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  
Tags: ,

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  
Tags: , ,

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  
Tags: ,

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  
Tags:

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  
Tags:

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  
Tags: ,

Big Props: Absinthe Bottle

Dear Constant Reader,

One of the earliest big props built was The Giant Absinthe Bottle. It was supposed to be like those dancing cigarette boxes from long ago, with only the dancer’s legs showing. It needed to be light enough for the dancer to hold it up and dance, sturdy enough to last through rehearsals and shows, and break down for travel & storage.

Scratch designed it, but the construction may have been a group effort. It was made from corrugated cardboard — specifically a refrigerator box. The bottle was cut in two pieces that bolted together at the middle. The body of the bottle was spray painted green and the top black to look like a cap. Across the back was bolted a piece of PVC pipe to make a handle, so the dancer had something to hold to move the bottle. It also curved the cardboard, making the whole thing more bottle-like. The best part, in my opinion, was a label that attached with Velcro to cover the seam where the two pieces joined.

We used it in a couple of shows, but have almost no pictures. This is the best one I could find, from a run-through of French Kiss in 2010, by Katherine Mae Judd. You can just see the bottle at the side of the stage behind the cast streaming off after the curtain call rehearsal.
absinthe bottle

Pros: easy to make, needs no special tools to build or assemble, cheap, light to use, relatively easy to store & transport, amusing.

Cons: not very durable.

Eventually we trashed it. The cardboard had gotten damp at some point and had started to delaminate. I’m pretty sure we saved the label and the hardware. We’ve talked about recreating it, perhaps out of a light plastic. It would be fun to have Betty do her Goth Dance of Woe-due-to-lack-of-absinthe again.

M2

Published in: on 19 April 2017 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Big Props: Paintbrushes

Dear Constant Reader,

For the next installment in the Big Props series, the paintbrushes. A few years ago we designed a touring show called The Fine Art of Burlesque. The structure of the show was such that it could be presented by any three dancers plus Scratch plus a local special guest, so we only needed one car and one hotel room.

Betty created a jewelbox number in which could be done by any three dancers. Some of us learned just one part (that would be me), others learned two, so any combination of us could do it. And to make sure that the audience really got the Fine Art theme right off, we were all dancing with staves that looked like great big paintbrushes.

Photo by Rich Jarvis at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

The brushes are made from PVC pipe, a popular material with us, because it’s sturdy, light, and doesn’t need specialty tools to cut. The “bristles” were made from black feather trim. The “handle” was capped on the end, painted, and decorated with silver foil tape. I think they came out pretty nicely.

Scratch built a wooden box in which to carry them and also the picture frame backdrop (more on that in another missive). The box was perfectly designed to go on the roof of the car, but it took almost all of us to heft it up there and get it secured. That was always an amusing end to loading out.

Pros: Looks good. Exactly what we wanted. Easy to handle. Inexpensive to make. Pretty easy to transport. I think they’re about 5 feet and change long, so if we’re not transporting an entire show’s worth of people and gear, they can go inside the car.

Con: The only one I can think of is that they’re not very versatile. We’ve only ever used them for that one number. There’s not a lot of call for over-sized paintbrushes. It was the dance that turned out to be more versatile. We’ve since done it with something like five different designs of staves and it’s one of our go-to group numbers.

Published in: on 13 April 2017 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

A Visit to Santa Fe

Dear Constant Reader,

After my performance in Albuquerque Friday night, I was off to Santa Fe the next day. Well, originally I was going to spend all Saturday in Albuquerque and take the train to Santa Fe on Sunday morning, but there was a burlesque show Saturday night and it seemed dumb to miss the opportunity. And then Dr. Jen offered to come get me and put me up, so it was a no-brainer.

The landscape is just breathtaking. That’s the word I just kept using because my vocabulary was inadequate. Mountains, mesas, exactly the colors you think of as “southwestern”. This photo does not do it justice.

We stopped at The Teahouse where I had a lovely cranberry almond scone. You know I take my scones very seriously and this was pretty fabulous. Serving it with lemon curd was a nice touch.

The burlesque show, put on by Zircus Erotique was at The Palace, which I was told was once a brothel. It certainly has the right decor — red flocked wallpaper, decorative ceilings, and fancy chandeliers. The performance was at one end of the dining room — no stage, which is always a challenge. We were sitting in the bar, watching the show through open windows in the partition between rooms. Not terribly ideal sight lines, especially since the place was packed.

After doors opened, go-go dancers began circulating through the venue. Until the show started and then again at intermission, they slithered and shimmied through both rooms, getting up close with the patrons, but never being intrusive. This was a new approach to me, which worked well because of the lack of a stage and the aforementioned sight line issues.

The show itself was many of the same performers I had worked with the night before, but not necessarily the same acts. I really can’t give you a blow-by-blow this time because I don’t have a set list to jog my memory.

I was impressed with the Mosaic Dance Company, a trio of belly dancers with some really tight choreography.

I was eagerly awaiting Sophia Sunday’s second number because I assumed it would be the razor blades I had missed Friday night. However, it was something entirely different, but still weird and wonderful. She started on a chaise, fairly classic, but after stripping a bit, she set a bed of nails on it. She proceeded to demonstrate that she’s not called “The Pain Proof Pinup” for nothing. I loved the stocking removes. The act was kind like this.

Al Monds danced with a flowing white cape she used to great effect. Lola was trying to remember the dance pioneer she resembled. “Loie Fuller”, I called out.

Lola Van Ella once again impressed me with her stage presence and stripping, this time to one of Scratch’s favorite Doors songs. She works the audience so well. I learned a lot from watching her.

The stand out of the evening for me was Holly Rebelle. So far this weekend I had seen her be classic and be vaudevillian, but for her last act, she was just fierce AF with a passionate performance to “Sabotage”. She told me before the show she was nervous about it, but she dominated that room.

After the show Dr. Jen’s assistant, Gia, wanted to meet some of the performers and do some networking. I did feel sort of weird making the introductions when I’d only met some of these people the night before.

The next day Dr. Jen, Gia, and I went to Ten Thousand Waves. It’s a beautiful, tranquil Japanese bath house and spa. It’s one of those places that looks like it could have opened yesterday, because everything is so beautifully maintained, or always been there, since the architecture is so harmonious and fits perfectly in its setting. We got a private tub and it was just the thing for a weary traveler to stretch and soak. I will definitely be back.

I insisted we go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, since how could I be in New Mexico and not see some of her art. The first thing that surprised me was that you could take pictures of most of the art; only a few items were labeled as off limits. The other surprise was the painting to the right. I immediately recognized New York, just from those few shapes. Like most, I associate O’Keeffe with southwestern landscapes and yonic flowers. This painting changed my perspective on her style. It’s a toss up between this and a more expected calla lily as my favorite work.

On the way to Jen’s log cabin/lab in the mountains, we stopped at the town of Español for dinner at El Paragua for some local cuisine. I couldn’t decide, so I got an (enormous) combination plate (that I barely made a dent in). I got to try carne adovada (pork in a red chile sauce) and posole (hominy and pork stew) and sopapillas (heaven in a basket — pillowy fried dough with honey). I’m a big wimp when it comes to spice, so I was pleasantly surprised that the adovada wasn’t too hot for my palate. The red sauce on the enchilada was another story. Because I had to try green chile eventually, I tried a bite of Jen’s chile relleno and determined that while the heat wouldn’t kill me, I still don’t like green peppers in any form.

And then we continued the long, very scenic drive up into the mountains. I’m positive I’ve never been at an elevation that high before.

As this has gotten quite long, Dear Reader, and I have now left the city in the title, I shall sign off for now and perhaps take up my narrative again tomorrow.

Published in: on 29 March 2017 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

A Night of Classic Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I’d been looking for an excuse to make a trip to the Southwest and when I saw my friend Holly Rebelle looking for out of town performers for her show in Albuquerque, I jumped at the chance. I met Holly at The Great Burlesque Expo something like 9 years ago, at which she and her troupe took home a Howard Award. I know she wasn’t expecting anyone from as far out of town as I am, but it turned out I wasn’t the only one who came from the East Coast!

Dr. Wilson of the Theatre of Miracles in Maine had relocated to Albuquerque and he and his lovely wife graciously offered me a place to stay. They’ve got a gorgeous guest suite and parrots! I couldn’t linger too long, because I was off early to tech for the show.

I had been nervous because Holly specifically requested “An Invitation”, which requires some set pieces that I couldn’t bring with me (I can barely transport Super Screen in my car, let alone by plane). She and David came through for me with the required screen and a backlight.

Launchpad, the venue, is the sort of place I’ve performed at before. It’s made for bands, with a high, carpeted stage, a tiny dressing room and a bar up front. The crew did a great job, bringing in pipe and drape to make the stage more burlesque friendly, and the performers took over the back half of the balcony, so as not to crowd the dressing room for when someone actually needed to dress. Also, a nice (and necessary touch) was a big cooler full of ice and bottled water for the performers. Albuquerque is incredibly dry and also at about 5000 feet above sea level. Both of which were a new experience for this New England gal and I was very careful not to get slammed by either, especially since I was also terribly short on sleep.

I did have time between tech and doors open to go down the block and relax over a light supper at Duel Brewing, which was lovely — four kinds of cheese and an array of sweet and sour accompaniments.

I was on near the end of the line-up, so I got to see much of the show, albeit from way in the back. Feisty Baudelaire let me have a corner of her merch table to vend my little book. It was a *long* show. Apparently the venue requires a three and a half hour show, but Holly and crew made sure it was entertaining.

Albuquerque poster

The show started with a stand-up comedy set (which I missed completely) and then we got into the burlesque. Hostess Lola Van Ella graced us all the way from St. Louis. She began by singing “Let Me Entertain You”, a promise of what was to come. I don’t think I can give you a blow by blow of the entire show, since I didn’t see all of it and it kind of ran together into a lovely, glittery blur, due to exhaustion and excitement. I’ll do the best I can.

  • Soiree Entertainment opened the show with a group dance with a tiny bit of stripping to “Feelin’ Good” (almost the same version The BeauTease use).
  • Lana Montresse did a classic strip with boa and gown.
  • Mena Domina had a gorgeous act with silk veil fans and a cape that transformed her into a delicate moth.
  • I was delighted when Annie O’Roar used a version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” that I thought no one else knew for her bellydance-inspired striptease. Also, she had a magnificent fabric boa.
  • Holly Rebelle did a sensual strip moving from a mostly black ensemble to white underthings, including a magnificent rhinestoned corset. EDIT: See it here.
  • Godiva Bleu had a truly impressive headdress. From where I was sitting, I didn’t realize the significance of the green decorations on her costume until she lit up. And then she was as high as her headdress.
  • Rebel, all the way from North Carolina, just blew me away with his high-energy moves.
  • Vivian MirAnn was slinky to “Minnie the Moocher” and showered herself and the audience with coins.
  • Sophia Sunday showed off her sideshow roots with something very naughty with balloons.
  • Lola Van Ella sang again, but I can’t remember what.
  • There was a lengthy intermission, but it was filled with live music from Eddie Brewer & The Manic Episodes.

  • Holly Rebelle opened the second act by performing with the band. After snuggling up to the keyboard player and then stripping a bit, she moved to center stage and began tap dancing. And continued stripping. “true vaudeville” said Lola. EDIT: See it here.
  • At this point I went to the dressing room to get ready, so my descriptions are about to get even hazier.

  • Mayo Lua de Frenchie did something funky in a purple pants suit with a chair and rather impressive boots.
  • Mischa Mischief had a gorgeous lilac-themed costume, which I had seen hanging in the dressing room. I’m sorry I missed this one.
  • Miss Conduct was another one I missed. I know she had a fur stole…
  • Feisty Baudelaire was classic with a gown and gloves strip, but she had this rose-trimmed picture hat that made the whole costume special.
  • Joy Coy ushered in spring with an adorable bunny costume and spot-on musicality.
  • Rebel burned up the stage again, in a sparkling, fuzzy, pink suit.
  • Then it was my turn. I was so happy that the stage had steps up front so I could enter the way the act is designed, through the audience. The train on my robe looks so much better slithering up stairs.
  • I’m so sorry I missed Sophia Sunday‘s next act (I was getting dressed again). She did a spin on Scratch’s “Urban Legend” aka swallowing razor blades. While stripping.
  • Vivian MirAnn got up close and very personal with the audience in a stunning blue costume.
  • Lola Van Ella closed out the show with a dead sexy striptease to “St. James Infirmary”.
  • The show was so good, so strong, so many excellent performances. I’m so pleased to have been a part of it!

    Here’s everyone! All photos by KayLynn Aragon Photography

    After the curtain call, my hosts took my weary ass home. At that point, not counting the fitful naps I got on the planes, I’d been up for 22 hours.

    Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the show and especially those of you who stayed for the whole thing! Big thanks to Holly for inviting me out and being so wonderful. And deep gratitude to Mr. Rebelle, the Kitten Squad, and all the tech crew — you made my act look great. Finally, to my fellow performers — it was great meeting all of you and seeing you strut your stuff. Thanks for being so welcoming to a traveling showgirl!

    Published in: on 27 March 2017 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
    Tags: , ,