I’ve been in some good, some bad and some great shows. I’ve performed in shows featuring Catherine D’Lish, Miss Indigo Blue, Michelle L’amour and others. I’ve been the feature in lesser-known (but still a blast) shows, and simply a performer in others. No matter what the show is, or who the hell I am on the totem pole of burlesque, I try to handle myself in exactly the same way. With courtesy and grace.
I feel like the backstage is where people really show their personalities. There are types:
- The performer who simply strews her costumes and makeup about, making sure there’s a piece of her in every corner of a very tiny space-this performer is often late.
- The tiny personality performer who says sorry at every single turn, taking less space than she really needs, and she also stays in that tiny place as well throughout the whole show. This is the gal who often lends out a pair of stockings to #4. Though not bad, she is also the sponge. If you’re a gossip, this is the gal who remembers exactly what you said.
- The messy performer-though self contained-freaks out as soon as she’s backstage trying to locate a missing pastie, eyelashes, etc. She’s a bit scatter-brained but is mostly entertaining.
- The unprepared performer-missing entire items of costumes, asking others to borrow items; she’s typically the “takes drama to work” queen. Watch out for this one. Set your boundaries and if you don’t want to lend her a pair of gloves-don’t.
- The lush-drink glasses strewn about-this is the performer that makes you nervous about your costumes. She also tends to invite guests backstage. (This is why producers have a no guest/ minimal drinking policies)
- The bitch. She’s on time, and has her stuff, but she’s trying to find the other person to talk serious unrelenting shit about another performer. She’s beyond sharing useful information; she wants to be top dog. Often this is the performer who holds up a show for the rest of people. She’s too busy being important to get dressed on time.
- The “I need the whole stage crew’s attention right now” performer. She has a ton of questions. And a TON of props. She’s usually a nice gal, but doesn’t bother coming in early to make sure it’s all taken care of before others with simple questions show up.
- The freezer-she doesn’t talk to anyone. Self contained, and most likely on time, but steely composure. You can’t quite tell if she wants to be there. And usually, she’s out as soon as curtain call happens.
- And the organized performer-On time. Conscientious about her space and the space of others. She makes sure her champagne or cocktail glass is secure, and if empty, takes care of it. She may not like another performer, but she keeps it to herself. She holds a conversation when she can. She focuses when she needs to. She’s helpful when she can be. She doesn’t hold up the show, and if she must answer the phone, makes sure her conversation is brief or takes it elsewhere.
I’ve been super lucky-most of my shows are full of the organized and friendly performers, and I have a blast backstage and when performing; but every once in awhile a show is plagued with a performer who simply puts everyone in a funk. It’s no fun being stuck backstage with them, and I always wonder if they know if they’re a pain in the ass. Perhaps you, dear reader think me a gossip for sharing my interpretations of types, but I’m just trying to educate the clueless who happen upon my little blog.
It seems pretty obvious how one SHOULD behave while backstage. Everyone is there to work, have a good time and do his or her best. Some of the above behaviors make sure that you aren’t getting booked. Now, I totally understand that there are back stages that simply guarantee that your stuff is going to commingle with another performers things.
There are big production shows that have you bumping into every other person in the room. But there is no excuse for bad behavior. Simply being friendly goes a long way.
Yes, we are humans and humans love to gossip. I have definitely gossiped with a fellow friend/performer about who is doing what, how another show went, what show I would die to be in, and “holy shit did you see her amazing shoes!”, but all these things should be kept light. You never know who is listening (like #2), who is looking for different talent for their next venture.
Sure, I’ve been less than chatty in back stages where I’m not familiar with anyone, or I’m having a bad day, but I do my best to be gracious while I’m there. I’ll bitch to my best friend when I get home. That’s what besties are for, after all. I’m not saying don’t be you, I’m just saying to be aware of your surroundings.
As a producer, and talking in producer circles I have found that some will eschew booking a performer even though they are phenomenal on stage because of their lack of back stage etiquette. There’s nothing worse that being talked to by a venue for a damaged or dirty backstage, or a performer complaining about the conduct of another performer. When I’m in charge, I always try to make sure that the backstage is just as tidy as I came into it, and that my cast can coexist happily.
In burlesque years, I’m practically a baby, and in many ways am still trying to maneuver through the bumps and grinds of dealing with my fellow performers and producers. I constantly try to remind myself that the only thing I’m responsible for is myself,
my conduct and how people see me in public. I’ve looked back and blanched at the fact that I’ve said something damaging, and I also realize that while a criticism can be productive, it doesn’t have to be catty, simply practical.
We’ve all been one of those things at some time or another. My only hope is that we all strive to be #9.
Repeat with me: The back stage is not your room in your house. The back stage is not your room in your house. The back stage is not your room in your house. And don’t forget your eyelashes!
Oh, and this applies to the real world too. Mind your manners!
Photo credit: POC photo. Backstage at Chop Suey for Divine and Depraved