Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Behind the Pastie Pop

With my good friend Jason Kamimura. We did a few like this.
If you've been in the burlesque game long enough, chances are you've popped at least one pastie. I've popped a single onstage at least twice, a double onstage once, and a double backstage last night. I'm sure you all know I have nipples by now. You've probably even seen them. I think the restrictions on the right to bare lady nipples are stupid. Whatever. I work in an industry that requires pasties.

I like getting booked and I recognize producers don't want to lose their venues. It's my responsibility to do my best to keep my pasties from popping. Some of you don't want the world to know about your secret nipples, so you can follow this ol' dancer's discoveries to find tips to hide your nips.

Inspect your pasties. Are they slick inside? Plastic or starchy buckram isn't very tacky. I think most pasties I've popped were untreated buckram inside. The pasties were new and didn't have a bunch of residue built up around the edges. The tape doesn't stick to slick very well. Glue a layer of fabric or felt inside the pastie. You can treat the inside edges with Mod Podge or glue so your spirit gum doesn't bleed through the outside surface of a fabric-covered pastie. Try your adhesive on the lining and see if it helps.

Check your nipples. If you lotion yourself up when you're getting ready for a show, don't lotion your nipples. Are you sweaty or oily? Pasties don't stick to sweat, oil or lotion. Get some alcohol wipes and use them before you put on pasties. Clean off the entire nipple and the area around your areola. Let it dry before applying your pasties. Make sure your hands aren't covered in lotion before applying the pasties because that will get all over your adhesive and keep it from sticking. Use an alcohol wipe on your fingers.

Examine your adhesive. What works for your burlesque best friend may not work for you. I used spirit gum in my early days. I found out I had a pine allergy and stopped using spirit gum. I can't use liquid latex or eyelash glue for my pasties because I sweat and laugh/cry my lashes off all the time. I use toupee tape or garment tape. Some folks use medical adhesive. Give yourself enough curing time for any adhesive you use. I have the best success with tape when I press it into the pastie lining before applying it to my nipples. Is your adhesive working for you? Try something else. I advise against spray adhesive (used for crafting and school displays) and carpet tape.

Feel the inside of your bra and the outside of your pasties. Anything catchy inside that bra that wants to hold onto your pasties more than your adhesive does? Any embellishment on the pasties that acts like a hook on the inside of your garment? The first time I lost two pasties, they were embellished with glitter and had direct contact with a ribbed undershirt. I was screwed. I didn't wear fancy pasties because the act had fake blood. The glitter and shirt stuck together better than the pasties stuck to my nipples. You may have to line your bra with something that isn't catchy or invest in embellishments that won't catch on your bra.

After you've popped or almost popped a pastie, examine how it happened so you can take preventative measures for your next performance. Check it against the above and remedy so you feel confident when you perform and keep your producers happy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Golden Legends Championship Challenge

I'm like a song by the Go-Go's for most of the goings on of the Golden Legends Championship Challenge-- my lips are sealed. I can't share the content of the mentoring between me and Matt Finish. I can't share strategies or smack talk the other contestants. (Why would I want to smack talk them? I know many of them and look forward to meeting the others.)

But, I want you to get excited about the event and you're used to me sharing my journeys with you.

Here's what I can share:

  • I've been working on this new costume for months. I have four more pieces to build and one to complete. I'm far better at managing big projects now than I was in college. I knew this would take work and I'm proud of my progress. This costume is gorgeous. You only get glimpses of it on my Facebook and Instagram for now.
  • I'm working on addressing my shortcomings as a performer while leaning into my strengths. My first ever burlesque performance was nine years ago, and I'm months away from wrapping my eighth complete year as a burlesque professional. It takes time, successes and failures to really sort out who you are and what you want.
  • I'm really excited about the ways I've challenged myself in this new number.
  • It helps to have other people on your team. Even an old broad like me benefits from having a sounding board. Mr. Snapper is an awesome sounding board but sometimes I need a different viewpoint.
  • Competitions should serve as motivation to be something greater than you are. The chance at a prize is exciting but I'm in this industry for the long haul. I'm pushing to create a damn fine act that will delight audiences in ways they never expected. The next challenge will be to make a different act that is this rich.
  • I'm really looking forward to returning to New Orleans. I haven't been there since 2010. If I lived closer, I'd visit with more frequency. It's a delightful place.
Two other things I can share about it.
  1. Travel costs money. I'm not asking for donations but I am selling stuff to make money. Visit my website and see what I have to offer right now. I'm also teaching corsetry in Los Angeles before I leave for the event. If you know someone who wants to learn to make a corset, send them my way to sign up for class. Every sale helps. :)
  2. Events cost money. GLCC is raising funds through sponsorship and vending. They have sponsorship packages for as little as $45. You can check out details here. There are several package levels.
That's about all I can share for now. If you're in New Orleans on October 21st, I'd love to entertain you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Repair, Rebuild or Retire

Featured in our June issue of the Snapperama Newsletter. Subscribe at www.snapperburlesque.com.

Every act has a shelf life. Costumes get worn down. Bodies get injured. Concepts are no longer part of contemporary pop culture. The time comes when you must ask what to do with each act: repair, rebuild or retire?
Repairing an act means just fixing the things that are wrong with it. You can repair a new act if it's not working out by replacing a costume piece or tweaking the choreography. I frequently repair pieces by replacing rhinestones or closures, making small modifications to the fit of the garments, creating custom pasties for that act, and trying to find more nuances in the number. Can it be fixed in a few hours without tearing everything apart? Will those repairs make it more pleasing for the audience, making it more viable and valuable?
Rebuilding an act means overhauling more than half of the components. A few repairs will not do the trick. My first truly glamorous costume ("mega costume") is showing wear and tear. Beads are coming off, the shoes are uncomfortable, and the bra has always wanted to be a belt. I built this costume with assistance in 2010 and I've taken it so many places. I love the colors and I love the silhouette. I made this costume before I gained a ton of sewing knowledge. I didn't fully recognize what would work best for me. It was a very transitional act in my early burlesque years. I won't sell this costume because I love it, but I can't just repair it. I now have the knowledge and experience to do it better from the beginning. I'm going to rebuild it over the course of the next year. Audience and producer response to the act tells me it's worth the investment.
Retiring an act means putting the baby to bed. Not every act works out. Conceptually it's really interesting but it just doesn't earn its keep when it hits the stage. Technical things go wrong, and they can't be remedied well enough to salvage the number. Reworking the act, revamping the costume, revising the concept don't cut the mustard. It could also be an act that's past its prime. The Hannah Montana act I performed in 2008 and 2009 was a fun act, but it's severely outdated as a cultural reference. You can resell the costume and props or keep them in storage as treasures. Don't consider it a failure if you have to retire an act. Treasure your experiences with that act and take the lessons it gave.
You do have two more options available for an act that needs something: repurposing and recycling.
Repurposing the act gives the components new life. This is where you take large parts of the whole and use them for other things. You add a red nose and now you have a clown act. You wear the gown to a friend's wedding. You turn the prop into a tomato planter.
Recycling the act cuts it into smaller parts to use. Think of repurposing as eating last night's dinner leftovers as today's lunch or throwing them in an omelet for breakfast. Recycling would be taking those leftovers and putting them in soup or grinding them into a paste for pâté. When you recycle the act, you pull the best jokes and use them elsewhere. You cut off the appliqués you can use and pitch what you don't want. It's like the scene in Pretty in Pink where she takes apart two pretty dresses to make one homely prom dress, only your goal is not to make a homely prom dress.
Go through your performer props and wardrobes (and the rest of your life) and use these guidelines to handle your well-loved stuff. Repair, rebuild or retire acts. If you want to keep some of the parts, repurpose or recycle. The decisions may be challenging at first, but the space in your closet is freeing.