A Producers Take: Producing Burlesque Shows

**It has been pointed out that I should clearly mention that I am a SEATTLE based performer and producer (though I travel as a performer both nationally and internationally) and my opinions on producing have mostly come from my experience in Seattle. This piece is meant to start a conversation, not to be an end all to producing. There are many ways to see a community and to create a piece of art. Happy teasing, ya’ll!

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Producing shows is a point of pride for me, and because of my successes and failures over the past 3 years of producing burlesque shows I thought that it would be useful to some to write about some of my opinions about producing a good, entertaining and successful show.

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Discourse on competitions, merit and voting

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about competitions, merit, and voting. Today, I hit my “burlesque pet-peeve” peek. I’ve hit it before, but not having any bit of a platform (not like my blog is much more of one now) I’ve always decided to keep it to myself or share my ideas in a stitch and bitch circle with my closest burly ladies.

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Burlesque Behind the Pink Door this SATURDAY! 10/20

The longest running burlesque show with an alternating cast! Every Saturday brings Burlesque Behind the Pink Door, located in Downtown Seattle!

This weekend I’ll be joining the fantastic JENNY PENNY (aerialist), The’Luminous Pariah (Boylesque) and Whitney Fliss (Dazzling Cabaret Vocals)!

Come on down for some fantastic food, yummy drinks and be entertained by us and our hilarious host, Kaleb Kerr!

1919 Post Alley, Seattle WA

Show at 11pm, though it’s recommended to arrive before 10pm. This is a show that is rarely ever not sold out! $15.

Get thee to a mentor!

***Below are my personal opinions on mentorship. I have a big mouth, and this is my blog. Be warned.***

As I sit here, as I often do after reading my books and autobiographies about success and successful people, all I really wanted to share is: GET THEE TO A MENTOR!

When I began burlesque 6 years ago I had forgotten what it was like to have a mentor, as my previous mentor had been in high school by the name of Scott Brown and he was most likely the most influential teacher (and my vocal jazz teacher) I have ever had. I had forgotten because I got all tied up in the glitz and glam of the whole thing, and not the bones and blood of it.

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My website, www.GlitterWonderland.com has launched!

Welcome to my Glitter Wonderland!

After tons of content writing on my part, and tons of design and development on my fiancee’s part, my website has finally launched!

http://www.GlitterWonderland.com

I hope that you’ll check it out and let me know what you think! If you’re interesting in checking out my future husband’s work, check out http://www.Scottbokma.com . He’s a fantastic artist and wonderful graphic designer (and now he’s starting his redesign of his site as well!). He really made my site super professional and beautiful. I’m also ridiculously lucky to get the chance to call him husband. He’s pretty magic.
Kisses!

Sydni Deveraux

BurlyCon 2008 to 2010-a retrospective.

Taken by POC Photo.

I have been a part of planning BurlyCon in different ways since it’s beginning 3 years ago, and just like a fine wine-it gets better with age. In the last 2 years (just 2 years!) the number of attendees has DOUBLED in size, a testimony that burlesque is here to stay, is constantly evolving, and many people from all over the country are aching to take classes from their peers and legends.

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Backstage Ettiquette…(with real world implications)

Oh man.

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.

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a favorite: Catherine D’Lish

Over the next few days I’m going to polish up my burlesque chops by writing about some of my favorite burlesque personalities throughout the world. I’ve been extremely lucky to share the stage with all except for two, but even more lucky to have had conversations and wonderful moments with every single one.

Without further adieu, please meet my first burlesque influence:

Catherine D’Lish

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Catherine D’Lish, the “striptease virtuoso” perform, and for most of us on the burlesque circuit, Catherine D’Lish is a constant delight and favorite. From her fantastic costuming (she also makes Dita Von Teese’s costumes), her fan-work, to how she can take off one glove and leave you literally hanging off your seat (this has happened to me at her Triple Door show earlier this year) Catherine’s act is a force to be reckoned with. She holds over 30 titles, including Miss Nude USA, World’s Performer of the Year, Miss Erotic World, Showgirl of the Year, Miss Exotic America, and Miss Nude International, she is one hell of a world class performer.

Catherine D’Lish is known for her classic burlesque work, and whenever I think of my favorite act of hers, I always come to an act that involves her epic black dress. I swear there’s 200 yards of tulle on the skirt, and the rhinestones almost put me into a seizure. Black and sleek, she slinks and teases the entire audience with a grace that can only make you think of old Hollywood glamour.

At BurlyCon 2008 I was one of the lucky few to get a private session with her and I was so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to get to know her. Even now as she is on tour in Europe we keep in contact, and she’s always eager to answer any questions I have. She, and the others on my list are a true embodiment of burlesque. During the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas, I even got to sing “I’ve got a crush on you” while sitting on a gentleman’s lap with the Legend herself. Thank you for slinking into my heart, Catherine.

For more on the virtuoso, check out her website: http://www.cdlish.com/

Below is a link to her video of the act and the dress that drive me wild (Please excuse the commercial prior. Shimmy around for 30 seconds or something). For such a petite lady, Catherine’s aura takes up the whole stage!

http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/sexy/watch/v16365826Cp5fStjZ

I apologize for it not being here on the page. It simply refused to embed!

xo

Sydni Deveraux


Land of the Sweets: Burlesque Nutcracker

Sydni Recommends:

Almost sold out, I can’t wait to see it this week!

http://landofthesweets.com/

It starts today and runs until December 23rd. This wildly popular show is not to be missed!

Starring some of my dearest friends and most innovative figures in Seattle burlesque, this show will blow you away!

Opinion Piece: Do’s and Don’ts of burlesque

These are simply the opinions of one glittery burlesquer.

Originally written in 2008 it is revised (hey, my opinions can change!), but to some, still helpful.


Since 2005 I’ve been in countless shows, produced countless shows and seen countless shows. I’ve been backstage with shining stars, newbies that just want to get it right and established performers that seem to have no clue. Often, when I’m approached by a new performer, they want to know what they can do better, or what they’re doing “wrong”…..

Not everyone likes the same thing, and while many of my opinions are shared- I speak for no one but myself. However- here’s a few things that I would like to let you know- and I hope that it can be useful for you!

1. Get a name and make it yours. Make it unique. If you are trying to rip off a more famous performer than yourself with your name, that really sucks. If you’re making a raunchy, disrespectful joke on a legend’s name- I think it reflects upon you poorly. Know that people have noticed, and it might be why you’re not getting more work. If you have the name of someone else that has come before you and they approach you about it- don’t be rude, change yours to something else. There are a million Cherry’s, Kitty’s, L’somethings, D’somethings, Von Somethings….don’t you want to really stand out? Some names are coincidences and that can’t be helped, but really- please do your research.

2. If you decide to be a peeler, please look at yourself from all angles in the mirrors.
*Cut off your tags please!
*Please gussy up your underwear a bit. Plain ‘ol panties tend to look bad.
*the tinier the better! Hottie McNaughty and I were having a conversation one night about this. She’s not into the thong, but she is into butt cleavage. I’m a big fan of tiny thong underwear. We both agree that there should be some element of risque in your panties. Maybe they just fit really well….hug your delicious curves!
*Check out yourself from the rear. Are those underwear flattering?
*Wearing a corset/fishnets/certain kind of bra/fringe every act can be boring. Keep an eye on that. Make sure you keep it interesting.
*You don’t have to have tassels on the pasties. Not twirling? Don’t worry about tassels!
*Just because you might be a more voluptuous girl doesn’t mean you have to wear huge granny panties. For a great reference, please go to youtube and watch videos of Dirty Martini. I want to do Dirty things to Dirty Martini. She’s simply fabulous.

3. HAVE STAGE PRESENCE!
Sorry, you can’t buy this. Granted, not everyone has me on their favorite burlesque gal list, but I’ve been told since I was 15 that I have stage presence. What I’ve witnessed over the years of being obsessed with watching live performances, is that you can’t buy it. You either have it, or don’t. This does not mean that having stage presence will make your act especially interesting unless you make it so. Conversely, I’ve seen amazing dancers have no stage presence, and unfortunately, maybe they should just teach. It’s that French je ne sai quoi thing, ya know?

4. If your going to do the “Classic” striptease thing, at least be really good at it. Practice, practice, practice! Nerd out on it. Really, get into the meat and potatoes of the movement, the attitude, everything. I recommend watching videos of Catherine D’Lish, Immodesty Blaize, Dirty Martini, Michelle L’Amour, Roxi D’Lite (to name just a small few) and then perhaps considering giving up altogether (joking! just keep working on it!). This isn’t about taking ourselves too seriously on stage- but this is about taking it seriously enough when you’re working on it to make it believable when you’re on stage.

5. Emote! People-please stop with the Cock in the Mouth face (CITM) throughout your whole act. It looks contrived. Try smiling! Try closing your mouth! What about a flirtatious smirk? I personally suggest practicing face expressions in the mirror while mimicking your act to the music. This is how you will find out if you are a culprit of CITM.

6. If you are embarrassed to be on stage, we will be embarrassed for you. This makes an awkward situation. If you can’t be fierce when you step on the stage, THEN CONSIDER STAYING OFF THE STAGE UNTIL YOU’RE READY. Go take some great classes from some of the greats, (there’s probably someone near you- please use the internet), do some soul searching as to whether you’ve really found your calling and then stick to your guns.

7. Be courteous. BE ON TIME! sure, sometimes you have to be late, but either prearrange it or have your producer on speed dial. There are a few chronically late performers in this town, and they are fucking with the start times of shows. So be on time! And producers: start punishing.

8. Do your damn hair please. Okay? Thanks. This means brushing, curling, pinning setting etc. Your costume DOES INCLUDE your hair. Invest in quality wigs if your hair won’t do what you want it to. I learned that the hard way. Miss Indigo Blue was so good as to point that out to me when I was just starting out.

9. MAKEUP: if you aren’t wearing eyelashes, I’m disappointed in you. Actually, a lot of us are. We can’t see your pretty eyes from back here! you look unfinished! (Ok- I’ll concede- if you’re allergic to the glue, get creative with eyeliner). Take a makeup class. More is *usually* better on stage. Even stage actors, and performance artists will employ the use of a lot of makeup. Making your face pop while staying true to yourself is totally possible. Just watch the blush. *shudder*. Even if your look is pedestrian, we still need to be able to see you from the back of the room. (HOT TIP: Check out books by the late, great Kevyn Aucoin)

PS: yes, I do think you do need lipstick and liner (even if it’s nude). It makes the occasional intentional CITM face look amazing.

10. Shoes. Yes…..we are looking at your feet. Make them pretty! Check your heel height, the arch, the thickness in the shaft (heh- shaft.) All of these things alter the appearance of your step and the sexiness of your legs. Practice walking in your heels. Spend a day in them! Get a drag queen to teach you her walking tips! Watch Showgirls!

*this does not include those of you trained dancers that use ballroom or character shoes. I get it, they’re more sturdy for the awesome stuff you’re about to do. -Just remember-rhinestones and appliques can totally go on shoes too. Spice em up!

11. Watch a ton of burlesque. Submerge yourself in it. Swim in it! Breathe it.

12. You don’t have to have a ton of money to put into your costume (though it is nice), you need to pay attention to how it fits, color combinations, and the tiny touches-the embellishments and alterations. It’s how it looks, not how much it costs. But unfortunately, I’ve seen some acts that just look thrown together. If you’re no good at putting together a costume, hire someone to do it for you, ask another burlesque gal for advice. Seriously, it’s better this way. We are creating an illusion for the audience, do your part of the equation.

13. If you can’t get past your body flaws for the 3-7 minutes you’re on stage, none of us are. If you’re walking on the stage thinking about how chubby you feel, it’s going to show on your face. You’re going to look uncomfortable, and that’s when people are going to go to the bar or grab a cigarette. True story.

14. Don’t get hammered before or during your show. Don’t worry-I’ve tested this out in the past for you. It aint pretty, and you are ripping off the audience. Some performers like to have a cocktail before, and that’s great and fine- but consider whether it’s actually making you a better performer….and if there’s other ways to get there (and stay present on stage).

15. If you can’t twirl, just don’t. Please. Unless it’s for the funny. Then go for it!

16. Community is important. Try to be a part of it! Some of us are outspoken, and some aren’t. Remember that this is also a business too- and that there should be a level of professionalism that happens, especially if you want consistent work.

17. Speaking of consistent work- if you want to be hired for a show locally, you should go check out the show and introduce yourself to the producer. Shake their hand, give them your card and ask them if it would be ok to email them your information (including performance links and resume) in hopes of working with them. Simply emailing them with an expectation of work is not only a bit rude, but it’s also not professional. As a producer I’ve received lot’s of “My name is Cherry D Von Teese, I’m local! I haven’t been to your show yet- but you should hire me! thanks!” and I’ll be honest- I don’t even respond.

18. Know the difference between Facebook and Email- Business deals and transactions, in my opinion should be on EMAIL. Asking someone where they got their shoes- FACEBOOK.

19. If it’s not fun- don’t do it. You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself.

20. Go to festivals! Take classes! Read books! Watch videos! and PRACTICE!

Xx
Sydni