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.


Published in: on 25 April 2017 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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The New York Burlesque Festival

Dear Constant Readers,

A couple of weeks ago I headed to Brooklyn for the 10th Annual New York Burlesque Festival and my first solo festival appearance.

Your humble correspondent hates to drive and will do almost anything to avoid it. However, I was performing my tribute to April March and that requires a large set piece (aka The Prop). There was no way around it — I had to drive. So, I rented a car and hit the road with The Prop in the back seat. Those of you who were following my adventures on Twitter now understand why I gleefully tweeted every time I found parking.

I was performing in the Thursday Tease Party at The Bell House. I’ll be honest with you; I don’t recall a lot of the show. I was either thinking about my upcoming appearance, getting ready for it, or giddy after it was done. I did hear Dot Mitzvah singing her operatic heart out with her award-winning “Glitter and Be Gay” number while I was backstage putting on my wig.

And then it was time for me to go on. I was nervous, of course, but strangely calm as well. The MC didn’t mention anything about the tribute, so I hoped the audience would appreciate the act on its own merits as a recreation of early 1960’s striptease without the backstory. The whole front row was photographers, it seemed. One of whom (John Paul Bichard) caught me unclipping a garter, as you can see. The audience was fantastic — engaged, cheering, easy to flirt with.

After my act, I headed back out to watch the remainder of the show, still wearing my wig. This was partly so people could recognize me and partly because I knew my hair was a disaster under there. I got a lot of compliments on the act from fellow performers (someone called it a “beautiful leg show”) and audience members.

And then it was time to pack it all up and head out. It had started to rain at this point and I am eternally grateful to the gal whose name I have forgotten who helped me schlepp my prop back to the car. It breaks down and none of the 3 component parts are particularly heavy, but it’s not easy for one petite burlesque dancer to carry all three at once. And as I said, it was raining.

I think my adventures on Friday will wait for another missive.

Published in: on 17 October 2012 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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