Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Make It So

When I first started studying burlesque in 2007, I wasn't connected to the Los Angeles community. The internet wasn't as huge as it is today, so finding shows and teachers was a challenge. My main resource at the time was Jo Weldon's website, which led me to studying with her and Indigo Blue at burlesque camp that same year. As I waited for camp to start, the internet found a couple more classes for me to join in Los Angeles. The word-of-mouth of my instructors sent me to shows to meet local performers and producers; the internet was pretty useless for it at that point. The seasoned instructors, the performers I met when I started performing at the very beginning of 2008 -- those were the things that welcomed me to the group. A community isn't formed by one person.

Back in the glory days of 2008, I danced in every show that would have me. There were a few free shows, plenty of shows that paid far less than a tank of gas, and a few that paid for most of my costume. (My costumes then were far less elaborate than they are now. Of course, I would jump to do every theme show that came my way. A lot of times it was like costuming myself for a glittery scene for acting class.) We also had craft nights, AKA "stitch and bitch" sessions. Someone would host each month. The guests would bring food and drinks to share. We'd carry in our latest costume project or pitch in to help someone else who was working against a crazy deadline. We would also brainstorm, network, and book shows. These potential co-workers would see how easy you were to get along with socially, how hard you worked on your costumes, and how your mind worked in a brainstorming session. So many themed shows grew out of these craft nights.

Many of us tried to keep the craft nights going. I hosted in a theater once, and many people offered up their homes. (I'm horribly allergic to cats, which kept me from attending those hosted in kitty homes.) It seemed like the craft nights were fewer and farther apart. I couldn't host because my dogs were jerks. (We also don't have the seating to entertain.) I'd miss out on the casting chats in the craft nights that did happen because of allergies. The craft nights then became selective gatherings I'd read about on Facebook. Three to five people who were in a theme show together needed to rush to get their costumes done so they'd post that they were having a craft night for those people. It wasn't the same. It wasn't as inviting to brand new performers. It wasn't a breeding ground for multiple producers to create new shows. The craft nights as I knew them seemed to die out.

I've been in this game professionally for over seven years now. My costumes are better. My acts are more polished. I hire choreographers when I need them. I don't dance in every show just to get experience. I also don't go to as many shows since I'm spending my money on my acts. I don't submit for shows when I don't think I have something ready or in my queue that I feel would fit the producer's needs. I'm not as involved in whatever community exists, or at least it doesn't feel that way. And where are the craft nights?

I'm tired of the disconnected feeling. I love the brainstorming and the creative breeding ground that was craft night. If we're calling this thing a community, let's make it a community. Let's attach faces and personalities to internet thumbnails. Let's work together. Maybe we won't have scores of comments on a thread of show name theft if we know one another in person. It's a lot harder to dick someone over when you know the other person who is unwittingly at the end of your dick.

I miss things about the glory days, so I'm doing what I can to bring it back. I can't just sit back and bitch about it without taking action. This Sunday I'm hosting a brunch for my community. Everyone who wants to eat at this one is paying a whopping $10 for the catering, and people with allergies or dietary restrictions don't have to pay for anything. I'm paying for the space rental and incidentals because I want this. I want to connect people. I want to be productive. I want to eat.

If I fail to generate more sense of community in my "community," it won't be because I did nothing about it. If I don't jumpstart the craft nights with this event, it won't be because I did no more than sit around and bitch to my dogs about the good ol' days. If you want something to happen, you have to take action, and I have to take my own advice.

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