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 burlesque some insight.
This week’s question comes from an anonymous person and place (to protect their troupe)
” My troupe likes to booze it up and I’m not much of a drinker. I don’t mind that they drink, but I do mind that they’re so tipsy before and during shows and I worry about the impression they make on people that come backstage that aren’t a part of the troupe. What do you suggest I could do about this? “
When I was a wee burlesquer in a troupe years ago, we used to booze it up a lot too. In fact, it seemed to be a part of being in a troupe, you have shots, you have pre-show cocktails, mid-show libations, and a fan might buy you a delicious Manhattan during the intermission. I know that because we are a part of the nightlife, many people assume that this is the only way to be, but this is not true.
I’ll admit, in a younger incarnation of myself I went up on stage when I’d had more than my fair share of drink for the evening. Most of the time it went just fine, but as I got older and wiser I started to ask myself how much alcohol played a hinderance in my burlesque game. As a wiser performer and now producer of a show, I treat each gig as a job. This is my job. Most people don’t get to drink on the job, and let’s be really clear about 1 thing: Alcohol does not make you a better performer. Sure, it may un-inhibit you, but it would be more helpful to discover other tips and tools to do that before you impair parts of your body. Alcohol dehydrates you, and therefore your muscles are impaired. It messes with your balance and your ability to connect with the audience. It does not make us better looking or sexier. When I see a performer on their 3rd and 4th drink of “liquid courage” of the evening before intermission I wonder what they’re trying to help. Surely we all want to remember our performances, connect with audiences and grow as an entertainer…I would love to hear an argument about how it helps you. As I grew up, I realized that I want to keep my love of performing and my love of a good Manhattan separate, and that way I can thoroughly enjoy both.
As a producer I’ve dealt with many a drunk performer trying to talk business with me, and that, dear reader, turns me off to them. If you think that your troupe is dealing with nerves by drinking, you might want to sit them all down and talk with them about finding other ways to deal with it. It can only make you all stronger as a troupe, to be able to deal with stresses without substances.
In my troupe, eventually we took up a 2 drink rule: No more than 2 drinks until the show is done. That way there’s an amount of accountability for each other, each other’s property, and everyone is sober enough to deal with any drama or dilemmas with the show or the venue.
To be clear: Our scene is alcohol-filled, and I do love a rowdy, alcohol filled audience. It’s their job to enjoy themselves, because they’re out on the town. You are at work, and though you are there to enjoy yourself too (hopefully), your job is to entertain. At one time I’m sure I loved the boozy backstage, but performing sober-with ALL of my faculties to an un-inhibited crowd certainly does more to get my rocks off when I’m entertaining. I also love waking up in the morning with a clear head and heart with what I did on stage. It shouldn’t take 2 shots to get a performer up on stage. They should be able to get up there all on their own.
I’m sure it’s a bit embarrassing to have someone walk backstage to witness your buzzed troupe mates. It certainly doesn’t make you all look like strong, ferocious women. Impart this to them- how one of you behaves during a show reflects on you all, even backstage.
If you think that 1 or more of your troupe mates have a serious alcohol problem consider a conversation, an intervention or perhaps some tough love. At some times in a troupe’s life, a moderator might be needed in order to get some healthy changes made. You need a strong web of women to make a troupe run like a well-oiled machine. Make sure that they understand this.
Of course they might not be receptive to your concerns, and this is their right too. People can choose any way they want to participate in this community, but remember that you have a choice on whether that particular troupe is right for you.
Best of luck!