I’m not entirely sure when I started wanting to do a Shakespeare Burlesque show.  Shamefully, it may have been inspired by this song.

Because I’ve always found it hilarious that the last line of the chorus (You’ve had a lot of dick, but you ain’t had mine) is, in my opinion, the best way to sum up Sonnet 135.  This is funny to pretty much just me and my best friend from Shakespeare camp but, whatever.

I think this got me thinking about songs that would work for Shakespeare inspired burlesque acts; Dig Ophelia by Rasputina, Blood on my Hands by Veruca Salt (for Lady M,) I Could Never Be Your Woman by White Town (for 12th Night or As You Like It) And that was all well and good but a Shakespeare show without Shakespeare’s words is… kinda like going to New Orleans and not eating or drinking.  Sure, it’ll be pretty, sure you’ll probably have a good time, but you’re kind of missing the best part.  So why not have the burlesquers do Shakespeare scenes between acts, or even as part of the act?  THAT is a show I would want to watch.

And then 4 years later I got up the nerve to actually do it.

So I started thinking about what Shakespeare characters my burlesque friends would play really well. I’m not someone who thinks you need a TON of training to be able to act Shakespeare.  I think if you can act, and you take the time to learn what all the words you’re saying mean, and you connect those words to your own experience and say them honestly, you will do a good job.  This is not to say that doing Shakespeare is easy, but you don’t need years for training at the RSC to do it.  Honesty, passion, knowing what the hell you’re talking about, these things will get you far.  Especially if you are cast well.

I chose the performers I did largely because I knew they had strong theatre backgrounds, I liked the work they did, I liked working with them and they had confessed a deep and abiding love for Shakespeare.  For casting, I had some ideas but, for the most part I let people cast themselves.  That way I knew they were doing something they would be passionate about.  To my mind, passion is one of the most important components of art.  I have seen a great many potential trainwrecks actually succeed based almost solely on passion. When I was 22 I was part of Shakespeare and Company’s month long intensive and the first thing they have you do is a monologue of your choosing.  They encourage you to bring a monologue from a part that you would never normally be cast in but, more importantly, something you *really* want to do.  Watching people do those monologues is the best proof on the planet of just how deeply Shakespeare’s words can resonate in people.  I wanted to bring the passion and emotional rawness that I saw there into this show.

And also I had to have a sword fight because, dude, sword fight.

Once I got everyone on board, we spent quite a while hashing out who would do what and in what order.  I made some suggestions and I nudged people here and there but I tried to push people as little as possible.  I wanted them to make their own choices and I wanted to trust these people as artists in their own right.  Because that’s what they are.  I don’t subscribe to the AUTEUR idea of theatre.  Sure, I sometimes HAVE A VISION but I’m pretty sure it can be made better with the help of people who are as, or in most cases more, talented than I am.

Demented Vision

Once I had a cast and a venue and scenes/monologues cobbled into a script, I had to get to the hard part.  REHEARSALS.

Now, if you’re a theatre person, you’re thinking “Well, yeah, rehearsal. Duh. That’s what you do.” But if you’re a burlesque person you’re thinking “OMG REHEARSALS?!? With, like, OTHER PEOPLE?! Are you nuts?” I may be exaggerating, but only a little. Burlesque performers (and rappers and storytellers) are by and large, solo performers and they’re solo performers for a reason. Not because they’re jerks or anything but because they’re very independent, often introverted, and have weirdass schedules. Some have day jobs, some have night jobs, some work weekends, ALL of them have gigs on random nights and weekends and all of them are CRAZY busy.  This is New York, if you’re not busy 6 nights out of seven, you’re a fucking wuss.

And have I mentioned that I am not a planner? I am not. I am not a planner at all.

I am an agent of chaos.

Luckily(?) most of the ideas I had for duet/group scenes/acts were 86ed pretty quick for the above reasons so people were mostly left to their own devices. BUT I wanted to have at least one group rehearsal where we ran through the whole thing, worked out some kinks, made sure no one was using the dreaded SHAKESPEARE VOICE (discussed more thoroughly in my post, Shakespeare UR Doin it Wrong) Otherwise we would only have one shot at this and I didn’t just want this show to be good, I wanted it to be fucking phenomenal.

So after the fifth panic attack I had just *thinking* about trying to schedule this rehearsal it occurred to me I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE! I know people, organized people, who like me and might want to help me. It occurred to me that I know an actual professional stage manager who’s job it is to be good at things I am bad at. And she seemed to think I was pretty groovy and, it turned out, was also a HUGE Shakespeare nerd. So she agreed to help me, thank freaking God. For legal reasons, I don’t think I can name her in this blog but she is a GODDESS. She emailed people and worked with schedules and Lo! she was able to find two and a half hours when we could get all 10 of us in the same damn room together LIKE A GODDAMN WIZARD. It may seem like I’m exaggerating my awe, but I seriously am not. Stuff like this is like black magic to me. I think I would do a better job putting together a car engine than scheduling a group rehearsal. My first year design teacher, who said my greatest obstacle was taming the logistical nightmare that was my life, once said with a sigh

“Well, maybe you’re just going to be one of those directors who depends on the kindness of strangers.” And, by God, he was right.

Things were going well.  My charms cracked not, my spirits obeyed. And then my kneecap went rogue and dislocated itself, putting me out of commission.  Even right after it happened, when I was still screaming from pain and the horror of having your kneecap suddenly be where no kneecap should be, one of the loudest voices in my head was saying “This can’t happen.  Not now.  Not with Bardlesque in three weeks.” I thought about postponing. But I had a venue, a great cast, some press, a few people had even bought tickets already. More importantly, the show was not about me. It was my show, sure. And I’d been thinking about doing it for four years. But it was no longer just *my* show. It was *our* show.  And our show was going to be fucking awesome.

Besides, I could still act. I figured out a way to do my Hamlet act and I could do my scene from As You Like It. If no one saw my As You Like It Striptease, well, the world would keep on turning. They would still see Nasty’s Lavinia Act and Rita’s Lady M act and Iris’ Henry V act and and and and, really, this show is going to be amazing. These are talented people and I trust in their genius.

So I guess what I learned is that the people in my life are my greatest resource. It is unlikely that I’ll ever make money or qualify for a grant or be hired by Hubertus Bigend to travel the globe and spend tons of money creating the worlds most depressing burlesque show.* BUT I will always know awesome, talented, people. And I will continue to meet and befriend more. And if I can shut up the stupid voice in my head that thinks I have to do everything myself, I can work with those wonderful people and get a show that’s way better than anything I could do all by myself.

For reals, come see this show.  It’s this Friday.

Bardlesque Flier

*obscure William Gibson reference

Someone asked why I would do a Shakespeare Burlesque show and I was actually kind of stumped for a minute because, well, why on earth wouldn’t I do a Shakespeare Burlesque show?  The coloration between the two seemed so obvious to me, so perfect, that I forgot that it wouldn’t be so obvious to, well, anyone else.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like Shakespeare.  I grew up in theatre so, to me, the theatre has always been both magical and a part of life.  I thought that theatre was magical in the way that most children think of adulthood as magical.  Someday *I* would wear these beautiful costumes and say these beautiful words and sing these amazing songs.  And I somehow always knew that Shakespeare was especially magical.  My mother told me the plots of Shakespeare plays like they were fairy tales and she told me their meanings and lessons, their emotional resonances.  At the dinner table, my parents would tell stories of rehearsals gone awry and the dress rehearsal of Midsummer where everything went wrong and the play within a play was such a disaster that the whole crew laughed so hard they thought they might die.  When I played with my mother’s makeup, it was my mother’s makeup kit.  I painted my face all the colors of the rainbow and played with puck ears and Fairy Glitter.

The college that my Godmother worked for had a Shakespeare festival every year where high schoolers would compete with scenes and monologues and a bunch of the college students would dress up like Queen Elizabeth’s court and sweep around the school in these fantastic period costumes. And from the time I was 4 or 5 my Godmother would make me a tiny period costume and I would go around with the court.  I’ve always been pretty damn fem so I LOVED it.  I loved wearing corsets and bumrolls and petticoats and giant skirts.  There was something so exciting about wearing clothing that fancy and heavy and swishing down corridors and courtyards. It’s amazing how excited I was, especially considering I was doing pretty much nothing, other than wandering around and watching teenagers perform Shakespeare scenes.  NOT the ideal day for most five year olds but I fucking LOVED it.

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When I was 10 my mother put me in Shakespeare camp, a month long theatrical day camp at the Marin Theater Company.  This was when I really got into studying Shakespeare. My teachers; Maura Vaughn, David Kudler and Don Williams, they were heroes to me and they didn’t shy away from teaching Shakespeare to kids.  They never dumbed it down or changed the language.  When I was 12, I played a courtesan in Comedy of Errors.  Maura was very frank about what a courtesan was and Don taught me how to act more vulgar and how to steal someone’s wallet.  They told us the stories, they explained (some of) the dirty jokes, they made sure that everyone did character work and everyone had lines.  This was no small feat considering Maura had to cram 50 kids, ages 5 through 17, into Much Ado About Nothing.  These people cared about Shakespeare and they cared about us.  They taught us that Shakespeare was vital, that it was living, that it was fun and sexy and scary and funny.  They taught us that Shakespeare was for everyone; smart, dumb, young, old, aristocrats and groundlings.  It was for everyone.  And it still can be.

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That was the spirit that inspired me to do a Shakespeare Burlesque show.  Because burlesque is the same thing.  It’s vital and sexy and scary and funny.  It is for everyone.  It kills me when people do boring Shakespeare and it kills me that people think Shakespeare is boring.  So I think an injection of sexy ladies is just what  Shakespeare needs in order to counteract the bad name that it’s been given by shitty, boring, directors.  When I first met Peter Aguero, he said that he loved that I (and other performers) used the fun sexiness of burlesque to hook people in and then hit ’em with some art.  Art has a bad name in this country.  It’s been made boring and inaccessible.  It’s been made cerebral rather than visceral.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If you ask me, good art is sexy.  Good art is heartbreaking.  Good art is funny.  And maybe if more of the world believed that, artists wouldn’t all be fucking starving.

So, if you’re in the NYC area, please come check out Bardlesque and see how goddamned sexy Shakespeare can be.

Bardlesque Flier

My next post will be about how we put this whole thing together, because this shit was not easy to do.

The Next Big Thing Bloghop

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

I was tagged by David Henry Sterry, the awesome writer and book doctor in this thing called the Next Big Thing Blog hop where writers answer questions about their book and finish by tagging other writers, asking them to do the same.  I’m really honored that David chose to tag me because he’s awesome and he knows a TON of awesome writers.  He’s currently editing an anthology that I will be a part of, the follow up to his hit anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys.

1.What is the working title of your book?

Something’s Always Wrong

2. Where did the idea come from for your book?

The original idea came when I was 15, watching the movie American Pie and thinking how much I’d rather watch a screwball comedy about *girls* trying to lose their virginity.  Then I fell in love with a 23 year old man and it turned out that trying to lose my virginity to him was more like a screwball tragedy.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

There’s a relatively new genre known as New Adult and I think this falls pretty squarely into that category.  Its protagonists are people in their late teens and early twenties, trying to figure out how life works.  It’s a coming of age story masquerading as a doomed romance.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Emma Stone in Easy A is a pretty good approximation of my main character, Melora.

For the male lead, Dylan, um…… Who’s the modern equivalent of Luke Perry?  I’m just going to say Joseph Gordon Levitt because he’s dreamy.

Yeah, that works.

5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Something’s Always Wrong is the story of two people who fall in love despite their best efforts but no matter where they go, or whom they fuck, they stay in love whether they like it or not.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The idea, relationship, and bits of writing knocked around in my head for over 10 years but from the time I actually sat down with the intent to write a novel to the time I actually had a full first draft was about a year.

7. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m still trying to figure that out, actually.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

“Dylan.”  Always “Dylan.”

And a hell of a lot of 90’s music.

9. Will your book be self-published or by an agency?

Oh, christ, I hope it gets picked up.  If I can’t get it published, I’ll self publish.  But first I’ll have to take a long, hard, look at *why* it didn’t get published.

10. What else about the book might piqué the reader’s interest?

It’s not all longface about difficult, young, love.  There’s also a TON of hot sex scenes.  A number of beta readers have described it as “boner inducing.”

and now…

TAG, you’re it. The following writers have been called out for their chance to answer these questions about their own work and then to TAG others

Marc Dolan

Catherynne Valente

Brad Lawrence

David Kudler

Evolution of the Zipper Act

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I was 16 I worked on a production of Pal Joey.  It was not a good play, but I had a great time working on it and the songs were pretty catchy.  One song in particular stuck with me because it was about the things a burlesquer thinks about while she’s working.  I did not yet know that I was going to be a burlesquer, I didn’t even know what burlesque was, but I thought this was a pretty awesome song.  In our production the singer mimed unzipping parts of her costume every time she sang the word Zip, which is a hell of a lot of times.  One of the cast members said that, while they were rehearsing, she thought that the singer would *actually* be unzipping a hundred tiny zippers all over her costume.  I thought that would have been a hell of a lot more fun to watch, though it would be absolute murder on the poor costumer who had to make it.

I wasn’t wrong.

About 10 years later the idea was still with me and I realized it would be even cooler if it was ONE zipper.  One really fucking long zipper.  A friend of mine had a purse that was made out of one long zipper and I thought it would be awesome to make a dress like that.  But a purse is one thing, a dress is entirely different.  People aren’t columns, they’re curvy, thus some pretty major engineering issues crop up.  Also, where the hell do you get a zipper that long?  Or even know how long a zipper you’ll need?  Now you’re starting to get an idea of why it took me, like, three years to make this damn thing.

The first thing I did was wrap my dressmaker’s dummy in ribbon that was about the width of a normal zipper and then I measured that.  I don’t remember how long it was but it would have been ridiculously expensive and taken FOREVER to get off.  So, I decided to widen the space between one side of the zipper and the other.  I picked my ribbon, wrapped it around the mannequin, and measured that.  It was 21 feet long.  Which is really fucking long for a zipper.  BUT I found a place that sells zipper by the yard and one of those zipper fixing kits that has zipper heads and such.

Then it sat in my sewing room for a really long time because I didn’t have a deadline to make me actually make the dress.  The project sat there, glaring at me, daring me to finish it, rolling its imaginary eyes every time I said I’d get around to it.  Then Nelson wanted to do a steampunk show and I thought “Zippers are kinda steampunk, right?”  And that was good enough for me.  I wouldn’t get to use the same song, but the dress would be done.  And done is always better than perfect.  I’m going to repeat that because I think it’s important

DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

Put it on a t-shirt.

I started by sewing ribbon to the top and bottom of the zipper.  My parents live near a ribbon outlet so I have ALL the ribbon.  I could make a TON of these dresses if I hated myself enough.  Once I had that done, I wrapped the zipper around my dress maker’s dummy and pinned it into place.

You can see some of the construction problems raised by the curves of the human body.  I tried a bunch of configurations, but this ended up being the best way to put it all together and make the zipper lay relatively flat.  I smooshed some fabric under the open parts and pinned that into place as well.

Then I unzipped the zipper and sewed the whole damn thing.  I originally thought that I’d have to hand sew everything while it was pinned to the dummy.  I’m REALLY glad I didn’t have to do that.

This post makes it sound kind of easy but, trust me, it was not.  As far as I know, no one’s ever done this before so I’m really fucking proud of myself.

We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.

After that, all I had to do was decorate it.  I bought some appliques, some trim, and played around.

A good tip I learned from Amber Ray is to cover the backs of your appliques with hot glue so they don’t fall apart.  I wish I’d learned that *before* I sewed all the appliques to this dress.

Add a corset, a bussle, an adorable wig, and BOOM steampunk act!

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A few months later Nelson and I decided to do Epic Win Burlesque: The Musical!  Theater nerd that I am, I was super psyched.  I came up with this act to Morning Glow from Pippin where my costume mimicked the changing colors of the sunrise but that was going to be REALLY REALLY HARD and I’m creating, like 15 acts this year and producing 42 epic win shows, and a Shakespeare show and hopefully a few other things and… and I just couldn’t do it.

BUT Pal Joey’s a musical, right?!  Finally a chance to do this act the way I originally intended!

The dress was more or less done so I just had to make the undergarments.  I’ve recently become obsessed with cage panties and was lucky enough to have a few bought for me when I posted them on Facebook.  (I used to be a domme, I am not above getting sexy things in exchange for photos of me wearing said sexy things.)  I used the panties that were bought for me as a pattern and made my own out of some pretty scrap fabric and some elastic I dyed to the right color.

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I learned a very valuable lesson from making these: Different elastics have different amounts of stretchiness.  I thought I had enough elastic to make the panties but “measure twice, cut once” simply doesn’t apply to sewing.  It’s more like “measure all you want, you’ll still have to fix it later muahaha!” So I ran out of elastic and decided to use beaded fringe instead.  It looks great but makes the panties kinda hard to put on.

I also modified a basque but apparently I don’t have photos so fuck it.

I also made a hat!  I had a pretty specific idea in mind and, of course, couldn’t find a hat buckram that was anything like it.  So I went kinda janky with it and made my own out of felt dipped in watered down elmer’s glue.  Then I covered it with pretty fabric and glued a zipper onto it.

Look I made a hat where there never was a hat.

Ironically, this is probably the classiest costume I’ve made and it’s also the most glued together.  Someone gave these shoes to my mom and they just happened to fit me and already have heels covered in rhinestones so she gave them to me.  The perks of having a costumer for a mother are plentiful!  I glued the trim and bows on them.

Finally, the dress left my neck a little bare and I still had a bunch of trim and zipper heads lying around so I pulled some chain out of my jewelery making drawer and voila!

These accessories were brought to you by E6000 and the PILES of random stuff I have in my apartment.

The musical show is this weekend 2/15 and 2/16.  Come see the dress in action!

In Defence of Geeklesque

Posted: December 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Geeklesque is rapidly becoming very popular, which means it’s going to acquire some detractors.  Not a lot, in my experience, because most of the people I know and care about either do geeky burlesque or love it.  But, rather notably, it was criticized by Julie Atlas Muz in her Keynote speech at Burlycon this year.

I wasn’t there and I can’t seem to find a video or transcription of the speech so keep in mind that this is all second hand.  It sounds like she wasn’t terribly harsh or anything, she just said that she didn’t get it, she didn’t think it was creative and she didn’t understand why you would do it rather than being yourself and creating your own characters.  Like I said, not terribly harsh but, I think, worth talking about.

I can’t say I haven’t had these thoughts.  When you’ve spent more than 100,000 on an arts degree and end up spending months making a muscle suit so you can dress like an obscure comic book character and then get naked, well… it’s easy to ask yourself if you maybe took a wrong turn somewhere. You had hoped to be Julie Taymor and now you are naked Deadpool.

“Is this really art?” you ask yourself as you put on your stripper heels and Gandalf robe.  And, StripperGandalf, I don’t have an answer for you.  There’s really no satisfying definition of art unless you’re in that skit on The State where everyone agrees that it’s “Paintings and stuff.”

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But I do have some answers for the question Julie posed:  Why do geeky burlesque?

If there is one thing NYU taught me, it’s how to defend my artistic choices.  I will present my argument in bullet points because NYU also taught me that I really don’t like writing essays.

It’s totemic. (+1 for fancy sounding word)

I never really got cosplay until I’d been doing geeky burlesque for a while and actually got to know some cosplayers.  There are a number of reasons to cosplay but I think the strongest (but least talked about) one is that it is a modern day form of totemism; taking on the physical characteristics of something you admire in the hopes of drawing its characteristics into yourself.  Ancient people wore the skins or wolves and bears in the hopes that it would give them the strength of a bear or the stealth of the wolf.  These days we dress like Deadpool so we may draw into ourselves the irreverent courage to do shit like this. (Seriously, if there’s a better example of Coyote’s trickster spirit, I don’t know what it is.)  Like burlesque, cosplay isn’t about what you look like or who you are in every day life, it’s about who you want to be.

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Geekleque is about being the characters we *want* to be.  One of the things I hated about being an actor was that I had no control over who I played.  If I’d become a professional actress, odds are good I would have spent my whole life playing the same damn role over and over again.  No thanks.  Now I can be whoever I want.  I can be The Joker, I can be Rogue, I can be Fluttershy (All in the same show if it’s a long one.)  There are plenty of non-geeky performers who do acts based on gods, like Isis or Kali, or based on legendary burlesque performers, like Josephine Baker or Gypsy Rose Lee.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think that these days pop culture figures loom just as large in people’s hearts and minds as foreign gods or burlesque legends.  I personally can’t see a functional or artistic difference between playing The Joker and Playing Kali (which is one of the acts Julie Atlas Muz is known for.)

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Interpretation can be creative.

I express myself through the characters I choose to play and how I portray them.  Yes, it’s an interpretation but so is most art.  Thousands of painters have painted Jesus but you’d have to be blind to not see the difference between Dali’s painting and Caravaggio’s.

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Their style, their personality, their world view is expressed not just by their subject but by their interpretations of that subject.

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This is not to say that everyone who paints Jesus is an artist. There are plenty of people who have done incredibly boring paintings of Jesus, or just plain shitty paintings of Jesus, or straight up copies of other people’s paintings.  Those people aren’t artists.  But, in a way, that’s ok too.  Some people are just hobbyists.  There’s room in the world for them.  And their existence shouldn’t take away our appreciation of the real artists.  If you’re looking for the difference, it’s not hard to spot.

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It’s accessible.

When you’re working in a medium where your act will probably last less than 5 minutes, you have to work fast.  One way to give a layered and nuanced performance is to start with a character that people already know or think they know.  It’s a pretty great jumping off point to explore something.  Could I do an act about the dark, scary, side of sexuality without using a pre-existing character?  Of course.  But it’s a lot easier to crawl into people’s minds when The Joker gives you a head start.

On a more mercenary note, working in a city that has at least one burlesque show on any given night and literally THOUSANDS of entertainment options, it helps to build on something that people already know they like.  When the average person, with limited knowledge of their local burlesque scene, thinks “What burlesque show should I see?” they will see a geeklesque show that targets their specific fandom and think “Well, I already know that I like *half* of that equation.”  This is not to say that geeklesquers can or should kick back, secure in the knowledge that people will come see their show just because it’s based on something popular.  Quality is STILL a huge factor.  But it always helps to have something that sets you apart from the thousands of other options.

There are other people who may not know what burlesque is or whether or not they want to even see a burlesque show.  But they DO know that they want to see anything on this planet that has anything to do with Firefly.  This is why quality is *extra* important with geeky burlesque.  If these people come to your show, and you do a shitty job, they may leave thinking that they just don’t like burlesque.  Don’t to that to those people.

It’s entertainment.

I am the first to admit that I was making no great artistic statement by enacting a scene from LoTR for 30 seconds, then ripping my robe off and shaking my ass for 60 seconds.  But MAN did people enjoy it!

Was it ART?  Probably not.  But it DID evoke an emotional response and that’s good enough for me.  Burlesque is always going to straddle the line between art and entertainment.  That’s one of the things I like best about it.  Just like the rest of burlesque, not all geeky burlesque will be art.  Some of it will just be entertainment.  But ALL of it, if done well, will give people an experience they will treasure.  I think that’s something we can all agree on.

This Halloween will be my 30th birthday and instead of throwing a party I am producing a show (which is LIKE a party if you do it right and, trust me, I intend to.) I am doing a Halloween show, the kind of Halloween show I would like to see which means equal parts scary and sexy and no fucking filler acts. All the acts will be balls to the wall awesome and I intend to make my act no different. Thus, dear readers, I give you my Hellraiser act.

I’m really not sure where this act came from. I saw Hellraiser, like, once when I was a teenager. It was late at night and I think hosted by Joe Bob Briggs and I honestly barely remembered it. Maybe it was the appearance of Fornicus Lord of Bondage and Pain in Cabin in the Woods. More likely it was this really badass Clive Barker action figure that’s on my bookshelf.

Her name is Camille Noire

Whatever it was, a song came on my ipod, something clicked and I thought “OMG I WANT TO DO A CENOBITE ACT FUCK THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!”

And, guys, when my brain talks in all caps, I listen.

This was a hard costume to do for a number of reasons. The first was that I knew I wanted to do something inspired by The Cenobites but not an exact replica.  I wanted something inspired by Camille but not a reproduction. (I mean, I needed *something* to take off.)  The second reason was Dude have you looked at these costumes? And third, while I could see the act in my head, the lighting was bad and I didn’t have a clear idea of what the costume should look like. Lots of black and metal and strappy things, probably. Probably some chains, too. Not having a clear idea is freeing in some ways because you can just gather stuff that you think might work, then throw it together and see what happens. I did some research. I read as much as I could about the Cenobites. I looked at a lot of Clive Barker’s work (which seems to be mostly spooky gay erotica these days.) I covetously poured over the AMF Korset website. I stared at Alexander McQueen’s book Savage beauty a LOT. I made a polyvore board, which I really can’t recommend enough.

First things first, I knew I needed a corset and I knew it needed to be one I wasn’t attached to so I could distress the fuck out of it if need be. So I headed on over to corset-story.com and looked through their sale section. I wanted something that would look bloody and gory but they didn’t have anything satisfying in red so I ended up getting a camo printed corset that I could dye red and hope that the print looked bruisey/gory when red. I also saw a very S&My looking corset made of black vinyl with purple panels that seemed like it would be perfect for the outer layer. But… was that crazy? Dare I wear two corsets in one act? Yes, reader, I dare. I figured that I would put in a front panel on the first corset that would close it with snaps instead of making use of the busks, thus I wouldn’t spend the whole damn act just trying to get out of these freaking corsets.

I didn’t want to be just wearing a corset, though. I wanted something jaket-y with a big scary collar like this badass McQueen corset

I’m still a little scared of getting bedbugs from NYC thrift stores so when I visited my parents in MD I went thrifting with them and found a black faux leather jacket with bigass lapels, then when I got home, I went about attaching the jacket to the corset.

A lot of the making of this was futzing with preexisting materials, getting frustrated, giving up for a few days/hours, and coming back to it later with fresh ideas.  I will spare you the ridiculousness of my thought process.  The shoulder on the jacket were too broad so I just ran a gathering stitch along each shoulder and scrunched it to the size it needed to be.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the right way to go about it but meh.  I don’t have the skillz to make a costume like this the proper way, so I did a lot of quick and dirty stuff to just get it done.  Black is forgiving.  So is, oddly, the costume of a freaky weird torture demon.  It’s ok if you have weird pleats or gathering, it’s supposed to look weird.
I cut away the part of the jacket that covered the corset and folded the lapels in such a way that they would stand up on their own.

It looked pretty cool but it needed… More.  I’d bought this weird plastic planty thing from Michael’s, and I already had some chain lying around.  I really wanted to have some under lighting so I would get that creepy flashlight under the chin look and I just happened to see a guy at a club with leds under his lapel so I asked where he got them.  I picked some up and hot glued everything in place. (ok, I sewed the chain)

Now we’re talking!

The only problem with those sweet ass chains is that it made putting on a skirt nearly impossible.  First I tried doing something with these giant fake chains they were selling at Michael’s (Michael’s around Halloween is like candyland for me.) but it ended up looking crappy.  So then I tried covering my panier’s with black ribbon to make a cool looking cage skirt with a removable waistband so that it could actually fit to my waist without the chains interfering.  I thought this was a pretty ingenious solution, but when I finished it, it just kinda looked crappy.  It wasn’t a bad idea, it just didn’t work for this costume.  Hopefully I’ll come up with another costume it’ll work for because I spent hours on it.

After mourning the loss of several hours’ work I went digging through my stash of fabrics to see what else I could do to make a skirt.  I had a couple yards of black lining fabric lying around so I started draping it on the corset, sort of around the chains, figuring this would let me find the right silhouette and I could sew/modify as needed to perfect it.

Then I took a step back and said “Fuck it, this works.”


So I had the outer layer done, but there was still more to do.  Like that second corset.  It was totally synthetic so I didn’t bother trying to dye it.  Instead I used spray on fabric paint.

Corset Carnage!

I also gave the outer corset a good spritz so it would look spattered in blood.

The camo pattern still showed and looked a bit too clean, so I muddled it up with watered down acrylic paints in purple and different shades of red.

Borrowing LARGELY from AMF corsets, I wanted this to look like it was covered in shredded skin.  Leather or latex would be the best material to use but I’d already spent WAY too much on this costume so was trying to stick to stuff I already had.  I had not leather or latex but I did have liquid latex and all the fabric anyone could ask for.  After much trial and error I made something pretty skin like by covering flesh colored silk (I’m sure other, similar, fabrics would work) with a thick layer of liquid latex and then covering that with a thick dusting of face powder for texture.  (I think baby powder or cornstarch would probably also work.)  Once that dried I painted it with a wash of watered down acrylic paint to get the color right.

Then came the fun part!

I loosely pinned the “skin” onto the corset and then started shredding.  For realism I used a dagger and a punch blade, because scissors would make too clean a cut and I don’t know where my exacto knife is.  Also, it’s really fun to stab a knife through fake skin! (Assuming you are a creep like me.)  Once I had the skin sufficiently ripped up I pinned it down wherever seemed necessary and took it off the dress form.

I stitched over where the pins were, using a corset stitch that I learned from my design teacher in college.

I once covered an entire corset using stitches like this. The fact that I did not descend into the depths of lovcraftian insanity surprises me to this day.

It’s a really good, strong, stitch.  Especially for attaching stretchy fabric to non stretchy fabric. </sewing nerdery>

BUT I didn’t want the skin to look sewn  down, I wanted it to look pinned or riveted in place.  After a cross FB design consultation with a friend in Minneapolis (which I’m sure was annoying to everyone but us) I settled on using hematite crystals and “blood drips” made with nail polish (so it would keep looking wet.)

It’s just so….Pretty! Seriously, I’m really proud of it.

But dear readers, I was not yet done!

Camille has a posture collar and I was going to need something like that because I had that freaky under lighting which, while cool, makes me look like I have no chin.

See what I mean?

I borrowed a posture collar from a friend and made noise about covering it with more suitable fabric, or using it as a pattern but, dear readers, I just couldn’t do it.  Posture collars are no joke.  They are like tiny corsets for your neck and I just didn’t have it in me this time.  I was running out of time and, quite frankly, motivation.  Also, this is a grinder act and I need to be able to easily look down and see the area that’s coming into contact with the angle grinder.  A posture collare does not allow for that.

I tried wrapping some ribbon around my neck.  It looked good but not great.  Then I tried wrapping wire around my throat.  Bingo.

Simple.  Effective.  Creepy.

I might add some fake blood so it *really* looks like it’s digging into my skin.

I also wanted to make these.

Now, if I wasn’t dirt poor, I would have just gone ahead and bought these from openwoundfx.com because it looks like quality work and would certainly be worth saving the time and sanity.  Unfortunately, I *am* dirt poor and I really don’t know how often I’m going to be able to do this act (the more you do an act, the closer it comes to paying for itself.) So I tried making do with the bootleg version by buying some stockings that match my skin tone and painting them.  That didn’t work.  I might try to do it with liquid latex and toilet paper.  Or I might just hope I can get this act booked enough that I can justify buying these things in the future.

Finally, I couldn’t do all of this myself.  As previously noted, this is a grinder act and I can’t make metal and leather panties on my own.  Or at all really.  So I called on Aaron Fisher, the same guy that made the panties for my last grinder act.  He is awesome.

I also *really* wanted a circular saw crown like Camille’s.  I probably could have figured out how to make that myself but I saved some time and sanity by asking my friend who has access to a metal shop to just make one out of a circular saw blade.  Thanks Cliff Hanger!

I am so very psyched about this.

 

Ostensibly, this show is tomorrow.  But there was a bigass Hurricane and half of Manhattan has lost power so… It doesn’t look good.  But this is New York, and a lot can happen in 24 hours.  Obviously I’ll do the act another time if the show doesn’t happen but I was really looking forward to this show, specifically to doing this act at this show.  So keep your fingers crossed and stay strong New York.

Ribcage Vest

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Holy crap it’s been a while since I posted anything.  Sorry guys, Deadpool broke me.  Ok, not really.  But shit’s been crazy.  At some point I’ll post about my Zipper Dress but today I’m posting my ribcage vest because it’s part of Bare this thursday and I want you all to see that show.  Not only will you see this baby in action, you’ll see me tell a story and get naked twice.

Originally this was going to be a corset but I don’t really know how to make those and by the time I finished the patterning I realized that I had just patterned a vest.  I probably could have just modified an existing vest pattern but that didn’t occur to me at the time.  Also, I haven’t fully unpacked and I don’t know where my patterns are.  Ugh.

So I patterned this vest

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I first made it out of fabric I wasn’t crazy about.  Then I went and bought fabric I *was* crazy about.  The moral is, hold out for the good stuff.  Especially if you’re a crazy perfectionist like me.  One of my teachers in college said “You don’t win friends with salad” by which meant that if you start with crappy materials, they’re going to remain crappy.

Then I had to make the ribcage part.  I wanted it to be dimensional so I made a stuffed ribcage.  I took the original muslin and sketched out a ribcage on it.

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Then I cut that out, traced the pieces onto fabric sewed the whole thing together and stuffed the sucker.  This turned out to be WAY harder than it sounds.  Like WAY.  First of all, it’s really hard to turn something shaped like a ribcage.  It’s also really hard to stuff it.  I also should not have used a chiffony fabric that shreds when you put too much pressure on it. 

I finally got one side together and it looked like total crap.  So learn from me, don’t make anything stuffed out of something chiffonesque, and something stuffed is always going to look kinda cutesie.  That’s just what it does.  Also, sometimes you just have to scrap a day’s worth of work because it just sucks.  Try not to throw yourself out the window when this happens.

So I regrouped and went in search of an alternative.  I found it in this awesome beaded trim.

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Following Amber Ray’s advice, I sealed the back with hot glue so that it wouldn’t unravel in the future and then pinned and hand sewed everything in place.

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BUT you anatomy nerds are thinking “Where’s the Sternum?”

Good question, Nerds!

I wanted to make the sternum out of Fimo.  I’m not entirely sure why.  Originally, I wanted to make the ribs out of fimo but I (quite correctly) realized that would be crazy and probably impossible (or at least really stupidly difficult) and abandoned that.  But I wanted to have some part of it be hard and brittle, like bone. Thus, fimo sternum.  I also wanted it be blinged out a little so I used this big crystal I had lying aorund

I started with a wire armature, because fimo doesn’t hold its shape before it’s baked.

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Then I padded the frame out with tinfoil because you don’t want Fimo to be too thick.

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Then I covered ti with fimo, got it the shape I wanted and baked it.  But FIRST, I made sure to poke some holes in it so I could sew it down.

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And this is what I ended up with.

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It looks a lot better in person, though still not *quite* what I want it to be.  I may do some hand beading so it’ll look a bit more anatomically correct but that depends on whether I get everything else ready in time for the show.

BTW Bare is this thursday, 10pm at Under St. Marks.  It’s going to be awesome.

Making that muscle suit was a goddamn odyssey but that was only half the job.  Originally I tried to make the bodysuit myself but eventually I wised up and bought two online. Hooray for Google shop!  I think the greatest lesson I learned from all this is if you CAN buy it, YOU PROBABLY SHOULD.  For serious.  This might not be true if you are a super awesome seamstress but I am not.  I really really am not.

Luckily, the sewing part was relatively easy.  Mostly.  See, I didn’t just want a body suit that looked muscley, oh no.  I wanted a muscley body suit that had arms, legs and a chest that ripped off.  Because I’m crazy.  And because it made for a much cooler act.  First I cut the suit into the pieces I needed it to be and opened up the seams that would be snapping together.  The muscle suit was already in said pieces so I stretched the relevant pieces over their respective muscle suit parts, pinned them in place, then opened up the seams and then sewed the pieces together.  Is that at all clear?  I had to cut the “muscles” down further to fit under the the outer suit and to make them look more like actual muscles.

After sewed all the pieces together I then replaced the seams with snap tape.  Pretty much all the seams.  For the most part I used black and then I dyed a few bits of snap tape red for parts where that was necessary.  Then I used nail polish to pain the snaps black or red, as needed.  I modified the other suit so it was more sexy so I could be Lady Deadpool.  I also added snap tape to one of the hoods for easy removal and cut a hole in the lady deadpool hood for her ponytail.  I also had to cut they eyes out of the first hood so I has some chance of seeing.

The first performance had some issues.  A lot of them, actually.  Most notably, my bottom hood slid up, so for most of the act I couldn’t fucking see, which really sucks when you’re trying to dance and wield a sword and not fall off the stage and kill somebody.  For the next performance I used double stick tape to tape the inside of the bottom hood to my face.  Sexy.

But it looked pretty good.  And people seemed to get the jokes.  More than anything it needs some rehearsal.

I used ribbon to cover the snap tape on the inner thigh.  Not sure that was the best idea.  I’m also a bit annoyed that the boots are a different shade of red but that may have to be ok for now.

I’ve got to add a bit more snap tape to the inner thigh so I don’t get that annoying gap.

This is the sexy Lady Deadpool costume.  Originally I had planned to make the red part of this (most of the torso) removable but that proved to be just too much fucking work.  Yes, I drew a line somewhere.  Perhaps not where I should have, but somewhere.

Final reveal.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but instead of pasties I had fake scar tissue covering my nipples.  I’m kind of torn between continueing to do this, or making super bedazzled deadpool head pasties.

Like this, but glittery.

I’m still not sure if it was all worth it, but I learned a new skill and I think I can be pretty sure I have an act that’s one of a kind.  There is another Deadpool act out there, but it’s very different and mine is at least a thousand time crazier.  Is that an asset?  History will decide.

There are more photos on my FB page and you can see the act making its NYC debut July 13th and 14th at Epic Win’s X-Men Show

We’ll also have Storm, Emma Frost, a very sexy Dark Phoenix and a Wolverine with real metal claws.  I am super psyched.  Get tickets here for the 13th and here for the 14th.

All in all, I worked really hard on this and I think I did a decent job.  I reward myself with this gif.

It’s like we’re artists and this is how we screw ourselves.

— Daria

Hey, remember that time I said I was gonna do a DeadPool act?

One of the best reasons for me to play DeadPool is that my brain kind of hates me.  We fight a lot.  My brain doesn’t so much hate me as it is horribly annoyed by my physical inability to do absolutely everything a human being can do.  And it’s annoyed that I can’t do it all right now.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I come up with at least one act a week.  If I have a specific assignment (i.e. come up with a comic book act) odds are good I will at the very least conceptualize, if not totally choreograph in my head roughly 3 to 5 acts and then choose one. My brain is annoyed that I have not done all of these acts.

My brain is fuzzy on the whole possible/impossible spectrum and difficulty rating scale.  Sometimes it’s obvious that I can’t do something, like an aerial act.  Sometimes it is not so easy to tell.  When my boyfriend said I should do a Heath Ledger Joker act my response was “What?  That’s impossible…. but let’s watch the movie again.”  We watched the movie again, my madness took over, and now it’s my signature act.  However, when I came up with my idea for my DeadPool act, where I would have a full muscle suit that ripped away in sections, no “That’s impossible” alarms went off in my head.  Not even really any “That’s really fucking difficult” alarms went off in my head.  Not one.  I didn’t think it would be easy but I didn’t think it would be that hard.

Guess what, Self-from-a-year-ago, it was THAT FUCKING HARD AND THEN SOME.  IT WAS SO FUCKING HARD I WANT TO KICK YOU IN THE FACE YOU ARROGANT TOOL.  For reals, what was wrong with me?  I estimated that the whole shebang would  take me 60 hours.  In my original estimates the cutting and shaping of muscles out of foam would take 6 hours.  I was so very fucking wrong I could cry.  I lost track of how long it took carving  those things but I think two or three weeks would be a bit more accurate.

If you want to make a muscle suit, my advice to you is Don’t.  Seriously, DON’T.  It’s just not worth it. Buy this and modify as needed.

Still, I’ve decided to document my folly, because maybe I will need to make something else out of foam that can’t be easily bought an modified.  But man, I hope not.  At least not for, like, several years.  Ok, one year.

First I had to make a full body mannequin, which was relatively easy but very time consuming.  I already had a torso mannequin so I put some tights on my legs and arms and had a friend wrap them in duct tape.  Then we cut  them off *very* carefully, taped them back together, stuffed them with newspaper, and taped them to the torso mannequin.  This you CAN do at home but be aware that it’ll take most of day and not the 3 hours I originally expected.  Also, if you can get something less stretchy than tights, like leggings or something, that would be a good idea, but it’s a bit more expensive.

Once I had my mannequin, I wrapped it in newspaper and sketched out on the newspaper where the muscles would be.  Once I took of the newspaper I had a pattern for the shape of the muscles I wanted.  I traced those shapes onto 2 inch upholstery foam (You can probably use 1 inch.  I wish I had) and cut them out with badass kitchen shears.  Easy right?  So far, yes, kinda.  Then it started getting complicated.  See, humans aren’t flat,  they’re curved.   Especially their arms and legs, which was where most of my muscles were going.  So if you want the foam to conform to their curves you need to cut wedgelike channels in the back of the form and then glue the sides of those channels to each other so that the foam has the necessary curve.  The deeper and wider the channel, the tighter the curve.  Odds are good you’ll need more than one channel to get the curve right.  I generally had 3 per piece.  I hope that made sense to anyone who isn’t me because I don’t have pictures.  For glue I recommend spray adhesive.  There was another glue that I used that worked really well but I’m not sure what it was called.  Possibly contact cement?

So now that you have your basic shapes and they conform to the body part you want them to.  Now it’s time to sculpt it into something that actually looks like a muscle.  If you are working under any kind of deadline, kiss the rest of your life goodbye because this will take FOREVER.  I’m not kidding.  FOREVER.  Use the same badass kitchen shears and just start cutting.  Keep a trash can nearby because you will get foam shavings EVERYWHERE.  If you’ve never done subtractive sculpting before (I hadn’t) there are worse materials to learn on.  At the very least it’s cheaper than marble and, I would guess, more forgiving.  If you have no experience with sculpting, try to think of it as a 3D drawing  First you want to get the general shape right, then you get into details.  If you have no experience with sculpting or drawing, you may be screwed.  But maybe not.  I wouldn’t know.  Just try to get a really good 3D mental image of what you’re going for and slowly cut away whatever looks like it shouldn’t be there.

THIS WILL TAKE FOREVER.

Many times I thought I was finished and found that I was not.  Once I thought I was finished I glued the muscles onto a black body suit I’d already made and put it on the mannequin.  It looked awful and I spent two more weeks sculpting till it was done.  Many times when I thought it was done, I had to put the DeadPool body suit on over it to see if it A: looked awful and B: the suit would fit over it.  And then it was back to sculpting.

Finally it started to look not crappy!

That’s how I made the muscle suit.  I’d like to have some good shots of the full costume and preferably shots of it coming off before I post the rest of the making of.  I’m debuting my act in Portland Oregon this saturday at Geeklesque Saves the World!  at the Bossanova Ballroom If you are in Portland you should come see the show!

The first rule of flying producing is Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as a turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ before she keels. Makes her a home.  Seriously.  You must love your show with all your heart or it will fucking fail.

Simon and Kaylee

Things will never go smooth.  Problem solving is one of the best skills you can possibly learn.

It never hurts to have a hot man with a large gun to back you up.

Never fucking give up.  Ever.*

*Ok, sometimes you give up on a specific project because it’s just not going to work.  But then you take the heart of that project and put it into a different medium (i.e. comic, movie, whathave you)  You can’t stop the signal.

What’s going on? you ask.  Who are these naked people?  Why haven’t you updated this blog in FOREVER?!?!

I moved.  And then it was the holidays.  And then I went to Japan.  And then I went to Mexico.  And then I produced a Firefly burlesque show.  And then my oldest friend got married.  And then I produced another Firefly burlesque show.  And then I had to finish my Deadpool costume.  And then it was right now.  And I don’t know what happens after that.

So let’s back up to the part where I produced a Firefly Burlesque show.  And then another one.

I produced a show!  And did a good job!  Most of me did not think I could do this because I am SUPER ADD and not good at organizing things or finishing projects.  On the other hand, I’m SUPER ADD so I’m really good at working under tight deadlines and problem solving in crisis situations.  So they kind of balance out.  Also, a Firefly show was a really good idea and I had an incredibly good cast.  Also I had the help of a great venue and the already awesome and established Epic Win Burlesque.  It was their support and good name that got the show into Time Out New York, so we sold the hell out and had a line of people around the block waiting to see the damn thing.  It was one of the best feelings in the world.  And everyone had a blast both seeing it and doing it.  And since we had to turn away a bunch of people, we did another performance a few weeks later.  It was awesome.

And I got to do an act that climaxed with this

Yes, those are sparks flying from my crotch.

Holy crap, you say, how did you do that?  Easy.  I cheated.  I hired someone who was already good ad working with leather and metal to make me panties out of said materials.  DIY is awesome most of the time but when you’re putting a metal grinder that close to your genitals, it’s time to hire a professional.

More photos can be seen here, in Time Out New York

I know most of the people who read this are people who follow me on FB, and you’ve already heard all this.  But just in case someone else is reading, I wanted to post it here.  Because I’m so very proud of this show.

Next, the creation of Deadpool.  It will be epic.  There will be poems and songs (not really. But it took for-fucking-ever.)