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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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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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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Big Props

Dear Constant Reader,

As I mentioned on Friday The Boston BeauTease are working on a show dominated by big props, most of which the performers are building themselves. I thought I’d take you on a little tour of some of the other large props we’ve used over their years and how we made them. Eventually perhaps I’ll talk about some of the new pieces being constructed for The Big Time. For now, you can get a peek here.

To start, I’d like to re-introduce you to one of my pieces: Super Screen. Click the link for the previous missives about its construction.

Photo by Tuomas Lairila at The 12th Annual New York Burlesque Festival

Having used Super Screen for a couple of years now, I’m mostly very happy with it.

Pros: There’s nothing to obscure my silhouette. It’s tall enough that my head doesn’t get cut off in shadow. It’s narrow enough that I can easily reach out. The shape of the wings gives me an opportunity to tease. It’s a graceful shape and clearly not a mass produced item. I love the color.

Cons: It’s a bitch to transport. It’s 6’x 3′ folded up. It barely fits in the car on a diagonal with the seats folded up. We’re trying to figure out some way to secure it to the roof rack so that it’s not damaged. There’s a non-zero chance that unless we’re really careful and clever the wind would pick up the front of it and snap my poor screen like a cracker. Dangerous as well as heart-breaking.

The other down side is that the Tyvek we got was not the super-sturdy unrippable sort. That stuff, like they use for wrapping houses, is boldly emblazoned with the brand name all over, which would not do for my purposes. I think the Tyvek we ended up with is from what they make those protective suits for painting and the like. It’s fairly sturdy and water resistant, but it does puncture and Super Screen has suffered a few tears. I will continue my quest for stronger material.

More big props to come!

Published in: on 11 April 2017 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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