Last week I experienced some bullshit! Someone said something shitty about my body. To put the rotten cherry on my shit sundae I experienced a bunch of awful street harassment. Those experiences were putting me in a bad place mentally. But seriously, fuck that! I decided to count some blessings:
1) Mary Widow once told me how she saw me through a window as I was walking by, and was like "Those are some Ginny Nightshade thighs!" Like that is some kind of superpower. I love it.
Sometimes my life is so full of support and positivity I almost forget that I often exist in a space where people feel like it's necessary to put me down by commenting on my body.
When someone says something awful to me, objectifying me, making me feel like I am less than; I flash to the memory, of my "Ginny Nightshade thighs," and thank my lucky stars that I'm surrounded by so much body positivity and so many amazing, strong, women!
2) Allix Mortis and I had a Gchat conversation about someone who, at a show, told me they found it inspiring to watch me perform because of my body type, specifically my belly:
(this is a chat conversation- hence the weird spacing etc.)
"Being called inspiring is important because it means that you're helping someone break out of their shell, but you're also helping them get over and reprogram all those things they've been told and socialized to think about bodies- Their own, other women's - it's a small step, but it's pretty revolutionary when you think about it."
3) Last week I was having a panic attack about an event that I'm planning. I cried about sandwiches. That is a thing that actually happened and that is nuts! Sandwiches are happiness! After Slaughterhouse Sweethearts rehearsal I vented to Belle Gunz and Fem Bones who not only rallied around me, but also offered to help me plan. They both looked at me and said "Um. Duh, of course we will help!" and I just about exploded with happiness/relief/love for sandwiches.
I'm such a lucky, super-thighed, friend-filled, lady! #bellypower
Last week I got to do a really fun photo shoot with my friend Drew Ritter. Drew is really into photography and was looking for a model to add to his portfolio. I've never said "No" to having my picture taken, so we were well matched.
Speaking of "well matched," Drew is in my life because he's going to be marrying my best friend from childhood, Jessie. We made poor Jessie hike into the woods, NATURE, GUYS! She was fucking awesome; she kept the wine flowing and was a real sport about my flailing around making pouty faces at her fiancé.
About an hour into our shoot the sun went down and the woods got dark. NATURE, GUYS! We were just a bunch of kids hanging out in the middle of the woods by an abandoned water tower, drinking out of solo cups, and listening to country music. Not the setup for a horror movie at all!
I like to be scared but I think Jessie was getting nervous. Which is hilarious, because most of our childhood consisted of me making Jessie scared. (Sorry, Snugs.)
The real fear was the giant field of poison ivy we were standing in. Skin rashes are much worse when you spend a lot of time naked on stage.
I've been part of a few awesome photoshoots since I started doing Burlesque and I find that I really enjoy doing them. I remember being really nervous for my first shoot and I think it's evident in some of the photos. It's hard work being a model.
Yes, really! Standing in weird positions, under lights, in a rashy minefield, yeah, it's hard! Why are you so judgey? You got something against fake red heads? Too bad! I will murder you!
Here are some things I've learned about having my picture taken:
4. I guess I should lightly touch on the subject of money. If you're working for a professional photographer, you should get paid for your work. How you work that out is your choice, but make sure that shit is CLEAR before you go in and that you have some sort of contract. I'm not a professional model (See Example A) so I don't feel qualified to give you precise advice on this. The arrangement I have with Drew is Time for Print. Meaning that I model for him and he gives me license to use the photos he takes. Isn't that nice? Now you get to see the forest mermaid, and the awkward handjob shot!
5. When posing I try to remember these things:
a) Know where your light is. Tilt your face toward it and try to elongate your neck to create some contrast. At this nighttime shoot, I kept putting my face in shadow by holding my arm up over my head. Be aware of the shadows your body creates.
b) Listen to your photographer. If they tell you that when you hold your arm like that it blocks the light from your face, then, you know, don't do that....
c) My body creates a more interesting image when I stick my hips out and create negative space between my limbs and my body, that's kind of an obvious tip...but standing stock straight is something I avoid
d) A lot of model "tips" will advise you on tricks to appear thinner. I'm not interested in appearing thinner. That being said, I try not to squish my arms against my sides because it can create uneven "squishidge" making one arm appear larger than the other. You know when you see a photo of a bunch of girls out at the bars in Faneuil Hall and they all have their arms on their hips- that!
e) I try to be conscious of my hands and how I'm holding them. Sometimes I forget and get this weird fish-hand look, or I twist them around too sharply (see my hand in the forest-mermaid-rock- photo above)
f) Relax, yo. If I'm not relaxed I become mayor of Awkwardtown. I need to let go of those feelings of insecurity and just GO with it.
g) It helps to remind yourself that you're fucking fierce !
I've posted the edited photos from the shoot here. Check them out, and remember: I was listening to Taylor Swift the whole time while they were being taken... no! Don't remember that! That's a very embarrassing secret! Shhhh!
It's almost summer time and things have been heating up in the Boston burlesque scene.
This last weekend was jam packed with shows. On Friday I participated in the Bizarro Ball: A Fundraiser for Alternatease 2014.
Alternatease is a Neo-Burlesque festival and this will be its second year. Last year I was the administrative assistant and got to perform with The Glitterbombs in the opening show.
This year I applied and was accepted to perform in the TA-TA's which is the the Alterna-TEASE Awards Spectacular (Friday Night, August 15.) It's not a typical awards ceremony in that the awards are tailor made. It was an amazing show last year, and I'm preparing to BRING IT to this year's show.
Jonathan Beckley took these badass photos of my Wolf in Peep's Clothing performance on Friday night:
Saturday night I got to perform in The Old School Game Show's John Hughes-A-Palooza and it was rad!
I was a Cubic Zirconia Dancer and had my first speaking part as the Mother of the Studio Audience. I got to send the Studio Audience to prom! It was hilarious and such a fun show.
One of our numbers was an 80's medley and included, not only the dance montage from The Breakfast Club, but also this epic move stolen from Say Anything:
The theater was decked out for prom and included a photo area manned by awesome photographer Laura Hajar
You can check out more photos from the show: HERE
Sunday night I attended MASCULINITEASE: A Burlesque with Balls. The show is put on by Sirlesque, Boston's boylesque troupe.
I smiled and cheered so much my face hurt. There were fantastic special guests: Allix Mortis, Fem Bones, Maggie Maraschino, Gypsy Lux, Rogue Burlesque, and more! They added some badass lady-ness to the show.
Belle Gunz and I decided to dress in drag for the show and we looked so friggin handsome. It was the flattest my chest has been since 5th grade and pretty goddamn liberating. I think my drag persona will be making more appearances in the future.
My favorite number was Allix Mortis's. She did a powerful piece about the verbal abuse she's faced by depicting the words on a projection screen. It was tough to read and intense to watch her build more and more tension on the stage. She reclaimed some of those words so that they became words of power, and she honored #YesAllWomen. She got a standing ovation and brought tears to my eyes. It was a fantastic piece.
The finale of the show moved me in a different way.... jumping out of my seat because the dudes from Sirlesque did a tribute to the The Backstreet Boys that had my 90's-child-self losing my shit!
*Fun Fact: I'm fucking color blind and no one noticed my facial hair was purple until I left my apartment. It's an unintentional homage to Prince! *
As for when you can see me next:
REVENGE OF THE ROBOT BATTLE NUNS!
Guys, this show is going to be INSANE.
We've been in rehearsal for months, we've been toiling, we've been costuming, we've been finding the perfect mixture of ingredients to create the most realistic looking vomit....don't fucking miss this!
There has been a recent media blast that has come to my attention about a high school girl who was kicked out of her prom because she "violated dress code." This is a subject matter that brings up a lot of feelings for me and I thought I'd take the time to share some of them with you.
Here is a link to the blog written by Clare, the young woman who was kicked out of her prom.
I think there are several reasons as to why to this story resonates with me. The first of which is that I'm a woman and have spent most of my life dealing with the social pressure that constantly tells me that I'm an object and not a person. Whether it's being catcalled, bullied, or a victim of violence, the history of negativity is a universal one for women and not just my own.
This is also reminiscent of my time in high school when I was sent home for dress code violation despite the fact that I was wearing the same shirt as several other girls. I was a curvy kid and was sent home multiple times. In one instance, the male vice principal of my school came up to me in the cafeteria and informed me he could "see down my shirt." Gross.
I have other memories, of both authority figures (parents, teachers), and other adults, making comments on my appearance that absolutely reinforced that I should be ashamed of my body. This only got worse as I became larger, gaining a good 50 pounds going from high school into college. These comments varied from, "You can't look that way," to "Looking that way makes me want you and I can't control it," and both made me want to hide.
I think this article states it succinctly:
"This whole thing is infuriating, particularly because it so well encapsulates the absurdity inherent in how our culture conceptualizes propriety. We're taught to think that women's bodies are by definition impure and that displaying them is automatically salacious and obscene." - Callie Beusman
It's only fair to assume that if you're taught from a very young age that your body is something to hide because other people might want it or be offended by it, that you're going to develop some pretty fucked up views about yourself and how much control you have over your own being. It breeds insecurity and the desire to apologize for all the things society has taught you to perceive as flaws. I would bet that all the women reading this have been with a group of other women and listed off their own flaws. The reason we do this is because we've been taught to. Even when I was 15 and had never really seen anyone else naked I thought I knew what everyone else would see as "wrong" with my body. I had adults telling me that even in clothes my body was unacceptable.
I am happy to say that all of those feelings have stopped and that I owe it to burlesque.
I'm so lucky that I've found a community that not only embraces women's bodies, but also completely illustrates that our bodies are ours to control. I bet the above mentioned haters would think it's funny that my life has taken this path. I can picture them saying, "Of course she became a stripper!" but I think the real truth is: that I became one despite them. People tell me I'm brave all the time because I get naked on stage, that they'd be too insecure to do it themselves. The truth is, I'm brave only because I'm thwarting the societal pressure to feel shame about it. I can't imagine living forever with the socially induced shame that those authority figures tried to force on me.
Let me tell you about some of the positive things that doing burlesque has taught me about body image:
(these are my impressions in the Boston burlesque scene and I can't speak for anyone else)
1) I mentioned above the practice that many women get into of commiserating with one another about their flaws. This doesn't happen in the burlesque scene I'm part of. It took me being in the scene for a few months to realize that this practice was no longer something that came to me naturally. I was sitting in a group of very dear muggle friends and the once familiar conversation of "I shouldn't eat this because my thighs are huge" and "Ugh, your thighs? Have you seen my ass lately? Massive!" I realized, suddenly, that this type of conversation sounded utterly foreign to me and I didn't have a single thing to add to it. It made me feel sad that my friends didn't have the same realization (they are all total babes) and it made me proud that I felt no need to join in.
2) Before I started doing burlesque I had, what felt like, an ingrained reaction to seeing other women where I would compare myself to them. It used to be that if I saw a woman on TV or out at a bar I would compare (what I thought were) my flaws to hers. This did not make me feel better. It made me feel like I was grasping at something that only created animosity. It made me feel like I had to compete. At one of my very first auditions for a burlesque troupe I met a wonderful performer named Lotta Sass. Lotta and I struck up a friendship pretty quickly and were both trying hard to learn the audition choreography. As the audition progressed we were given the opportunity to switch positions in the lineup so we could be in the front and better seen by the people doing the casting. I continued to hang back. Lotta, noticing I was behind her, grabbed my arm and said "Get up there, girl! You rock." I can't even fucking tell you how momentous of a thing this was for me. She gave me her spot and encouraged me to shine. How many times had that happened in my life? Not a ton. Especially in a competitive setting. I got in the troupe and Lotta celebrated with me, and when she got into Rouge Burlesque, one of Boston's most well-known troupes, I was ecstatic for her.
3) This one's kind of piggybacking on #2 but I just wanted to add that when I see other ladies now I naturally find the positive about them- in both appearance and personality. I have gained a wealth of awesome new friends both in the burlesque community and outside it because I have a genuine interest in connecting with other people. At first the shift in my behavior was most apparent in regards to people's appearance. I stopped being like "My body isn't as sexy as hers" and started being like "Damn, that lady is good looking." Don't worry; I say that to myself all the time too. In doing that, it started making it easier to connect with people on an emotional level.
4) Ok, now let's talk about nudity. I'm into it. Maybe you are too, maybe you aren't, maybe you're a "nevernude;" do your thing. I'm just going to talk a little bit about how it pertains to me. One of the coolest things that burlesque has allowed me is the ability to see lots of people naked. And it's not for the obvious reason that being around lots of sexy naked people is the best. Lots of women don't get to see other women's bodies. You see celebrities and porn, but you very rarely get to see your peers naked. Guess what? Sometimes they look like you, sometimes they don't; but they are beautiful, flawed, and can be all sizes, all shapes, and all gender identities. The more you see, the more you'll realize that you're doing just fine. It's a wonderful feeling to realize that you don't have to fit into the very rigid mold that society has helped to build in your brain. You get to fit into a world where everyone looks different and that's the reality of things, and that is awesome.
5) Control! Ugh! For the longest of time I've felt like I don't have control over my own body because of my constant concern over how others perceive it. This, my friends, is total bullshit. However, it's a very real feeling. It's a feeling created from rape culture, from all the things I mentioned above, and more. It's a feeling that comes from being a victim and knowing so many others who have similar experiences. It's a lack of control with a layer of "I'm sorry for being here, and I'm sorry for being sorry, and I'm sorry, sorry, sorry!" You walk home late at night from the T and you're scared. You worry that if you wear this sundress some asshat is going to call to you on the street. You're thinking about your next act while waiting for a friend, and as you sit deep in thought a strange man tells you that you "should smile more." That skin crawling feeling of being emotionally violated without being able to do anything about it. All those feelings, for all the years of your life. Those feelings...plus more and more. It fucking sucks. I wish I could fix it for everyone. I wish I could fix it for my little sister and my friends. I can't. But what I can tell you is that you can find a way to combat those feelings. First, educate yourself on your rights. There aren't a ton of inspiring ways to fight back but learning them helps. Educate yourself on the tools to stay safe and encourage your loved ones to do so, too. By "tools to stay safe" in no way do I mean that what you do or wear is to blame for abhorrent behavior. What I mean is that there are applications like Kitestring and other steps you can take to make you feel more comfortable. If it isn't too exhausting and you want to, you can also share your knowledge with others, whether they be part of the problem or a victim of it. I have actively sought out professionals: social workers, police, lawyers, and activists that have helped me to learn more. I also found burlesque.
6) Ok, kind of a weird segue but bear with me. I probably don't need to reiterate that this is my process and I am in no way advocating that all of you become strippers to battle rape culture. Although, that would make for a pretty awesome comic. There are things in my life that have made me feel not in control of my body. Objectification, violence, bullying, the list goes on. I lost a significant amount of weight and still felt like I needed to apologize for the space I took up in the world. Simply put, burlesque changed all of that for me. I actively participate in what I do with my body, how I share it, what it looks like; it's mine. I do this on the safety of the stage. I do it for me. Sure, I want the audience to enjoy my piece. When I do a number I'm confident that I've spent enough time, and enough work, to make sure that it's strong. Sometimes I want them to find my number sexy, or sad, or gross, or intimidating, or fucking weird, but I get to decide. I know that some people aren't going to like it- that I'm not going to be what they wanted to see. I don't care. I've been applauded and I've been heckled (once- and they were kicked out for being drunk jerks.) It feels better to be cheered, of course, but being hated on doesn't matter as much anymore. The person I want to impress the most is me. The next people I want to impress are the amazing professionals I am honored to work with. I want to impress them because they know the hard work that goes into building a number. I also know that if I ask, they'll tell me, in a supportive way, that something in the piece didn't quite work.
This is a rare community, and a wonderful one. There's something like that out there for you and it doesn't have to be covered in rhinestones like mine. It could be a book, a friend, a therapist, or a person that inspires you. I encourage you to find it/them, because nothing feels better than having some of the burden taken off your shoulders.
7) You're beautiful.
8) I mean it. I know you are because I'm a burlesque dancer and that makes me an expert on this type of thing.
9) Besides a significant shift in my body image the real joy is that I do something that I love. It's a fucking insane amount of work, the things you love usually are. Finding that thing is something that you own/create/contribute to is incredibly liberating.
So, that's it for now. I imagine I will think of more fantastic things to list about the community I'm part of and the art that I create. Maybe there will be a part two, three, and four! I learn something at every show just by watching my peers perform. I sometimes wish I knew I would end up here; but then I realize I've always been here. It's just been bogged down with a whole lot of bullshit and I'm like a tiny sexy miner digging for the gold that is my own strength.
I got this.
Proms: A Photo Illustration of Growing Fierceness
High School Prom: 2005
Org Prom: 2013
This weekend was a busy one!
On Friday I had the honor of dancing a duet with my dear friend Maggie Maraschino to the live music of Walter Sikert & The Army of Broken Toys. I've been going to Toys shows for years. Before I started doing burlesque I was dancing like a happy fool in the audience of their shows. It's pretty surreal to be dancing on their stage and it's really fucking fun. The energy at this weekends show was so full of love and watching the crowd sing along as I danced was something I'll never forget.
Maggie and I have been dancing together for almost the entirety of my burlesque career. She and Porcelain Dalya, (another light in my life), put me in one of their shows when I was a brand new performer and really took a chance on me. I'm happy to say that we've been performing together ever since. I was in a fucking AMAZING number choreographed by Maggie in the Glitter Bomb's production, Strip Hop Hooray:
This girl can dance! I know I mentioned in my last blog that dancing with a live band can be full of surprises. When the song was played slightly differently then we rehearsed, Maggie and I were able to improvise, work together, and add to our piece, without even speaking. Then we finished up the piece like this:
Guys, can we talk about how sexy these photos are? I can't even get over us. Because usually when we are rehearsing we look more like this:
I'm very fortunate in that I get to work alongside people I really admire. The second show I had this weekend was Bon Appetit's Pastie Punch Out. A professional burlesque competition with an all-star lineup that I'm humbled to say included me. I did my werewolf number which is my favorite number to perform. Because I've been performing it for a while I decided to overhaul my costume and invest a little bit more in the number that I've performed at the most gigs. I embellished and built myself a new bra and skirt and they worked perfectly. As always, the Bon Appetit show was a blast and I got to meet several performers I'd never met before. There was a strong Boston contingent at the competition: Allix Mortis, Femme Brulee, Jane Doe, Lolli Hoops, and the 2nd place winner of the competition, Brandy Wine! Along with the fabulous Boston performers were, Vanil Lafrappe, Vivienne LaFlamme (3rd Place), Fruit on the Bottom, Serendipity Galore (1st Place), Heather Whatever, and Velvet Kensington. Every single performer brought their A-game and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. I laughed! I cried (only because Allix Mortis is so badass) and I got to hang out with a bunch of gorgeous, talented, women.
Last but not least!
This weekend I posed for Dr. Sketchy's Boston Presents: The Slaughterhouse Sweethearts. Hosted by Allix Mortis and filled with talented artists, this month's Dr. Sketchy's was a blast. I modeled alongside The Wizaard, The Slaughterhouse Sweetheart's only male member. We had a hard time holding a straight face while posing and shared lots of stories and laughs with the artists. Allix was a great host who moved things along and kept us talking while we posed. This was my third time posing for Dr. Sketchy's and I felt so comfortable. Holding a pose for 20 minutes can be hard but I've gotten much more at ease and have started to feel a real sense of calm while posing.
Coming up this week I'll be performing at Punk Rockin' & Pastie Poppin' Lewd Luau and then will be taking a break (mostly) for the rest of the month to work on the upcoming Slaughterhouse Sweethearts show Revenge of the Robot Battle Nuns. This will be the 3rd year running of the show and I aim to do it proud as a new cast member. If you're going to see one of our shows this year then this is the one to see. Just make sure to bring a poncho, things are going to get messy.
Be sure to check my event calendar for more upcoming shows! I'm going to be a busy girl in the coming months!
This weekend I headed out to Western, MA to hang out and perform with some of my favorite people.
I grew up in Western, MA and returning to do shows is usually a blast. Not only do I get to visit with family (who all come to the show!) but I get to perform at Bon Appetit Burlesque which is one of my favorite shows to be in.
This weekend was a double whammy because I also posed at Dr. Sketchy Northampton's final show at their usual venue. The venue is being sold and this show was their farewell to The Elevens.
Northampton has a thriving arts scene and is totally worth checking out, either as a patron, or as a performer.
The theme of this weekend's Dr. Sketchy's was murderesses! That's right, ladies who kill.
Guys, this is kind of my thing.
I talked to Kyle & Cora, who run Dr. Sketchy's NoHo, and they were totally on board for making it creepy. For the first half I posed as Lizzie Borden.
Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother 40 whacks
when she saw what she had done
she gave her father 41
Lizzie's story is particularly interesting because she became one of the first female “celebrity” killers. She lived in Fall River, MA and chose to stay there after her trial despite her tarnished reputation.
I have a Lizzie Borden burlesque routine called "Lizzie Boredom" where I pay tribute to the famed axe-woman. I believe that IF she killed her father and step mother then she did it because her life was horribly hard and tremendously boring. Poor Lizzie! She needed to spice things up!
The second half was a series of poses based off of several murderesses:
Aside from being startled by my own coat backstage (I screamed like a small child), I had such fun creeping out the artists at Dr. Sketchy's Northampton. I hope to be back once they start up at their new venue.
The next night I had the honor of performing with FruitontheBottom, Vivienne LaFlamme, Dolly Would, Victoria Van Layer, and my fellow Slaughterhouse Sweeheart, Allix Mortis, in Bon Appetit Burlesque's Magic Time Machine II.
Bon Appetit is run by my favorite host, Hors D'oeuvres whose burlesque message is simple:
"Bon Appétit Burlesque is a woman-friendly, body-positive neo-burlesque show in Northampton, Massachusetts. From its early days in front of a handful of spectators, Bon Appétit Burlesque has grown into a standing-room-only show at The Deuce that features women (and sometimes men) of different ages, races, gender expressions, sexualities, and body types performing neo-burlesque and boylesque."
And boy does Hors deliver! I've performed in this show a handful of times and it continues to be a highlight in my performance schedule. It's so professionally run, the lineup is always diverse, and Hors's hosting is something to be seen. Many gigs have performers changing in dank basements without a printed lineup in sight- not at Bon Appetit! From Ben working the door, to Captain Elastico (his assless banana costume was the talk of Christmas this year after my aunties came to the show) working the crowd, this show runs like a dream. I've been known to drive 2 hours to see the show even when I'm not in it. I really recommend this show to performers and fans alike because it's a guaranteed fucking BLAST.
If you're a performer and reading this you should consider applying for the Pastie Punch Out. It's a Neo-burlesque competition run and hosted by Hors at Bon Appetite. I applied! Hopefully I'll see you there!
On top of performing my Lizzie Borden number I debuted a re-worked version of a number that I did when I was first starting out. My friends Maggie Maraschino and Porcelain Dalya produced a show in 2013 and asked me to be part of it. It was a week to show time and knowing the theme was time travel I came up with a comedic bit about past life regression therapy and fused it with a Cleopatra number.
Watching video of that number made me cringe a little. I tried to look at that as a learning experience and worked to make it better. I've reworked that number: changed the song, the costume, the choreography, and I'm really happy with the results. I'll be performing it next month in Boston! A big part of the learning process in Burlesque (for me, anyway) is adding, changing, and revamping to create a better piece.
I loved going back to my old stomping grounds and performing and creating art with the talented people there. While at my parents I unearthed this photo of me and a friend at a dance recital. I think I'm around age 11. Do you think much has changed? (Good Lord, I hope I have better hair at least!)
Last week I debuted a new number at Geek Girl Boston Presents: Big In Japan. This is my second show with Geek Girl Boston and, although I'm typically out-geeked, I have a blast performing at these themed shows. Amy Macabre and Fonda Feeling are the creators/producers of the show and they were psyched when I said I would do a number based on Japanese horror films.
I'm not an expert on Japanese horror but I have a real appreciation for some of the movies I've watched over the years. The one that stood out to me the most was the movie Audition. I hadn't see Audition in years and the scene that I could best remember was the horrific torture scene at the end of the movie. Was I supposed to say SPOILER ALERT? I started to do research for my number and in re-watching the movie I was shocked by the change in my take-away from it. The torture scene is super intense. The part I found the most upsetting was the scene where the main character is auditioning women to be his future wife. The women thought they were getting the chance to audition for a movie. It was really disturbing to me that the men in the film were not only tricking these women, but objectifying them on camera. It made my perspective on the ultimate torturing of the main character change a little bit...
After watching the movie I thought a lot about what a tribute should look like in terms of a burlesque number. Since beginning burlesque, I've made a point to see every show I can and immerse myself in the scene. I've seen some amazing performances by some of the most respected performers around. I've had many teachers and mentors who have inspired me and let me pick their brains. A lot of burlesque numbers are tribute numbers, whether it be Nerdlesque or not. I wanted to come up with something that makes a tribute number engage and I mean really engage an audience. Sometimes when you're so passionate about something you get really wrapped up in showing what you know about it instead of bringing the audience in to teach them about it. It's really important to separate yourself and your knowledge of the subject and try to look at it from an outside perspective. Here's what I came up with:
The number needs to work even if the audience has never seen/heard/fucked/read whatever it is you're making a tribute to: Meaning that- if you strip away (stripppp) the story you already know, will the audience still have an emotional reaction to your piece? If the answer is "yes" then your number is versatile enough to straddle both the group of people who know what you're honoring and the group of people who don't. When you don't acknowledge that people might have no idea what you're trying to do then you risk alienating them. This absolutely does not mean that you can't do a super plot heavy number filled with layers of detail. It simply means that the number needs to be entertaining in its own right.
The number has to appeal to people who love the thing more than you do: This is an obvious one. There are people out there who can recite entire scenes from the movie Audition. People who have written about it a lot more than "Gee, that audition scene in Audition was really fucked up." Those are the people who are going to revel in the special details you add to your piece. They are going to be the people who get it. These are your people! The details you add are a nod to them and their appreciation.
I thought a lot about these two things and how I had seen them executed in different ways. I thought about what worked for me as an audience member and what didn't. I thought about the way I could take what I learned from those experiences and start using it as a skill to craft better performance pieces.
For my tribute to Audition I started out the number inside a cloth bag.
The "thing" in the bag is one of the creepiest things ever....besides what's in the bag.
In listening to my own rules I was nervous about the choice to start the number this way. (Also, fuck that GIF that keeps creeping me out over and over) I could not rehearse the number in my apartment without a) someone laughing at me b) dogs attacking me c) giggling at myself.
(Are you all picturing me giggling inside of a bag? Good! Now look up at that GIF! DO IT! AHHH!)
I had to deal with the possible outcome that the lights would come up and people would laugh at me. Then I remembered this modern dance class I took as a teenager. We did a bunch of dance routines from inside these body sized pillow cases. Mostly they looked strange and alarming and not funny despite how worried I was that they would be. The movement inside the bag would decide the mood. I also decided that I could deal with people thinking it was funny initially because I promised myself that I would cater to the people who had seen the movie and the people who hadn't.
I decided to use the song Heartbreak Hotel as it suited the plot of the movie and I had two really great versions. One by Hanni El Khatib and one off of the VIVA Elvis album. Choosing how to splice them was tough and something I might continue to work on.
I choreographed the number to have a classic burlesque feel mixed with some edge. I tried to contrast sweet and slow emotions with harder more violent ones. I felt like this illustrated the energy in the movie. It also works to provide contrast in the number in general. For props I used a large syringe and a spool of wire. Both of these are heavily featured in the torture scene of the movie but I made sure make them work for me in my number too. I did suggestive things with that syringe, I'm not going to lie, and I used the wire as a sort of fucked up feather boa and used it to tease audience members. I added some scarring to my leg, to pay homage to the movie, but didn't stress about explaining it because it was such a minute detail.
For my costume I paired a classic style rhinestone and fringed bra and sequin panties (that I made!) with a black corset and rubber apron. I worked to fuse the dark of the horror with the glam of burlesque and I think things came together nicely.
The apron is a good example of using a prop that was part of the movie and making it work for the whole audience. The female lead in Audition wears a rubber apron during the torture scene and the image is on the cover of the movie and movie posters. So anyone who has seen Audition will get the reference.
A slick, black, rubber, apron when tied the right way actually looks pretty sexy (I swear) and has lots of ties that need to be undone. I was able to add a slow and fast remove using the apron that added to the piece without needing a complicated story line.
When I got to Oberon to for Tech rehearsal the crew was fantastic. They were able to do some great lighting that added to the "bag entrance" and made it seem at least more abstract than funny.
The number went over really well with the audience. Of course there were things that I felt were off. After seeing it on video, I have choreography changes in mind, but for a debut of what could have been a really weird number, I feel like I have added another will-be-solid piece to my repertoire.
I'd love to have more discussions about what makes a good tribute number. I've seen some AMAZING Nerdlesque about subjects I know nothing about and it really boils down to a really well-crafted number. It's awesome to have so many examples of good work to learn from.
That's all for now! Here's another selfie from Sunday night- only it's not of my butt or of me in a bag:
Here are some more photos of the Number taken by Jonathan Beckley:
This last weekend was a busy one! Starting on Thursday night I had three shows lined up for the weekend and it was the best!
The first show was CHEAPSEATS which is a DIY show put on by Erich Haygun at the YMCA in Cambridge, MA. Erich has a beautiful philosophy about building a supportive community of different types of artists who can all come together in one show. It's a good place to experiment. It was definitely the quietest crowd I'd ever performed burlesque for. I think seeing burlesque was a new experience for a lot of people in the audience. Either that or they weren't into seeing my butt which just can't be true! I mean come on guys, butts!
The second show of the weekend was A Dark Knight in the Asylum which is the Batman themed burlesque show that my troupe The Slaughterhouse Sweethearts created. The show, at Oberon in Harvard Square, sold out two weeks before the opening! The costumes and makeup alone were enough to impress anyone. I had to share a dressing room with Killer Croc (played by Willie Dumey) and it was terrifying. I like to think I don't scare easily, but damn! Some of the costumes in the show were truly frightening!
The plot of the show was that Commissioner Gordon, played by Dale Stones visits Arkham Asylum to check up on the villains that had once plagued Gotham. Dr. Arkham, played by THE WIZARD, walks him around the asylum introducing the audience to all the villains until all hell breaks loose and Joker, played by Complete Destruction, reigns as king of chaos!
There were so many amazing numbers in the show!
These were some of my favorites:
A bunch of my Muggle friends came out to support me in my debut as a Slaughterhouse Sweetheart. They bought out 2 tables in the front row and cheered like lunatics whenever I was on stage. (they are awesome) Afterward, we all went out to my favorite bar and drank all of the wine.
Now, I have a confession.... I ended up singing karaoke with Gypsy Lux to Honky Tonk Badonkadonk. (Thank god no one recorded it!) In all honesty I think I sang four songs which is a true testament to how much "fun" I was having. Despite being such a ham, the idea of singing karaoke is my idea of hell...although I'm pretty sure I rocked Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You" #letsbehonest
After the karaoke some of us headed over to The Slaughterhouse...there is a lot of photographic evidence of this but most of it is locked in the vaults.
The coolest thing about this weekend of shows was that so many people I don't get to see that often braved the cold to come see me perform. My liver paid for it but my cold little heart swelled with all the love I got from my friends.
And with that I leave you until later when I'll recap the third show of the weekend: Geek Girl Boston Presents: BIG IN JAPAN!
Here's a selfie of me looking (and feeling) extremely hungover to tide you over until then!
Last night I was a guest performer in Old School Game Show. What is Old School Game Show? It's awesome. Created by the wild mind of Michael D'Angelo, it's like The Price is Right got drunk and started dancing on a table at a house party in the 70's.
As the audience enters the theater they can submit their name to possibly become a contestant to "come on down" and be on the show. Mike, not only the creator but the host, is a force of energy and his character, a "sleazy 70's talk show host", is totally endearing (I swear!) I went and saw the show a couple months ago because my good friend Gypsy Lux is on the production crew and I LOVED it! I was so excited when Mike asked if I was interested in helping out with the show. When I found out I was going to be playing the part of the "Dream Girl," the love interest of Mike and his Co-hosts, I was like:
...because sometimes I think I'm still an insecure teenager. But then I snapped out of it-I fully embraced my Dream Girl status and became totally insufferable to be around. For example: I wouldn't stop telling my Manfriend (that was his dating profile picture when we first 'met') that I'm The Dream Girl so it's probably his turn to take the dogs out. I’m such a catch!
Since the show is in the style of the 1970's I did some research on 70's makeup and hairstyles. I figured for the part I would be doing more of a "Teen Queen" look than how my parents looked in the 70's, which was like total hippies.
For 70's style inspired hair I split my hair into a center part (even my bangs! I have a forehead everyone- look upon it!) and curled it in sections away from my face, on each side. Then I brushed the curls to form a soft roll on each side. Half my head is shaved, which made it harder to match both sides, but I was happy with the results. This was the first time I'd curled my hair extensions and they held the curl well, but I had trouble getting my real hair to stay. I was getting really yelly about it and my sister was super helpful by attacking me with hairspray.
For makeup I layered blue eye shadows in a smokey eye, then used black eyeliner on my upper and lower lids, and topped it off with big fake eye lashes. I first tried wearing a bright pink lip, but it looked like I had no lips (apparently I'm bright pink?) so I switched to red for the show.
The show was Valentine's themed and full of slow jams. There was a dating game partway through the show where some local artists participated. Honey Pie from The Babes in Boinkland (and lots of other Burlesque troupes/shows) played our bachelorette and Ants Conley from Endation was the bachelor. They chose their mystery date by asking a series of loaded questions. We didn't feel too bad for the losing contestants because everyone got a kiss. In fact, this show was full of make outs! SO. MANY. MAKE OUTS.
For my bit I entered the stage to the sounds of:
Trailing behind me was my nerdy sister, played by comedian (and my new best friend) Kaitlin Buckley. She was carrying a fan to create some sexy (albeit ridiculous) hair blowing. The cool thing was that I got to wear my mom's shirt from the 70's! It's such a great vintage top and I hadn’t really found a time to wear it yet. Last night I paired it with some high-waisted denim and it was perfect! I have bigger boobs than my mom did, but no one seemed to mind me leaving the top button open ;). Oh, and I popped the collar, of course!
For our second sketch I entered on my golden roller skates. It was terrifying and the thing I was the most nervous about. I kept picturing myself attempting to be sexy and then eating shit, which has happened...more than once...just walking.
Luckily it went smoothly and we reenacted the scene from Pretty in Pink only Mike and the Co-hosts chose my nerdy sister over me. Kaitlin was hilarious when she realized what had happened. She shoved the fan into my hands and did her own nerdy version of sexy.
Old School Game Show is a joy to be in as a performer. The show is well organized and cast with all different types of creative people. I got to meet Martha Marin, a lovely lady and the sexiest accordion player I've ever met! I loved her denim jumpsuit so much I told her I wanted to murder her and keep it for myself. She didn't think that was a weird thing to say so I'm pretty sure we are friends now.
It's great to be part of a show in Boston that isn't solely about Burlesque. It brought in a different crowd and I got to see lots of people from different communities. Although, Boston burlesque did represent: some of my favorite Boston Burlesque dancers were in the audience. It's wonderful to be part of such a supportive (and sexy) scene.
Here's to Old School Game show which you can check out the last Sunday of every month at The Davis Square theater in Somerville, MA. And here's to not falling on my sexy-ass during the show, to making new friends, drinking wine during (and after) the show, and to next month's show, which is going to be even better!
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