BurlyCon 2019: Saturday

Dear Constant Reader,

Saturday was BurlyLab day. BurlyLabs are hands-on classes and I think was new this year. Students registered and paid any materials fees in advance. It takes the stress off both the students (having a guaranteed spot in class) and instructors (having the right amount of materials).

Bump N Grind Burlesque Patterning (Lou Lou la Duchess de Riere)
I was very excited for this class: patterning a panel skirt, triangle bra, and panties. I’m always interested to see how someone else does it. It started well, as we were all given pattern-making supplies and Lou Lou clearly explained the math needed to create a quarter circle pattern. We got gridded pattern fabric and could draft our own. That’s when things got rocky. The class was open to all levels and so many people didn’t understand the patterning and needed individual attention. It took almost two hours to get through that one part of the garment. She rushed though the belt pattern and construction. The class was supposed to be two hours, but we had the classroom for another hour so Lou Lou quickly explained patterning and construction of triangle bras and panties. I got some useful information, even in haste.

I saw the line for buying next year’s tickets was very short, so I got on it and got the cheapest ticket they offer. I guess I’m going next year. Now to develop some new class offerings on the them “The Roaring Twenties”…

Shake It Up: Shake Dancing in History & Practice (Bebe Bardot)
I was really looking forward to this one. Bebe is a scholar, a researcher, and is probably the foremost authority on black burlesque history. She’s amazing! She came rushing in about half an hour late — her plane had been delayed and landed around the time class was supposed to start! She hit the ground running and taught a shorter version of the class, but it was still packed with information. We learned about the history of shake dancing, a hidden part of burlesque history, and then we got to try it out! It’s so high energy and exciting. But I can’t imagine doing it for hours, like the shake dancers of the past. You can read Bebe’s brief history of shake dancing here.

Tantalizing Tulle Boas (Robyn Swing)
Before I go to BurlyCon I ask the troupe if there are any classes they’d like me to take and report back. Ava was particularly interested in this topic, so I signed up for it. It was terrific to be able to try the technique hands-on. After a few fumbles, I walked out of the class feeling like I had the technique down and I had something concrete to show the troupe. You can see my very first puff in the photo. Only a thousand more to make a boa!

Again I skipped the evenings activities to meet up with my friend A. I’ve known her since I was in grad school and try to get together with her whenever I can. She suggested we go see Dracula at a local theatre and I was all over that, as you might imagine. It was a terrific production. Very creative staging and movement, an interesting take on the story, great use of music, very effective puppetry. I’m very glad we went.

More to come…

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 4 December 2019 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Try a new art.

You may not be good at it at first… or ever, but it will challenge your mind and body. Even if it’s not something you would use on stage, it will spark your creativity and that’s always a good thing for your performances.

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 22 November 2019 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Happy Halloween!

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s my favorite holiday of the year and I have a very special treat for you!

I am a champion storyteller — that’s not bragging, just the truth. I won a major storytelling telling competition… twice. And I love to read aloud. I miss it, so I thought I’d read you a little something seasonal. Here, for you, is my first time recording a story.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.

I recorded this on my iPhone and learned the rudiments of Audacity to edit it. I’m a little nervous about releasing my amateurish first attempt into the wild, but a wise man often says to me “Never let the best be the enemy of the good” and if I waited for it to be perfect, I’d never do it. So here goes.

If you want to hear it without the interruptions, you can become a Patron. If enough people like it, perhaps I can invest in some better audio equipment. I’m looking for some burlesque-related material to read next. Any suggestions?

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 31 October 2019 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

What’s in the Box?

Dear Constant Reader,

A huge, mysterious parcel arrived at The Manor. The contents were so special I thought I’d try an unboxing video.

How did I end up with this magnificent piece? Christine McConnell has a YouTube series, From the Mind of Christine McConnell. Each month she makes something fabulous and selects one of her supporters on Patreon to receive it. This month she asked a trivia question during a livestream and the first person to answer correctly would get the cage. And that person was me!

This was on October first. I had been having such a terrible September. Certain events made me full of doubt about myself and I had lost my desire to do anything creative. Winning the cage was a jolt of positivity and I’ve been much better this month. It could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you so much, Christine!

The trivia question, by the way, was “In the movie Addams Family Values, what is the name of the baby?” (which is the name of the bat). I still can’t believe that out of the hundreds of people responding, I answered first.

I love everything about it! The Victorian birdcage is the perfect aesthetic for The Manor. There’s so many fabulous details, like the handmade spiders and the fairy lights. And of course the Bat himself and his glowing eyes. The purple accents are just marvelous — there’s even a chunk of amethyst (my birthstone!). I could just go on about how incredible this is! I don’t know where exactly in The Manor Pubert is going to live, but he’ll be the star of that room for sure.

To see more about the creation of the Bat-Cage, here’s the video:

Thanks to…
…Christine McConnell for making this whole experience possible.
…Georgia Dunn for permission to include a panel from her wonderful comic strip, Breaking Cat News in my video. See the rest of that particular strip here.
…Scratch for filming, video editing assistance, and helping to clean up packing peanuts. In case you were wondering, a “metric fuckton” of packing peanuts is five garbage bags full.

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 23 October 2019 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Welcoming October

Dear Constant Reader,

September was a rough month for me. A few people involved with burlesque did some things that made me doubt myself very badly. I’m not going to get more specific than that. I already second-guess my place in the burlesque world, so it was particularly hard for me to shrug off. I spent pretty much the entire month feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed, and lacking in creativity, amongst other negative things.

However, October started off with an amazing surprise, which has nothing to do with burlesque. I’ll tell you all about it when it’s a done deal, but for now just know I’m thrilled and feeling inspired again.

Segue to… we have a bunch of shows coming up which are going to be a great deal of fun!

This Sunday Batwoman premiers! Come watch it with us at 730 Tavern, Kitchen & Patio in Central Square, Cambridge. After the TV show there will be a little Bat-themed burlesque! It’s completely free, but bring a few bucks for some food and drink and to tip the performers.

Next Saturday we’re back at Thunder Road in Somerville with a light-hearted Halloween burlesque revue plus music from our friends The Waveriders.

On Friday, October 25 you can catch us at Deacon Giles in Salem for a much darker Halloween show. We’ll be doing two late-night shows.

Also, we’re settling into our new studio with Introduction to Burlesque and Spellbinding Striptease both starting on October 8th.

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 2 October 2019 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome Electrix!

Dear Constant Reader,

We have a new troupe member!

Electrix joined us as an apprentice at the beginning of the year. Previously she had taken classes at B.A.B.E. and volunteered at one of our shows. She was also performing burlesque around Boston, so her dedication to the art was pretty obvious. We had no idea at first how truly dedicated she was. You see, she lives in another state. Twice and sometimes three times a week she was driving much further than any of us, never with any complaint.

Although rather shy, she quickly jumped in, cheerfully doing whatever needed doing, like set up and break down and stage kittening. She had also been a professional theatre lighting tech (hence the name) so she was happy to be our follow spot operator when we needed it. And she loves cats a lot and Albert has reaped the benefits of her affection.

She and I first worked together when Scratch cast her as my naughty maid in “Mistress and Maid”. I was so impressed with how fast she learned the role and how hard she was rehearsing on her own time. She had video of Brigitte performing, but put her own spin on the part instead of just trying to replicate what she saw.

She made her solo debut at Surflesque in June and we decided to renew her apprenticeship for the summer. She has learned several group numbers and last weekend she debuted another solo. She’s also been making her own costumes and studying burlesque history.

As autumn approached and her apprenticeship was winding down, we thought about how hard she’d been working, how much talent she had, what a great attitude she showed, and how nice she was to be around. In other words, she felt like a member of the troupe, so we decided to make it official. We asked her to join us and she accepted!

Look for great things from this long-legged lovely!

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 23 September 2019 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! A couple of announcements before we get to your tip.

Tonight we’ll be performing at Deacon Giles in Salem, MA. We’re only doing one show, so tickets are extremely limited. Don’t take your chances at the door — get them now! I’ve heard a rumor there will be a very special cocktail on the menu tonight…

Tomorrow we’ll be in Worcester at the Beer Garden Pavilion! We’re so thrilled to be performing burlesque as it should be… with live music! You might recognize some of the musicians from Unlucky in Love and The Wrathskellar.

Also, I’ve got a little poll going on my Patreon. You do not have to be a subscriber to participate.

And now on with your tip!

For a clean fabric edge, pull a thread.

You want a nice straight edge on fabric before you begin cutting, so you’ll know everything is on grain. My favorite way to do this is to pull out a thread, as shown, then trim the fabric along that line. The point of a pin works really well to tease out the thread. This method works for all woven fabrics and especially good to use on delicate material.

M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

These 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 16 August 2019 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Best Laid Plans…

Dear Constant Reader,

I had big plans this week. I’m finishing up another book review. I wanted to tell you all about our most recent show (with photos!). I’m working on a couple of larger projects (that I’m not ready to talk about yet).

That all came to a screeching halt Sunday night when one of my teeth decided it hated me. So, I’ve been spending this week first in agony and then recovering from a root canal (woot c’naw, for all you West Wing fans). It has been absolutely no fun.

I’ll take this bit of downtime to ask you, Dear Reader, what sort of things do you want to see here? More looks behind the scenes, costuming tutorials, recipes, essays on burlesque history, videos, pictures of Albert A. Cat?

Thank you as always for continuing to read my little missives. And now I must return to my fainting couch.

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 6 June 2019 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wrestling with Doubt

Dear Constant Reader,

I like to show you how glamourous my life is — that I spend all my time lounging around in a Catherine D’Lish robe, sipping champagne, while I scrawl my deathless prose with a fountain pen and Albert sits politely by my feet. Sometimes that’s actually true. But sometimes I have days like yesterday.

I’m not sure what exactly set me off. It might have been yet another burlesquer posting that they were going to a festival from which I had received yet another rejection letter. Perhaps it was creating yet another reward post for a Patreon level that no one subscribes to. Perhaps it was something else. Whatever the final straw, I was feeling ignored, overlooked, and snubbed.

This feeling that I was unimportant in the burlesque world, preyed badly on my mind. I began doubting my talents as a performer and as a teacher. Why should I bother working to improve my game if I’m never going to get booked? if no one is going to read what I write? if no one is going to see my promo? Clearly I’m no good at this whole burlesque thing.

Despite this roiling self-doubt, I did what I always do, pushed through and kept working. I shot off a promo photo for our upcoming show to Instagram and realized after a while that I’d been shadowbanned. It was the proverbial last straw. I really was being ignored. I was unimportant. I was shouting into a void. I should just hang up my g-string.

Fortunately, I have a supportive partner and some really good friends who soothed my wounded ego and frustrated soul with kind words and practical suggestions. Today I’m back to work, writing, teaching, rehearsing, and planning.

Dear Reader, when that snake of self-doubt coils around your mind, just know you’re not alone.

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 May 2019 at 4:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Los Angeles: Tuesday 1/22/19

Dear Constant Reader,

Our last day! You can read about the previous three here, here, and here.

Again Scratch cooked breakfast for the three of us — a delicious vegetable sautĂ© with a lot of spinach — and again, we ate outdoors in the sunshine. I could really get used to that.

Scratch and I set out for one of our favorite places in Los Angeles, the garment district, and met up with the lovely and talented Sheila Starr Siani. I am so happy the we managed to see so many friends on this short trip. I am also pleased at our restraint. We each had proprieties — I needed gloves for B.A.B.E., Sheila wanted rhinestones, and Scratch was hunting for a name necklace for Ava, our newest troupe member — and we all found what we wanted and didn’t even buy too much else. Although I was sorely tempted. I am so jealous of the local performers and the resources for costumes they have available.

After a bite with Sheila, we returned to Kitten’s house to pack for the trip home. I was sorry to be leaving the warmth of the weather and our friends, but I was also missing Mr. Albert pretty badly. Kitten’s kittens are adorable, but more interested in racing around and chasing one another than snuggling and purring.

As a farewell and thank you, we took Kitten out to The Musso and Frank Grill, an old Hollywood classic. We love the timeless, dingy charm and it turned out to be one of Kitten’s favorites too. She used to go there all the time with Russ Meyer. The food is old-school, since the menu hasn’t changed in decades: steaks, lobster thermidor, chicken a la king, &c. I’m told the martinis are excellent and I can personally vouch for the sand dabs (it’s a Pacific flat fish, like sole). But you’re really going there for the history and the feeling of being in another era. I was excited to realize we were there during the centennial year.

After a Caesar salad, I had the fettuccine Alfredo. The story is that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had the original dish in Rome and cajoled, begged, and bribed Alfredo into sharing the recipe, which they brought to Musso and Frank. It really was sublime. I usually never order it because most place serve it with a gloppy cream sauce. I’m very picky about my pastas! (just ask me about how carbonara should be made). This was silky, cheesy, and rich without being cloying. I barely made a dent in the huge plate, so Kitten took the rest home. I’m glad all that deliciousness didn’t go to waste.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to LAX for the red-eye back to Boston. Our flight was on-time, but we heard the morning flight, which I had considered taking, had been delayed for six hours. I’m glad Scratch convinced me to take the evening flight — more time in L.A. and no waiting to go home.

I always book an aisle and a window seat for us, hoping that no one wanted the middle seat. If someone did, I end up taking the hit and offering them the window. As the plane filled up, we kept an anxious eye on the empty seat between us. Could it be… a travel miracle? The only vacant seat on the plane was between us! I happily lay down and went to sleep until we arrived in Boston.

And that, dear Reader, is the end of my trip to Los Angeles, but not the end of my story. I still need to tell you all about Burlesque Bingo, the whole reason I was there!

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 28 March 2019 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,