Hot in Topeka at Jayhawk Theatre

Dear Constant Reader,

I want to tell you about my latest travels, to Topeka, Kansas. Short version: it was fantastic and I’m very glad I went. Long version…

I’m not entirely certain how I found the call for applications, but it came at just the right time. I was feeling rather down about my festival acceptance track record (way more “no” than “yes”) so on a lark, I applied. And was accepted! It wasn’t a festival, but a fundraiser for Jayhawk Theatare, a vaudeville house that’s in dire need of restoration, so I was very excited about the show.

It’s not easy or inexpensive to get from Boston to Kansas City (the closest airport), so to make it work, I had a whirlwind trip, starting at 3:30am on Saturday and ending 3:30am on Monday. At least there was a nice symmetry to it.

Anastacia Vulgar, the producer of the show, treated me like a rockstar at every turn. She arranged for transportation from and to the airport (over an hour away) and even put me up at her place. But it wasn’t just me; all the performers, most of whom were from out of town, were appreciated and got lovely perks: there was real food in the green room, someone else took care of selling our merch, we had an opportunity to teach, there was a very professional program (with mention of everyone’s Instagram), and even a little gift of some rhinestones. And I was paid so promptly I almost got whiplash.

Jayhawk Theatre was built in 1926 and presented vaudeville and movies. In December of 1928, Dainty June and her act, including her sister, Rose Louise, performed on that very stage. Later that night June snuck out of her hotel and ran away with Bobby Reed, a dancer in her act, whom she had married secretly. Rose Louise went on, of course, to become Gypsy Rose Lee. The fact that I was on the same stage as those famous sisters was a bit overwhelming.

The theatre is in rough shape. You can see how gorgeous it once was, but the painted decor is all damaged and the stage is basically bare. They’ve got a decent lighting and sounds set up, but I shudder to think of what the electrical is like. There are no theatre seats anymore, so there were chairs set up for the audience. The balcony wasn’t in use.

The show was fantastic. If it didn’t sell out, it was damned close. The audience was so enthusiastic! There were 10 performers and like I mentioned, almost everyone had traveled quite a distance to be there. It was so good to see Twirlisha Devine, OD Kimani, Caramel Knowledge, and Jacqueline Boxx again and delightful to meet everyone else.

I can’t do the show justice, but here are the performers, their acts (I got the names off the call-sheet, so forgive me of they’re not quite right), video when I could find it, and where they were from.

Caramel Knowledge (Los Angeles, CA): Black Amour
Tommy Gun (Flint, MI): Band Geek
Miss Mina Murray (Boston, MA): The Stripteaser’s Education
Mickie Sinn (Austin, TX): Break Up
Lola Loquacious (Kansas City, MO): Masterpiece
Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Medusa
Twirlisha Divine (Bloomington, IN): Sugar in My Twirl
Anya Neeze (Kansas City, MO): Desire
OD Kimani (Madison, WI): Radioactive
Jacqueline Boxx (Baltimore, MD): Blues
Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Glamour Cactus

Our hostess was Violet O’Hara (Dallas, TX).

My act, “The Stripteaser’s Education”, was inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee and her famous “The Psychology of a Stripteaser”. It’s a spoken-word piece and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would go over. Also I was nervous about using the microphone and about hitting my final cues. As it turned out, I nailed it. I might write a little more later about the act and the costume.

After the show, most people went around the corner to a bar. I overcame my exhaustion long enough to put in an appearance and talk costuming with Valerie Veils.

The next day was workshops. Unfortunately it sounded like most of them were canceled for lack of students. Burlesque is a pretty new thing in Topeka and the interest level just isn’t there yet. That did mean that Anastacia, Jacqueline, Twirlisha, Tommy and I could have a leisurely breakfast before it was time for my corsetry class. I had one very interested student who was a delight. I’m pleased with my presentation, but I’ve got a couple ideas to improve it even more.

Then I had to bail on Caramel’s workshop on making showgirl headdresses to go to the airport. Tobias, Anastacia’s partner, was playing chauffeur for the weekend and rather than make him drive to and from Kansas City multiple times, I left along with Jacqueline Boxx, who had an earlier flight. However, because I had time to kill and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have real KC barbecue, we went to Q39 and I finally had burnt ends in their native land. I even managed to take the leftovers home for Scratch.

Before I knew it, I had clicked my heels together three times and was back home with Albert A. Cat wondering if it had all been a dream. That might have just been the sleep deprivation.

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 11 July 2019 at 2:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival 2018

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m sorry this has taken so long to write, but several crises interrupted my life after I returned from Manitoba, Canada to perform at the 3rd annual Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival. It was a great time.

First of all, I love to travel to perform. I especially love to go places I’ve never been before and Winnipeg was definitely on that list. I’m delighted to be able to say I’ve now performed in three Canadian provinces (and visited a fourth).

I realized this was going to be a bit of a whirlwind trip, just under 48 hours, so I decided I could do the whole thing with a carry-on. It was only one costume, albeit a very full gown and a fur wrap, and no props. And bonus, I didn’t have to pay to check a bag.

I arrived Friday morning after a disgustingly early flight and was really grateful that the hotel not only let me get into a room before check-in time, but they upgraded us to a suite to do so. My roommate for the weekend was the delightful Ruby Mechant, who also played tour guide a bit, as she had been to the festival before.

My performance slot was Friday night. It was early in the first act, so I didn’t have too much time to fret as I waited to go on. The venue is very nice — raked seating, real dressing rooms with lots of mirrors, huge stage, great lighting. It’s called Gas Station Arts Centre, so I assume it was once a gas station, but you couldn’t tell.

My performance (Mina in Furs) drew lots of cheers during and lots of praise afterwards. The audience was so great and I was so into performing, that I completely forgot the moment early in the routine when I scoop up my fur stole (I enter with it dragging behind me) until the moment that I was supposed to fling it off myself again. I was really kicking myself and I can’t bear to watch the video. However, I do love this action shot from Dano Tanaka.

After intermission I slipped into the theatre to see the second half. My favorite act of the night was Delilah’s Le Morte de Corbeau. It’s a simply stunning performance and circumstances have prevented me from seeing it from the audience until now.

I know it’s a cliche to say that Canadians are nice people, but everyone I met at the festival was SO nice and welcoming. We got these cute handmade swag bags with useful little items, like a notebook and glitter. Oh, and a performer badge! I love those. There’s something about having that round my neck and flashing it to the ushers or security that makes feel like a rock star.

Saturday afternoon were the workshops. I’m really grateful to Dixie Cups for rearranging things so that I could teach “Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque”. She went out of her way to get me on the schedule and to make sure I had a projector. Communicating about these arrangements was hampered by the fact that apparently my email no longer likes to talk to Gmail, so I doubly commend her patience with me when it seemed like I was ignoring her emails.

We had a great turn out and I was so thrilled that my slide show worked perfectly. I mention this because I agonized over it. I had upgraded my slideshow to include video clips of the performers, which worked great on my computer at home. However, I run the presentation off my tablet when traveling and no matter what I tried, I could not get the videos to play. Thanks to a suggestion from Scratch, I saved all my slides as images and dropped them and the videos into a photo album resident on the tablet. Not only did it work, but I was having data issues, so I wouldn’t have been able to reach anything cloud-based anyway. Oh, technology!

Saturday night I got to relax and just enjoy the show. Best of all, I got to catch up with Delilah, whose company I always enjoy. The show was, as usual for festivals, a mixed bag. There were acts I liked very much and some that were not to my taste at all. I’m always happy to see the different styles and get some inspiration. I was a little surprised that several of the performers, particularly the invited guests, did the same acts on Friday as on Saturday. It seems like an odd production choice when encouraging the audience to buy tickets for both nights. The audience did get their money’s worth, however. The shows were good and long with, as I said, many different styles of performance.

I reluctantly skipped the after-party, since Ruby and I had to get up pretty early the next day for our flights back to the States. And before I knew it, I was home.

I’m glad I went. Not only was it a lovely experience, I can’t think of any reason I might have otherwise ended up in Winnipeg. It’s great to experience new places. I’m hoping to continue traveling in the year to come. (Hint, hint — book me…)

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 November 2018 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday: The Work

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday. It was such an inspiring and humbling experience and it’s been taking me a long time to find the right words. You can read about it here and here.

This is why we were all here: the work. For three days we spent four hours a day in the studio. We started two of the sessions with a killer warm up. I was grateful for my personal workout ethic so it didn’t actually kill me, because that was just the start of the session. We also worked on technique and choreography. On the last day we were treated to Michelle’s Pussy Confidence and Sensual Movement classes.

One of the things we talked about in the Pussy Confidence class was vulnerability and how vulnerability is strength. So, here’s some vulnerability. This stuff was really hard for me. I don’t pick up choreography quickly. I just don’t have a 5-6-7-8 brain and it’s hard for me to hear the beats of the music sometimes. I learn choreography by incessant drilling and really burning it into muscle memory. But like I kept telling myself, if this was easy, I wouldn’t need to be there. It was good for me to move *way* outside my comfort zone, but it certainly was frustrating. I wanted to work on refining details, but I needed to absorb the foundations first.

Here we all are after the first day:

Photo by One Chance Fancy.

Before I get to the centerpiece of the studio work, I want to mention a couple of related things we did at the house. One night after dinner we had “Idea Day” (I guess really “Idea Night”) where everyone went around the table and would share an idea they had for an act, usually just one element, like a song or a concept, and would get thoughts and feedback for a direction to go in. I was a complete blank and then I remembered my Hedy Jo Star peacock costume, which deserves to be back on stage. I’ve got some good ideas now; we shall see if they come to fruition. Also, if Scratch is willing to build some set pieces…

Also, before we went into the studio on the last day, Franky ran a meditation on beauty, which was also about imperfection. It was lovely and very pertinent to our work. We were supposed to consider a work of art and the first one that popped into my head was a Hellenistic statuette dancer, which I’ve loved for a long time. Kind of appropriate in many ways.

Back to the studio now…

Everyone brought an act on which they wanted to work. During the first two days we each presented our act and got feedback. On the last day we all presented again, showing how we incorporated the suggestions (a couple showed different acts instead). I was in the first group to present. I was nervous, but glad to get it over with early. I brought my newest act, which had just debuted in December (photo by George Ross of me performing it at The Expo). I thought it was pretty solid, but needed some oomph. After I showed it, Michelle made some very good suggestions, but I felt like I had to burn the whole thing down and start all over. The element I was using as a hook to hang the whole act on had to go.

When I got back to the house, I made an alteration to one of my costume pieces and played with it a little. After studio time the next day, I brought the whole act down into the home theatre room and ran it again and again, trying out Michelle’s suggestions and working on some stuff for the weaker parts. I realized I didn’t have to burn it down after all. A lot of the structure could stay as it was; it was the details that needed to change.

I filmed my last run, as best I could with my tablet, and sent it off to Scratch, because I was filled with self-doubt. He didn’t give me any feedback, just told me to be true to myself, since I was the one who was going to have to perform it. And reminded me that I was good at this and to have faith in myself. That bolstered my confidence a bit (and maybe made me cry a little). Still, I was up early the next morning, working on it again.

On the last day we all presented our acts again. I know this was more nerve-wracking for some than the first time, because there were a couple of camera people there for a project of Michelle’s (no, you’re not going to see the footage). Once I started performing I just tuned them out — I was nervous for all sorts of other reasons! Michelle had lots of praise and more suggestions. I felt a lot better, but knew it wasn’t there yet. Parts were stronger, but I still had holes to fill. I’m still working on it, in fact.

On our very last morning, Michelle gave everyone handwritten cards. It was a sweet touch and made the whole time even more special. This is a treasure I’ll return to when I need encouragement.

On the whole, this was an incredibly challenging time, but challenge is a good thing. I learned a lot on many levels. I got to see a dozen other performers with very different styles (which was an amazing experience) and see them also be vulnerable and put their work out there to be critiqued. Hearing the feedback they received also gave me new ideas and insights. I know that other people were nervous and insecure, which gave me comfort that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve admired Michelle for such a long time and working with her on such a personal level was intimidating to be sure, but also kind of liberating. She’s a very honest person, which I think encouraged honesty in others. The experience was very intense, with a lot crammed into 3-plus days, physically and emotionally. I’m still fumbling for words, but I promised myself I’d send this out today no matter what, so these words will have to do.

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 31 May 2018 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday: The House

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday in Los Angeles. It’s been taking me longer than I expected! You can read the first part here.

We all stayed in a big house in Studio City which was kind of incredible. It had an amazing view, a pool and hot tub, a pool table, and a home theatre. We were up in the hills and the landscaping was lovely. We even saw a deer one morning! My Patrons got to see a short video tour of some of the house.

However, it was decorated in a manner that was supposed to be lavish and stylish but was more like set dressing than a place people lived. All the surfaces were hard — tile, wood, brick, marble — I don’t think there was a single rug or carpet and none of the furniture was really comfortable (even the couches were so over-stuffed and piled with cushions that one couldn’t really lounge). Nor did the layout lend itself to socialization. Really, the only place we could all sit was around the dining table, as long as we also grabbed all the chairs from around the kitchen island. This is probably why most people spent their free time in and around the hot tub.

The View

My favorite spot

Artsy shot through the window

Visiting deer

Franky, Michelle’s husband, handled all the cooking and kitchen clean up. Despite numerous offers to help, we were all told to just relax and be taken care of. Michelle has very strict food requirements because of her auto-immune disorder, so we ate like she did — lots of protein and vegetables, no sugar, dairy, grains, or legumes. The food was terrific and plentiful. I was perfectly happy to eat that way the whole time (although I did have a bar of Russian dark chocolate in my bag, from which I rationed out a couple of squares each evening). I’m definitely going to try making the kale with kalamata olives and the chicken-apple-bacon burgers, not to mention experimenting with almond meal for pancakes.

I tend to wake up early and this trip was no exception. Michelle had asked that everyone try not to go on-line first thing in the morning, so instead of noodling around on my phone, I would get up and work out before anyone else was awake. I liked the quiet, but, as I mentioned, the house was full of hard surfaces. My options were the bricks around the pool or the tiles in the theatre. Ouch, floor exercises were right out.

Our schedule was very relaxed. People could sleep in and then have a leisurely breakfast. We were in the studio in the afternoon to work for four hours. Since every minute was precious, we didn’t take any formal breaks. Thinking of everything, the kitchen at the house was well stocked with nuts, fruit, and protein bars and we would assemble snack bags before we left and munch during our down time. We returned to the house to have dinner and spend the evening, usually drinking in the hot tub.

One of the thing we talked about in the studio was vulnerability and there was a lot of it during these days. It’s hard, but here is some more vulnerability and honesty.

The social aspect of being with a dozen people was very hard for me. Despite my outgoing behavior with students and audience members, I’m really a very quiet person and rather shy when I’m not “on”. I’m okay with small groups of people, but I find it very difficult to join in the chaos of conversation with a big group. Partially I think this is because I have a little hearing loss in one ear, so sometimes it takes me a bit longer to parse what people are saying, especially when there’s a lot of background noise and when it’s dark so I can’t see people’s faces well. Add to this that I don’t often drink and I felt a bit on the outside in the evenings. I did get a lot of crocheting done because I feel more comfortable when I’m doing something creative with my hands and I can crochet on autopilot.

That’s not to say I kept completely to myself. Like I said, small groups are fine. One day after the studio I joined Lana MilknHoney, Elle Diablo, and Jacquelyn Hyde for In-And-Out Burgers and had a ridiculously fun time. We weren’t forbidden to have food that Michelle can’t eat (there was a constant nibbling on cheese in the evenings), but it felt kinda naughty to have a burger and fries. Someone might have gotten drunk on the sugar in her milkshake (spoiler: it wasn’t me).

We never had to be showgirls while we were in the house. Michelle specifically said don’t bring lashes or gowns and absolutely no glitter. I didn’t put on makeup or do my hair once and spent as much time as possible in my Catherine D’Lish caftan and bare feet. And that was a gift, to be around fellow burlesque performers with no pressure to glam it up.

Next up, the whole reason I was there, the work!

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 2018 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stripper’s Holiday, the first part

Dear Constant Reader,

I just got back from Stripper’s Holiday in Los Angeles. I have a lot to tell you. Also, a lot to think about. I think rather than my usual chronology, I’ll be writing this up by theme.

First, what is Stripper’s Holiday? It’s a burlesque master class run by Michelle L’amour. The participants stay with her for almost a week and work on honing their craft and refining an act. I’ve been trying to do this for years, but never managed to get in. It fills up FAST. That’s why I signed up for the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat, because I knew Stripper’s Holiday was unlikely to be in the cards for me.

However, after I’d committed to going to New Orleans, Michelle announced to her on-line students that after a year off she was ready to do Stripper’s Holiday again. I took the weekend (which happened to be the Expo) to wrestle with my schedule and finances. I came to the conclusion that this opportunity might never happen again and sent in my deposit.

It was a very dense experience, with a lot to process, so I’ll start with the easy stuff, what I did before and after the actual event.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon after a super-easy flight that even landed early and headed directly to the home of Kitten Natividad, Miss Nude Universe, star of Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, Burlesque Legend of the Year, and dear friend. It was so good to see her and to visit her historic home (the photo on the right). She gave me some very generous gifts (which you may see in the future). I had brought her a jar of my home-made sour cherry jam, but it was hardly equivalent. She also took me out for Mexican food and kindly drove me to the Stripper House. There I joined the others and Stripper’s Holiday officially began for me.

There will be a lot more to come about what went on during the Holiday, but that is for another day.

Jump to Sunday… After we checked out of the Stripper House, I went to The Magic Castle to meet Lili VonSchtupp. Her beloved, Funny Eddie, was performing for the brunch crowd and she saved me a seat. It was such a treat to see him on stage — he’s very talented and, as you might imagine, funny. There are a lot of kids at brunch time and Eddie was great with them, but it was just as entertaining for the adults. Despite not having a ticket, I managed to get a seat in the Palace of Mystery for the big show, which included Caramel Machine, a hilarious duo from Japan and Tempei, a magically talented juggler.

The best part was sitting in the bar with Lili and catching up on everything. I got to hear all about her hosting at Viva Las Vegas with Elvira and the inside scoop on the amazing balloon gown she wore. We talked about all different aspects of burlesque — performance, teaching, business. It’s a delight to be with her. She said some very lovely things to me that I treasure.

The Castle kicked us all out so that they could reset for the evening, but I had time to kill until my evening plans. The wonderful staff was good enough to hold my suitcase while I wandered around Hollywood, being a tourist. I had never been to the Chinese theatre to gawk at the handprints before.

Next I headed to see my friend Professor H. who I’d caught up with in New Orleans last month. We had an amazing dinner at République and I got to hear all about her latest projects (one of which is SO COOL, but I’ve to keep mum about it). I’m not sorry I left academia, but sometimes I miss being a scholar.

After she foisted some of the leftover cassoulet on me and we said farewell, I had a hideous ride to the airport and ended up RUNNING through LAX. I managed to board my red-eye maybe 5 minutes before they closed the doors and promptly passed out until we landed in Boston. When I left it was basically winter and now spring was in full flower.

Much 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.

Published in: on 8 May 2018 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Sunday-Monday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The last day of the retreat! We were happy to sleep in a little and then excited to go to Dahlia’s flexibility class. I was going to ask her if anything could be done for my hip flexors, which don’t. Sadly, best laid plans and all that… There was a race in the park by the studio that morning. Mia Moore, driving us, did her best, but all the roads were blocked off and there was absolutely no way we could get even close. Eventually we admitted defeat and headed back to the apartment to make ourselves beautiful for brunch.

And then it was time for Legs and Eggs brunch at SoBou. Bella had arranged for us to all sit together and have a family meal, while she performed. Three times during the brunch, to the music of the jazz band, she glided around the tables in glamourous, but family-friendly costumes, occasionally removing an item of clothing, but never going down to pasties. Because there wasn’t room to really dance, she would move gracefully around the tables, spending a little time with the patrons. At one point, I realized that she was hovering her butt over a nearby table while the guests told her which cheek to move (“Right! Right! Left!”)

I discovered that the table next to our was filled with women from Boston who were having the BEST time. Two were from my neighborhood and two lived down the street from my studio. Small world. Maybe I’ll see them at a show.

Our instructors made a heck of an entrance in matching leopard catsuits, complete with tails and ears. Also, it was the day after Jen’s birthday and the actual birthday of Miss Audacious. Not only did the restaurant send over complimentary desserts, but there were birthday spankings. In the photo you can see a double-smacking by Sweetpea (the leopard-clad ass between the birthday girls).

After brunch we had some time to kill and several of us went back to the apartments to pack up and check out. Back at the studio we were going to have a workshop on Brand Building, but there really wasn’t enough time to delve into that important topic. Instead, we had a discussion of what we liked about the retreat and what could be improved for next time. I think we all agreed that there was a lot of value to the retreat in many ways and that some improvements could be made in transportation assistance and in schedule balance. For a first time event, it was very good.

After saying goodbye to everyone and thanking our instructors, I grabbed my big-ass suitcase and trundled off to Jackson Square, there to meet my hostess for the evening, Marrus (you know who she is; everyone knows Marrus). I relaxed and admired the mules while she got her car and packed up her art. The photo is of Claudia the Mule-icorn. Apparently mules like peppermints.

We had dinner at The Country Club and sat on the veranda, which was delightful. The conversation wandered all over the place from frivolous to incredibly serious and the food was terrific. I got a little tour of the beautifully painted dining rooms and the pool, although we didn’t swim.

The next morning I went with Marrus to set out her art on Jackson Square and then tour her remarkable gym. I had a little wander around the French Quarter until it was time to grab a cab to the airport. I always love to visit Fleur de Paris (and marvel at what a steal my hat was *mumble* years ago — I can’t afford any of their current offerings). And I picked up some pralines (and got schooled on the pronunciation — “prah-leens”) for the troupe.

The flight home was utterly uneventful and Scratch picked me up and took me straight to a rather cranky Albert. His favorite toy went missing right after I left and apparently I am the only one who could find it. And so I did.

It’s good to be home, but very soon I’ll be heading for Los Angeles and Michelle L’amour’s Stripper’s Holiday.

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 16 April 2018 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Saturday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Despite the late night, I still managed to make it to yoga in the park, on time, even. It was a perfect way to wake up and get energized for another long day. At some point I looked down and saw a golden rhinestone just sitting on my yoga mat. It looked like one from my Stardust costume, which of course was safely home in Boston. Burlesque magic!

We stayed in the park for our next class, which was working with silk veils with Gaea Lady. There was no way we could have done it in the studio. I’ve been dancing with veils for a long time, but watching her in performance, I had no idea how she manipulated them in those amazing ways. The secret is in how the veils are constructed. My shoulder was so sore by the time we were done, but I wanted more. I should have taken a picture of how beautiful we looked with all that silk flying around. Many of the tourists certainly did.

This time we had our delightful vegan lunch, again made possible by Gaea, upstairs at Mr. Gregory’s, a nearby cafe. The photo is of the view from the balcony.

Our first class of the afternoon was Hosting with Lola van Ella. I’ve been impressed with her hosting skills (especially for a show I was in), so I was looking forward to what she had to say. I host from time to time and I was happy to get some pointers. She ran a great exercise that looked like a lot of fun, but we were running out of time, so I opted to let some of those with less experience get the practice.

Cultural Appropriation with local artist and activist JackSun was another fill-in class for the stranded Perle Noire. I admit that I was a touch worried because this topic often engenders finger-wagging and blame. I was so wrong. Jackie was an excellent lecturer and the thought-provoking concepts were tempered with humor and insight.

Sweetpea took everyone out into the shade in the park and gave us a shortened version of her Glitter Endurance workshop. She discussed healthy lifestyle choices, mostly focused on nutrition, so we can keeping doing what we do.

Bella offered to cancel the last workshop (which had been TBD). We all thought that would be a great idea and wearily went back to the apartments to rest before the evening’s activities. She also punted yoga for the next morning.

Many decided to go to Whiskey and Rhinestones, but I had other plans. An old friend of mine was in town from the West Coast for an academic conference. We met at Bacchanal (as recommended by Artemisia). I wasn’t aware of how incredibly popular the place was, especially on a Saturday night. There was a long line to get in and I was starting to regret the decision, but the wait wasn’t terrible. Once inside, we stood on the balcony, vaguely listening to the band, enjoying our wine and cheese, and catching up on our respective lives. It was lovely to see her and hear about her latest research (I’m not sorry I left academia, but sometimes it’s nice to visit). I’m looking forward to seeing her again when I visit L.A. later this month.

It wasn’t too late when I got back, but Miss Audacious and I got talking and before I knew it, it was 2 in the morning. Yikes! At least we could sleep in a little before our first class Sunday morning.

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 11 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Friday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesqeu Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday morning came early. We grabbed our yoga mats and stumbled out the door to the park near the studio. It was lovely doing yoga there in the cool morning. A beautiful start to the day.

We began the day’s classes with a panel on production with most of our instructors answering questions (a couple of them were occupied elsewhere, but I’ll get to that). So many burlesque performers have to produce their own shows, so it was helpful to get several perspectives. We’re fortunate that we have a producer and I don’t usually have to worry about things like this, but it’s good to be knowledgeable all the same.

After that we broke for lunch. Gaea Lady and Dahlia Fatale had been busy in the kitchen (hence not on the production panel) whipping up a substantial vegan luncheon. We took our plates to the courtyard next to the studio to enjoy a little fresh air. Courtyards are one of those things I really love about New Orleans; they’re not something we have in New England.

Back to work with Sexing the Stage with Sweetpea. This was a terrific class, but absolutely mobbed. In addition to all the retreat participants, one of the bachelorette parties from Whiskey and Rhinestones the night before was in attendance. There was a lot of work with eye contact, touching, and energy. Breathing is so important on stage.

Then we got to sit for a bit for Stage Tech with AJay Strong. Although he touched on a variety of tech issues, his forte is audio. We discussed a variety of audio issues and factors. A lot of people were interested in getting more in-depth information about audio editing and playback.

Dahlia Fatale absolutely kicked our asses with Floorwork. I knew she would, but I was even more impressed because she was filling in for Perle Noire whose flight out of NYC was canceled by the same storm that was worrying me. We did some work on transitions (always necessary!) and ran through a challenging choreography. Dahlia was very good about providing modifications for some of the moves.

Our last class of the day was Intentional Performance with Gaea Lady. To begin we had to state an intention (for the class, for the retreat, &c). Mine was “Be better”. It’s a philosophy you’ve probably hear me espouse before. Later when we broke into small groups, we had to elaborate on our intentions. I chose that one because perfection is unattainable, but you can always be better, even if it’s in very small ways.

I decided to skip Whiskey and Rhinetones, which would have required racing out almost as soon as we got back, and opted to get ready for the Instructors’ Showcase at midnight in a more leisurely fashion. Also, my brain was very full and needed a bit of rest. I was delighted to learn that Siberia was across the street from the venue. Some of my flatmates, Jen and Maureen, and I had some delightful Russian food there, like the lovely pierogis in the photo.

Then we walked over to the Allways Lounge to see our instructors’ strut their stuff. Bella hosted the show and announced that because of the peculiarities of the venue, the performers can take it ALL off. Sweetpea started with a high-energy strip. The moment when she removed her bra and wasn’t wearing pasties was so powerful. Gaea came next with the same act I had seen the night before, only now under her veil, she was wearing only jewelry. Lola sang Tori Amos’s “Leather”, giving emphasis to the opening line. The microphone wasn’t working for her, so eventually she just flung it dramatically away and continued unamplified. Then Bella introduced herself and did something beautiful with a boa. I was delighted to see many of the moves she had taught us the day before (was it only the day before?). Dahlia did a contortion routine while smoking a cigarette. The high point of which was when she parked the cigarette between her toes while lying on the floor and then brought her foot up behind her head to take a puff.

Then there was a brief diversion while Sweetpea and Gaea introduced a little game to the audience. They would hold a plastic cup somewhere against their anatomy and if an audience member could sink a wadded-up dollar bill into the cup, said audience member would receive a shot from Dakota Crow, the lovely stage hand. Also clothing would come off. After that amusement, the show closed with a rather blasphemous group act with AJay (as a priest), Bella, Lola, Dahlia (as the congregants), and a large tub (for the baptism).

It was a fabulous show, but I was more than ready for bed. Yoga was going to come early in the morning…

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 9 April 2018 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Thursday

Dear Constant Reader,

If you’re just joining me, this are my adventures at the first New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about the first day here.

The retreat proper began on Thursday, although not too early. Since workshops didn’t start until the afternoon, most of us out-of-towners headed to the Ruby Slipper Cafe, a short walk from the apartments. All my good intentions went out the window with a biscuit loaded with cheddar, candied bacon (yes, you heard that right), and fried green tomato. It was just a delicious as it sounds.

Sally Stardust, Murphy Lawless, and I went to Trashy Diva for a little shopping before classes startted. Fortunately for my wallet, anything I liked wasn’t in my size. Murphy got a very glamourous and versatile dress that sorely tempted me, but alas, not in my size. I did pick up a little something for the troupe — a pair of ruffly panties for The Lost Girl so she can stop borrowing Betty’s (which she bought at Trashy Diva about 10 years ago).

We arrived at the New Orleans School of Burlesque, ready to start learning! It’s a small room with a wall of mirrors, right across from Louis Armstrong park. There’s no bathroom there, but there is a friendly bar next door that didn’t mind us trooping in and out between classes. Besides us out-of-towners, there were about half a dozen locals and a few people who dropped in for a class or two.

We started with a dose of burlesque history. I thought it was a great way to start things off. We have to know where we came from to know where we are going. There wasn’t a lot that was new to me, except for some New Orleans-specific history, which was great to learn.

Next was Total Confidence with Lola van Ella. We did a lot of exercises: walking, making eye contact, giving and receiving energy. My favorite was that everyone had to do a very short solo scene in which you encounter a rock. People were so creative! Everyone had such different ideas about the rock and what they did with it.

Lastly, Bella Blue taught us a short choreography with boas. It was beautiful and challenging. There are some moves that I’m absolutely using at some point. I was frantically taking notes, but at the end Bella performed the routine so we could video it for personal reference. So much more useful than my hasty scrawl.

We all hastened home to relax and get ready for our evening out. The lovely folks from Beauty Butler/Elektra Cosmetics invited us all over for dinner. They have two sphinx cats, so I got a little feline fix. I’ve never met a hairless cat before, but it’s like snuggling a velvet hot water bottle. And so sweet!

There was also glitter for sale at a phenomenal discount. I really should have bought some Bolt Balm, but I was wracked with indecision about color (so many colors!) and ended up buying nothing. I regret it.

Whilst there, the BHoF notifications went out and Bella Blue learned she was finally, after 7 years of applying, competing for Queen of Burlesque! I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what all the screaming and squealing was about.

After our kabobs and homemade beignets, we headed off to Whiskey and Rhinestones, Bella’s show every Thursday-Saturday night. I gather the audience is mostly tourists and it was packed! There were at least two bachelorette parties and some birthdays. We stood over by the bar to watch the show, since every table seat was sold out.

The performance area is a corridor down the center of the room, with the table seats on either side, very much like a classic runway stage. The audience is encouraged to tip, either directly into the tip jar, or by balling up their bills and tossing them onto the stage. I was surprised at how exciting and lively that made things. We don’t usually have tipping at our shows, but I’m hoping there’s a venue where it’s appropriate for us to try it out.

The performers that night were three of our instructors: Sweetpea, Gaea Lady, and Bella, of course. I swear Sweetpea (photo at right) was channeling Blaze Starr. Her look, her moves, her eroticism. I was completely captivated. Gaea was a walking advertisement for the veil workshop she would be teaching later. The way she manipulated the silk was simply breathtaking. At the time I had no idea how she did some of the moves. Bella, of course, was fantastic. She closed out the show with “Roxanne”, the act she would be doing at BHoF. It was even better than when she brought it to The Expo a couple of years ago.

After the show, I was completely exhausted, but Audacious convinced our group that a bite at Dat Dog was the way to end the evening. I wasn’t convinced until I saw they had duck sausage. Because I had no idea what toppings would go well on it (and there were SO MANY to chose from), I asked for “Chef’s choice” to dress my dog. The chef appeared to choose bacon, onions, chipotle mayo, Creole mustard, and bbq sauce. Fine by me.

And then I collapsed into bed very late for an early morning and a full day of workshops.

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 4 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Wednesday

Dear Constant Reader,

I recently attended the first ever New Orleans Burlesque Retreat, organized by Bella Blue. The participants spent four days living together, taking classes from a number of talented instructors, going to shows, and generally learning a whole heck of a lot. It was an amazing opportunity.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I am all about the continuing education. There were participants with all ranges of experience, from over a decade of performing to some who had yet to set foot on a burlesque stage. The instructors had a variety of different knowledge. It was marvelous. One of my former students once told me she was done taking classes. “Why should I pay for something I can learn from YouTube?” She’s missing out on so much! Human interaction is part of the learning process, both between you and the instructor and you and the other students. One cannot learn in a vacuum. [rant over]

The retreat started on Wednesday. I was extremely anxious because ANOTHER Nor’easter was predicted to hit the East Coast (that would have been the 4th since March started) and knowing airlines as I do, I feared my flight would be canceled. Fortunately the storm didn’t make it up to Massachusetts until long after I was gone.

We were staying in Mid-City, a part of New Orleans with which I was completely unfamiliar, in a pair of apartments that slept 6 each, sharing beds. I got there early and picked the room with only one bed simply because it had a nightstand on which to put my glasses. And somehow I ended up in solitary splendor, since we were ultimately only eleven. I admit I felt a bit guilty.

The first order of business was that we all marched over to the Whole Foods to stock up on edible necessities. I was entertained at seeing what my fellows considered essential foodstuffs (myself: baby carrots, blackberries, and tiny cheeses. Also oatmeal, but I had brought that with me).

In the evening all the instructors joined us (with bubbly, elderflower lemonade, and fresh fruit) so everyone could introduce themselves. We all had to share what we hoped to get out of the retreat and what we hoped to bring to it. I knew only a few of the people attending, so it was really nice to meet everyone else and learn a bit about them all.

It wasn’t too late when the evening broke up and a few of us joined Miss Audacious, who was meeting up with her friend Juliette Electrique (in town for The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny), on an excursion to the French Quarter. After starting at Cafe Beignet, we went to the Olde Absinthe House in Pirate Alley. We had a lovely time trading stories, posing for ridiculous photos (see right), and drinking Death in the Afternoon (absinthe and champagne). Unfortunately, the door guy decided we were a lot more fun than sitting in a corner not checking IDs (we were the only patrons) and invited himself and his cigarettes to our table and sort of took over the conversation. I was annoyed and also cold and tired, so an exit was the best strategy. I gather my companions left soon after to find a different spot for another round.

It was surprisingly chilly that night — I’d never been in New Orleans when it wasn’t stifling hot. The weather the whole time was on the coolish side and made me glad I’d grabbed my snuggly hoodie as I walked out the door in Boston.

Next up, our first day of the retreat.

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 4 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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