Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time again! This is a place where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in the world of burlesque some insight.
This week’s question comes from Atlanta Summer from my hometown, Seattle, WA:
” I’m a dedicated hobbyist. I love performing. I perform for my own pleasure and that of my audience. However, I have no aspirations to make it my full-time career that pays my bills; I have other goals in that department. This is something I do to scratch my creative itch, and I’m not really worried about a “living wage” for what I do.
Is there a place for me in performance art in the same shows with the professionals, the ones who ARE trying to make a living at it? Is my mere existence damaging to those professionals’ livelihoods?”
To me, it seems that it’s the quality of performances that are out there that is affecting a seasoned and entertaining performer’s livelihood. There are too many shows that charge too much that are filled with sub par performers that are claiming to be the “best” in burlesque. There are too many people blowing smoke up each other’s sweet glittery behinds.
As a producer, it’s harder to get a venue to agree to my terms because of prior sub-par shows that have been featured in their venues. If there was more transparency by shows i.e. “burgeoning burlesque” or “burlesque by new performers” or something like that, a lot of the issue would be diminished. However, there are too many performers that are putting on britches that are too big for them, and create too much hyperbole when they are promoting themselves. I think that all levels of burlesque should surely exist- the same as with music and any other art form. But there are too many newbies creating shows and not being honest about the level of performance that they are putting on stage. Also, newbies aren’t promoting the performers they love in their scenes as people that people should be going to see. New performers and those with a little bit more experience aren’t hiring “headliner” types to promote excellence in burlesque or to challenge themselves to become stronger performers.
I’ve noticed that a lot of new shows are missing a “Headliner” type. Not only would the pull be greater to their show, and enhance their lineup, but it would also promote more community in burlesque. When I first started producing, I always featured a performer, whether it was Paula the Swedish Housewife, Inga Ingenue, Waxie Moon etc.
I’m sure that many a new producer would complain about shelling out the $$ to book a headliner, but it’s worth it. Save a little more, promote a little better, and you could have a great addition to your cast.
Headliners certainly happen in bigger shows and festivals. Catherine D’Lish, Dita Von Teese, Michelle L’Amour, Julie Atlas Muz, Dirty Martini and Angie Pontani, just naming a few, are headliners in shows that also feature strong talent that don’t necessarily have the star pull of those aforementioned.
Your existence is certainly NOT hurting their capabilities of making a decent wage- a lot of that should probably fall on their shoulders as well, with how they conduct their business, and how they promote themselves. I know for a fact that there is a major over-saturation of burlesque in Seattle- I personally find myself taking more gigs out of town, and seeing less offers to be in shows in town because most shows are run by new performers only working with new performers. I know that when I was just starting out, having a headliner like Miss Indigo Blue would rock my socks off. It puzzles me why more new producers aren’t taking the initiative to create a better show and pay respect to the performers that inspire them.
I know that if I could produce a show and bring in say, Roxi D’Lite (2010 Queen of Burlesque) I would jump at the chance (I’m working on it!). Many communities have an abundance of headlining-type performers right in their backyard. A grand opportunity.
It’s my opinion that a ton of new performers are simply striking out in the burlesque world without taking stock of what their community already has in place and what it could potentially need in another show. Many aren’t thinking about what their potentially poorly planned show might do to relations between venue and other burlesque shows that might want to do a show there. I’d love to see more responsibility put on producers and also for new performers to really take stock of their capabilities as a performer.
I hope that helps!
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