’t find any vinyl tiles I liked and I wasn’t going to use glass or ceramic tiles because of the weight. I tried spray painting it gold, but it still looked plywoody. Scratch suggest I make a cloth cover, kind of like a cozy. At this point we diverged greatly from the original, but needed to do something in a fairly short time.

I made the cover from a cream colored fabric, covered in dimensional roses. Then I created a clever (if I do say so myself) system of Velcro to attach a cluster of ostrich feathers to the top of the back piece. The back piece is held onto the back of the bench with spring clips.

Eventually Scratch cut the back piece in half (the long way) and attached a piano hinge, so it’s much easy to store and carry. The bench, with legs removed, fits in a big cloth bag, which is basically an envelope I sewed from an old blanket. All the soft goods (bench drape, back cover, and feathers) live in a plastic box with some spring clips. Everything together easily fits in the trunk of a standard car.

I made two other drapes for the bench and we use it a lot on stage, though rarely with the back piece on it these days. It’s great for being visible while you do floorwork moves. Scratch also drilled a couple of holes in the back of the bench so we could bolt a flame effect in place for one of Betty’s numbers.

Photo by Cassandra Mia at The Great Burlesque Expo of 2011

Pros: Looks great, really sturdy, easy to put together and take apart, very versatile

Cons: We did have to irreparably damage a really nice coffee table.

M2

Published in: on 25 April 2017 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Big Props: Spider Web

Dear Constant Reader,

Today’s big prop is Betty’s spider web. It was originally made for Out For Blood 2006, our second Halloween show.

The web backdrop is two huge pieces of black velvet seamed together. The web itself is silver sequin trim. When we first made the web we were under a time crunch (aren’t we always) and it was just safety pinned in place. Later it was stitched down. The whole thing attached to a frame with Velcro along the sides and elastic cord looped through eyelets in the corners.

The original frame was made by a blacksmith friend of ours and it was *huge*. The backdrop is about 10′ x 10′, so the frame was bigger than that and it had big feet so it wouldn’t tip over. They were easy to trip over, though. The whole thing sat at the back of the stage until it was time to bring it forward for the act, which I think was the show closer. The frame came apart into pieces, but it was still bulky when broken down and I think it had to go together just so. I remember strips of tape on the pieces to mark what connected to which.

The velvet backdrop had slits cut in it so the spiders could come out and grope Betty. I remember reinforcing them part way through that show.

The spiders themselves are made of sequin trim and fabric, stuffed and mounted on the backs of black gloves. Betty did the work and very nicely.

In summer of 2011 we presented Madame Burlesque: An Evening of Tributes featuring acts inspired by the great Legends. Betty, of course, revived the spider act in honor of Zorita. This was going to be a touring show (our first!) so the frame had to be replaced with something that could travel and be set up and broken down quickly.

Scratch came up with a clever contraption made of PVC pipe and some hardware that works sort of like an umbrella. There are two center pieces that bolt together. Each one has two arms that fold out and extend to each side, making a top and a bottom. The backdrop has a pocket in each corner and the arms just slide in. Voila. It breaks down into two sections that go into a carrying bag that fits easily into a car. The whole thing is attached to a wooden base that also provides a step for the spider manipulator for when she has to reach the top of Betty’s head (remember: Betty is six feet tall sans heels and none of the other BeauTease top 5’5″).

Pros: very impressive, lightweight, sets up quickly, easy to transport and store.

Cons: needs a certain amount of ceiling clearance.

You’ll get to see the spider web in action at The Big Time on May 19 and 20 at The Thalia.

M2

Published in: on 20 April 2017 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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