Archive for October, 2010

Bare

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

This is Peter Aguero. He is fearless and awesome.

Peter is all about art that is raw and vulnerable. He is all about stories that are hard to tell. And that’s one of the things I love about him.

The best performance class I ever took started with every one in the program, students and teachers, one by one standing in front of the class and saying “My name is _____. Something I want you to know about me is ________. Something I don’t want you to know about me is ________.”

This is the essence of theatre, the essence of any kind of art that interests me; Telling a group of people something you desperately want to tell them and something you desperately don’t want them to know. They usually overlap. If they don’t you’re probably not telling the whole truth.

Telling the story of how horrible your break up was is not the whole truth if it doesn’t include a confession of how horrible you were in the process. Even telling a story of something you’re happy about, your impulse is to hide how happy you are about it. Because if you tell the whole truth about something that really matters to you, you leave yourself open to rejection,to judgment, to being laughed at. You leave yourself vulnerable.

But THAT is what people want to see. THAT is what makes any kind of art worth doing and worth seeing. Good art in an incredible act of bravery. What is the definition of bravery if not “to purposefully make yourself vulnerable?”

This is what Peter Aguero is all about. He is also all about whiskey and naked girls.

Hence, his new show Bare.

I don’t normally schill for shows on this blog (you’ll note I haven’t mentioned any of my shows yet) but Bare is a unique show that’s gotten practically no buzz.  And that needed to be remedied, like, now.

Bare is a show that pairs heart rending stories with similarly themed burlesque numbers.  Most of the burlesque serves as a pick me up, a naked pallet cleanser, if you will.  These stories are all beautiful, amazing and brutally honest.  They’re all stories that you’ll be glad you heard.  But without the funny, naked, girls between them, the whole night would just be too depressing.  BUT the burlesque is not just nudity.  It shows the side of burlesque that make it Theater’s Sexy Little Sister.  All the acts tell a story that complements the spoken story that precedes them.  In the last show Peter paired this act

With a story about a girl who took up running as a way of dealing with her father’s death.

I myself am also in the show and I will be both naked AND depressing.  This is really the only place I can do this act (depressing nudity: not as popular as you might think) BUT I’m really proud of it because it is all the things I talk about in this post.  It is open.  It is vulnerable.  And it is really hard and really terrifying to do.  The last time we did this show and audience member went home and downloaded the song I performed to in order to fully describe the act to his wife.  I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to know I had that much of an effect on someone.

And I am supremely grateful to have Peter in my life and challenging me to be as fearless as he is.

Bare is Thursday, October 28 · 10:30pm at Under St Marks Theater, 94 St Mark’s Place and it’s only $5.  Come out and see it, you’ll be very glad you did.

You can also download some of Peter’s stories on itunes

Make Friends, Not Contacts

Posted: October 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Remember that it didn’t used to be called networking. It used to be called being alive and human and a social animal and having relationships.”

—Catherynne Valente  Twenty to One

When I was in college, I made very few friends.  I’m still not really sure why.  At the time I thought it was because I had somehow turning to some kind of horrible monster that no one would ever like, care about or even remember once I left the room.  Years later my main theory is that I was depressed, painfully shy, not doing so well in the self esteem department and I didn’t deal with it in the best ways.  Or they were all jerks.  I swing between both theories.

Ok, it was a combination of the two and probably a splazillion other factors.  BUT what didn’t help was the idea of “Networking.”  This was a new idea to me when I came to college.  My parent were not businessy people.  Whatever businessy skills or stories they had were not the ones discussed at the dinner table.  This idea was new.  It hit me hard.  It hit me fast.  It hit me repeatedly.

“Look around, ”  My teachers said.  “These are the people you will be working with for the rest of your life.”  The implication being that on top of getting my insane amount of schoolwork done and figuring out how to live on my own, I’d better make some fucking friends and make them fast because if I screwed this up MY LIFE WOULD BE OVER.

This was bullshit, of course.  The vast majority of theatre students don’t end up working in theatre.  And those that do are dispersed among the billions of other theatre professionals in this world.  It’s possible you’ll end up working with your classmates.  But it’s exceedingly more likely that you won’t.  (Especially if you end up being a burlesque performer.)  There are, like, three people from college who are a part of my professional world and only one of them is in a position to hire me.

The point is, this was added pressure that I did not need.  I didn’t have a fucking clue what networking was.  I wasn’t that clear on how to make friends.  In high school it was easy.  Walk over to some one, or a group of someones, who looked cool and ask if you could sit with them at lunch.  Problem solved.  But I went to a weird high school.  I didn’t know how adults made friends, let alone contacts.  I bumbled my way through it, doing a terrible fucking job,  trying to figure out who I SHOULD be friend with, and hating myself more and more because OMG EVERYONE HATES ME AND I’VE RUINED MY LIFE AND I’LL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!

Forgive the dramatics.  I was in theatre school.

But I graduated and things got better.  I made friends in bars, just by kind of hanging out and chatting with people or laughing at their jokes (and it didn’t hurt that I took my clothes off.  That’s a huge ice breaker.)  A friend coached me on how to get conversations going.  Eventually I gained some self esteem and I dated someone with a great amount of social dexterity who said to me “Just ask them out for dinner.”  And it worked!  They didn’t laugh at me or spit on me or call me horrible names or anything.    For whatever reason asking someone if you can eat near them is the way to cement human relationships.  There may be other ways but that’s the only one I’m really sure of.

Most importantly, I did this with out the pressure of “Networking.”  I talked to people because I wanted to talk to them.  I made dinner plans with them because I thought they were cool and felt confident that the two of us could sustain an interesting conversation for at least an hour or so.  I did this with people because I liked them.  Not because I thought they’d be useful to me.

I’ve seen people come into the burlesque scene looking to network.  (Not very many.  Thank god.)  At first they kiss everyone’s ass.  Then they figure out who they SHOULD kiss up to and they ignore everyone else.  These people don’t last long.  Often it’s because, friendly though most burlesquers are, a lot of them have pretty good bullshit detectors and they can tell when you genuinely like them or when you’re kissing ass.  But even more than that, it’s really exhausting to constantly be doing what you SHOULD be doing.  Ass kissing is hard work.  Figuring out who’s ass to kiss is also hard work and it’s really easy to get wrong.

The golden boys and girls I went to school with are now nowhere.  The ones who are doing well didn’t really fit in or have that many friends/contacts.  There’s no way to know where people will end up or who you SHOULD be friends with.

And here’s the thing:  I made friends with people I liked.  And now they hire me.  Or they refer me to jobs.  Or they help me with projects I’m working on.  Because they like me.  And I like them.  And it’s easy and fun and even when you’re working on something it doesn’t feel like work because the people you’re working with are so awesome.  Yes, it helps that I generally like people who are smart and talented and driven enough to get to places where they can help me.  But that’s not what I’m thinking when I start a conversation.  That’s not what I’m thinking when I ask someone to share food with me.  I’m thinking “Wow that person is cool.  And we have x,y and z in common.  Maybe they’d like to hang out with me and do or talk about x,y or z.”

Obviously you can’t have dinner with everyone you like ever.  If you know me and I have not asked you out to dinner, please don’t be offended.  But do let me know if you’d like to have dinner with me.  It is possible to have connections with people that may not be close but are still friendly; you say hi when you see them, make some small talk, if they need something, and you can help them, you do so.  Sure, you’re not BFFs but you’re still friends or at least friendly.  This should apply to, like, 90% of the people you know.  Why?  Because they’re all human beings and unless they’re total assholes, they deserve your respect and kindness.  Also, you never know when you might need them to help you and, trust me, people notice if you only talk to them when you want something.  They really, really, do.

I’m always worried about keeping that balance with people I’m not in touch with that often.  A good way to avoid being that jerk is, if you need to ask someone a favor and you think it’s been too long since you connected with them to ask a favor, try to come up with a way you can return the favor before you even ask for it. This is also a good idea for super big favors.  For example, a friend of mine is a professional photographer and there’s no way I can afford a shoot with him, but I had an idea for a project he would be perfect for, so I offered to barter some of my sewing skills for his photography skills.  I got awesome photos and he got awesome clothes, everyone is happy.  Another solution is to give them a nice present if they do the favor for you.  A large bottle of decent liquor is usually a good bet.  For smaller favors, buying someone a drink or a meal is good.  I always endorse giving presents, though I’m usually too broke to do so.  Still, if you’re really grateful, it’s worth spending the $20 to make sure they know.

Holy EFF I meant to finish this a million years ago (better known as a month ago) but shit got crazy. I had to make and perform a Data act and then I visited my parents and then I assisted in the installation of the lobby for a haunted house and all sort of insanity ensued. I’ve pretty much felt like this (seriously, I have reposted that shit EVERYWHERE.)

BUT! I promised more Glinda and that is what you shall have!

Let’s start with some action shots so I can show off how the top dress came out.
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I am so proud.

BUT! We were also going for something a little crazier, a little hipper, a little more like this

And also more strippery.  Like this

The shoes were actually pretty easy. I bought the cheapest clear stripper heels I could find on Google shop (Which is OMG the coolest thing ever!) and 2 grosses of Chinese fake Swarovski crystals from B&Q (Also awesome. The crystals aren’t QUITE as sparkly as the real Swarovskis but it’s pretty hard to tell the difference if they’re not side by side) and glued the suckers on. The gluing turned out to be the hardest part. I first used a glue specifically designed for vinyl, and teh little bastards popped right off. I reglued using E6000 and that my or may not have worked better. I kept losing stones but I don’t know if they were the one that had been glued with the vinyl glue or the E6000. Next time I’m using gemtack because everyone I know swears by it. In the meantime, I’ll be finding crystals every-friking-where for the next few weeks.

The skirt was, obviously, the hardest part. For one thing, I was working with a very differently shaped skirt and it had to go under something, so it lost a lot of the dynamism of the original. Also, I don’t have the money, materials, knowhow and man-hours that obviously went into the original.

That said, taking this as an inspiration, not something to slavishly copy, I think I created something pretty cool.
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First I draped a pattern for a skirt that fitted over the panniers. It was my first time actually draping something and it went pretty well. It was more time consuming than I expected (let’s be honest, everything is) but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The general idea is that you take some cheap cloth, drape it into the form you want it to be, pin away the excess, mark where that excess is, mark where you want the seams to go, then lay the fabric out flat and cut along the marks you’ve made. I highly suggest googling for a more detailed tutorial. I traced the pattern onto a ripped open paper bag. I also suggest keeping the pages of those big desk blotter calendars and tracing onto those.

Once I had the skirt made I needed the crazy hoop things. I got a big sheet of hologram plastic from Canal Plastics,
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cut it into half inch strips and started pinning the strips where I wanted them and gluing them into hoops with the aforementioned vinyl glue (Which worked just great in this instance.)
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Originally I sewed them into place but the thread broke during the first performance so I used fishing line. A cool thing about fishing line is that it’s stiff enough that you don’t have to thread it onto a needle. Just cut a few inches of line, poke it through the fabric and tie it in a square knot around whatever you want it holding in place.

Once again, my cat is ridiculous
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The bodysuit was easy..ish.
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I knew I wanted something strippery, like the playsuits you see in super trashy lingerie stores (or National Wholesale Liquidators, which is where I usually shop.) I didn’t have a body suit pattern though. So I took this catsuit pattern

Cut the legs to the right size, cut out the desired amount of midsection, and sort of frankenstined the top with a vest pattern I had.
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The cute little butt ruffle came from a corset pattern I had.
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I sewed it onto the panties so the costume could keep a sense of continuity as I stripped down.

I’m a big fan of altering patterns. It saves money and lets you be more creative (while saving you from patterning every damn thing) but next time I think I’ll invest in an actual bathing suit pattern because this one gave me horrific camel toe.
Of course, it was after I had made the damn thing (and a few short days before the show) that I realized that this had to hide UNDER the original dress. My brain completely forgot that a halter top would be pretty damn obvious under such a deep neckline. Oy.
There really wasn’t time to re-cut and sew the damn thing so I just took the straps, twisted them in to small strips and sewed them to the back.
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Lazy? yes.
Ghetto? Certainly.
But, hey, it looks fine. Maybe even intentional. And I lost too much sleep on this show as it is. (Seriously, I woke up at 4 am and changed into my costume on the street to get 5 seconds of airtime on CBS early morning for this show. The life of a performer, it is not glamorous.)

Finally I bedazzled a bra
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And kicked some ass on stage
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For more photos of the show, which was a technicolor rainbow of awesome, check out Dov Hectman’s Photo set
For more info about Friends of Dorothy: an Oz Cabaret, check out Conatus’ Website