Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Li'l Snappers For All!

(c) Shannon Cottrell of LA Weekly 2009
Mr. Snapper and I have been making Li'l Snappers to give away when we perform Crocodile Rock since late 2008. We've made hundreds and rehomed them with audience members, and we love hearing tales of the adventures of the Li'l Snappers in different parts of the world. In making so many puppets, we drafted the simplest and best version of the pattern we've used in the past six years.

We're giving it away.

Please use this pattern to make and decorate your own Li'l Snappers when we're performing the show in your town. We love creativity, and we've loved customizing these over the years for every show. (We'll still make them for performances, but making your own is your guaranteed way to get in on the action.)

You can also use this pattern to make your own hand puppets for holiday gifts or puppet shows to get better grades in college language classes. We just ask that you respect the Creative Commons license of the pattern.

Please feel free to send us photos of your creations!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Funk Me

Photo (c) John Nelson 2009. Real life meets showgirl life.
I haven't blogged a lot in the past few weeks. I've been in a sort of funk. I had a run of activity and profitable travel, and I came back to funk. I've had stress at the day job, frustration at the lack of opportunities for my husband to find an awesome new job, financial and temporal concerns. I lost and found my cell phone in another city, traveled for such short periods of time that I kept forgetting about the upcoming trips, and didn't make enough money from the trips (didn't teach for pay, didn't vend) to come as close to covering the cost of travel as in years past. I hurt my knee then kept dancing and teaching through the pain; I had to cancel a gig and nix my workout regimen to recover. I haven't been losing the weight I had hoped would be gone by now. I got the upsetting results of allergy testing and have had to change parts of my diet. My team was on a six-week losing streak. My car is having issues. My mind never disengaged. I was frustrated creatively.

I don't write this for pity. I'm the showgirl who keeps it real. I know you can relate. These are just my specifics, but we all get in a funk. Regular life happens and it doesn't always cooperate with our desires. Sometimes the creativity well runs dry and needs to refill. Sometimes we feel disconnected from our career and community. We lose the race we're in with ourselves because we didn't accomplish what we wanted by the time we wanted it. You've been there. I was just there. Hell, you might even be there still.

You can make it through the funk. Trust me. Here's how I did it:
  • Take some space and time for yourself. Ease up on the commitments and obligations. Do things you enjoy. Read a good book, go to the movies, take a class that has nothing to do with the problems you're trying to solve. Chain watch a television series. (It's okay if you learn things that will help you with your current set of problems, but it's also okay if you don't.) Take some Me Time.
  • Do what you know, but not what's giving you stress. I've been struggling with the financial and temporal resources required to bring my next two new acts to life. Instead of grinding away at those projects, I cut and stitched a bunch of hand puppets for an upcoming show. I had the time and supplies to crank them out. It didn't require any thought or problem solving, and I will use what I made. I've taken a break and made dresses and aprons in the past. No special drafting, no special rigging. Completing simple tasks will restore confidence.
  • If you're hurt, rest what's hurting and engage something else. I couldn't trampoline, bicycle or dance once my knee pain reached a certain point. I knew it wasn't just a muscle cramp that needed stretching, so I took some time for it to heal. I engaged my mind to work on my French skills so I can travel later this year. I engaged my mind on learning new sewing skills that I'm sure I'll use later. I didn't burn any calories, but I also didn't wind up feeling useless.
  • Help other people problem solve. I don't mean stick your nose in other people's business and tell them how to live. Just let people know you're open to helping them solve certain types of problems. I help people sort out costume and prop construction issues (to a point) for fun. It's sometimes easier to solve someone else's problems more easily than your own. Helping other people can bring the easy solution to your own problems to the surface.
I'll tell you a little more about my creative challenge and how I worked through it because this relates directly to burlesque and the performing arts. I'm working on a very conceptual number where I'm dressed in colors of the California sunset, melting into the ocean (represented by a blue boa) and doing floor work while wriggling out of swimwear. I want to be as naked as possible and have two cuts of 1970s music: one that's four minutes long for most venues, and one that's about seven minutes and allows time for a stocking peel and getting out of swimwear bottoms to a c-string. I'm going to hire a choreographer and work with a burlesque legend so the movement is incredible.This has been in the works since early 2013.

My personal issues in working on this number are many. First, it's not going to be a high energy number. Most local shows want higher energy numbers. I'm intending it to be playful and sultry. Second, I want floor work. There are venues where floor work won't play because the audience won't be able to see it. I'd be compromising the concept if I cut out the floor work or tried to do it in a chair or standing because I see it as the sunset melting down into the ocean, not melting into an oceanic chair or a vertical ocean. Third, I want it to be a longer number so I can take off more clothes and be sultry. It's really tough being sultry in three minutes or less. I'm planning the four minute version so I can get booked at more shows, but I'm already shooting myself in the foot a bit with the floor work and the slower songs. Then I want to strip down to a c-string. There are venues where I'm not permitted to strip down to a c-string. My boa has also been an issue, largely because of my allergies. You see, the allergy test said I was allergic to duck, chicken, goose and parrot feathers. I can only assume that ostrich would have been on that list if I had sent in a bit of ostrich to test. I don't want to exacerbate my allergies so I had to work out a feather-free option that moves like feathers. Lastly, I have to be able to afford my choreographer and the legend. As I may have mentioned, cash flow has been tight and so has time.

So, yeah, I was working on a number that probably wasn't going to get booked much unless it was great for the venue, it went on the road (where nudity and time limit rules are different), and the producers really trusted me to provide a good show with a couple Bill Withers songs and no shimmying. Why work on a number that's not going to be booked in every show and bring me a steady stream of income? Why do something that has so many bumps in the road along the way? No one else is doing something quite like this, so why would I take on this frustration?

In the end, it will be worth it. No one else is doing something quite like this. I'll feel accomplished with my creative integrity intact. Not every show will book the act, but it will be booked and it will be appreciated. It will entertain audiences. It will be rewarding when I've bested the challenges. And because it will be something I love, it will last. In five years, I'll still be performing this number. I won't compromise on my vision now. It just might take me a little longer to bring that vision to life while I work through the challenges.

You have to do what you love, and sometimes love takes work.

I'm open to hearing how you work through your funk. I'm virtually there for you, bro.