Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Hair


I've learned some fabulous things about fake hair. Because I have such a short forehead, I have to wear full wigs that have bangs so the hairline looks natural. I'm fortunate to have a head full of thick, healthy hair. I've managed to find a few places that make falls to match my hair, including a gem I found on eBay a few months ago.

A week ago on Friday, I hit the Fashion District Alley with my new burlesque buddy from New York, Sizzle Dizzle. (She and I both studied with Jo Boobs and we have a common friend, so we bonded quickly.) I'd heard legend that there was a store that sold fake hair for cheap down Santee Alley. My first fall cost $35, and I found the same thing in Vegas for $14 so I try to shop around. We entered Santee Alley from the side closest to Michael Levine's. About five shops down on the left we found it. There wasn't the selection like the wig shop in Vegas, but they had full wigs and falls of varying lengths and sizes. I paid $20 for the hair in the photo. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I couldn't pass up the deal.

(The thermal I'm wearing was a Black Friday deal at Old Navy. The graphic looks like the Doodlebug, so I couldn't pass it up.)

* For my German friend, Andrew had Spaten Optimator (the only beer he rates 10 out of 10 buxom frauleins) and I had a radler with some sort of hefeweissen. Andrew selected the beer mixer for me and it was perfect. I even converted a friend to radlers with that beer.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Love Flowers


When I was in college, I got flowers all the time when I did a show. Okay, maybe it wasn't all the time but it felt like all the time. Andrew would get me flowers at least one night of the run and my in-laws would bring flowers when they'd come to see the show. It's too far for my in-laws to travel for my plays, and Andrew tries not to give me special treatment when I'm in one of his shows.

Of course, he still got me flowers. The lovely red roses in the photo are still intact in my living room. He got them for me closing night. Very sweet, very classy. The last night of the show was a little dramatic (after the show), so the flowers were very comforting. And all I got him was a DVD and some beer.

The tulips were from one of my dancers. I've worked with Lauren on three projects now, and I absolutely adore her. She seems very reserved but she's quite a performer. I'm trying to rope her further into the world of burlesque because I know she enjoys it. Little did she know, tulips are amongst my favorite flowers. We had red and yellow tulips in our yard in Wisconsin when I was a kid. The tulips are still thriving in my kitchen.

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Now That It's Over

I want to share a lesson I learned as a producer this time. You might want to write this down or bookmark this page. Learn how to pick your people.

Let me give you an example from casting. You have two people come in and audition for the same role. One isn't as talented as the other but is easier to work with in the casting session. The other actor is talented, talks the talk and sounds great but is tougher to work with. Let's say your director meets this actor first (and I'm not really talking about actors from our show) and sees the talent and listens to the sales pitch and is sold. The director comes to you and tells you how great this actor is and how much you're going to love this person. You meet the person, expecting to love the person, and are pleased by what you see in the portfolio -- er, audition -- and how much research has gone into this actor's work for this role. Wow! That's pretty keen. The actor is very effusive with you. It looks like this might work out.

Okay, I'm not really talking about actors at all. Let's drop the charade. Your designer (that's nice and vague, right?) seems like a wonderful person. As an actor, you drop a couple hundred on the table to pay for some pieces this designer is supposed to design so you can keep them later because that's how much confidence you have in this person based on recommendation and what you've seen in the research. You offer assistance and assistants for the months leading up to the show so this person isn't overwhelmed and so everything gets done. You offer shopping help since you know the places to get deals on things for this kind of show. You help when allowed by the designer, providing hours of service, comfort and chocolate. You take home things to help lighten the load when you should be working on your lines, but as a producer you have to make sure it gets done. You spend time at your day job fielding phone calls so the work is done by opening night. You defend this person when she attacks your theatre executives on more than one occasion, and you bite your lip and let it slide when she says the executives are out to sabotage the production three days before opening when you have nearly nothing to show for your personal financial investment. The executives are out to sabotage it? Really?

That's not all, folks. As an actor, you wind up in a hoodie for the dress rehearsal because your costume isn't done. There are finishing touches to be done on other costumes but there's one person (you) who doesn't have anything to wear for most of an act of the play. You've gotten sick from the stress of the thing and never took the initiative to take the reigns, seize the materials and do it yourself because you thought this person might deliver without upsetting more people. Opening night you have something to wear. You spend time every weekend making repairs to your costume, finishing things that weren't done. Other actresses in the show have to do the same thing. This person has worked out wonderfully as a stylist for two photo shoots to promote the show, but not so much in building costumes by a deadline.

And right before the show closes, you are dissed by your costume designer to the director, fellow actors and random people you've never met. You're called insistent because you wanted to make sure the materials purchased were actually used. (There isn't a money hose in non-profit theatre to run out and buy more fabric when the designer jumps ship on a design.) You're picked on for asking if a costume could be in another color long before materials were purchased, fine with a different color being used if necessary but being told by the designer at the time that it wasn't a problem at all. (Remember, you're paying for the materials so this request isn't that uncalled for.) You're also accused of changing the costume yourself at the last minute before opening night. Gee, that would've been possible if you actually had a costume! Your director and theatre executives have been ragged on and ranted about and your photographer has been reamed. All of these people are working for free, and the stress is really unnecessary. You feel like you've been attacked by a rabid dog.

So, in closing, I've learned to pay attention to my people training. I know how to choose my people but I have to remember to apply what I know. It's always been my policy to go with the person who is easier to work with and may or may not be as talented.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Inventory



Our first theatre production this year was a collection of one-acts. We pulled wardrobe from the actors' closets with the exception of the Liberace jacket and pants. We had no costume budget for that show. Our second and third productions had wardrobe with costume budgets. We weren't exactly sure what our budgets had paid for, so we did an inventory Wednesday night.

Doing inventory usually isn't fun, so we had to make it fun. We stuffed ourselves with Pick-Up Stix and took turns trying on costume pieces and taking photos. Some of the stuff was nothing more than set dressing and had never seen the stage on an actor's body. Some of the stuff was so god awful or strange that we couldn't see the point in storing it. We packed up four boxes of useful stuff by the end of the night. We burned all the photos to CD so we could easily see what was in our inventory instead of relying on memory.

Who wouldn't want to be part of a theatre company like this?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mein Pub


For years, Andrew and I drove past Red Lion Tavern in Silverlake. We were always curious about this little place nestled in a hill. We finally stopped there on July 4th and discovered incredible German food and beer. I have some German in my bloodline so it's in my nature to like German food. Andrew is well educated so he likes the beer. Our first trip there was during the day. It was quiet and the service was terrible, which was surprising because there was one other table occupied in the dining room. I took this photo of Andrew with my camera phone that day. We returned the day before our big photo shoot since I was starting a diet the following week. Again, it was quiet and the service was terrible even though no one was really there. The food was great and the beer was fantastic.

As one of our many group celebrations during Pin-Up Girls, we hit the tavern with the cast, crew and other members of Theatre Unleashed. This was after the Friday night show of closing weekend. I don't usually drink, but I had a radler and drank friends' random beers until well after midnight. The place was jam packed, and at one point they weren't letting anyone else in until people left. We pigged out before drinking so we wouldn't be sloppy drunks. The service was better, which was funny since we only saw three or four barmaids serving the entire restaurant downstairs. We had so much fun that we can't wait to go back. I think next time we're just going to take a cab there and home since that German beer is pretty strong.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Last Stretch


(Another incredible photo by Chris Beyond.)

This is our last weekend of Pin-Up Girls. I knew it was coming all along. Hell, I knew this would be the last weekend since March. Of course, I wasn't sure exactly what it would be like to be in the final weekend for this show.

I've been in other plays that I felt should've ended sooner. That's not polite to say. There wasn't the audience I thought the show deserved, the actors weren't as happy to be there, the energy of the show was waning. This isn't that show. I could happily see the actors and our crew every day for the next month, putting up the show every night. The audiences have generally been great and we're still packing them in. Even when the cast's energy has been strange, the show has still been good. If we didn't have Thanksgiving next weekend and John Mayer tickets the following weekend, I'd be happy to extend.

This show hasn't been as troubling to produce as Torrid Affaire. The Theatre Unleashed team has fully supported us on this venture. We've gotten good press and attention, and we have people looking forward to our sophomore year as a company. Our crew has been wonderful. Our design team has worked really hard to create the perfect backstage environment on stage. We've been blessed to have great photographers document the show and help us with promotion. We even have beautiful hand-drawn artwork for promotion.

There are lessons I've learned with this show, but having a good team helps ease the pain of those lessons. I'm very grateful for all of the help and support we've gotten for this show. And after the show tonight, we're partying in Silverlake.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Wink and a Smile

I've been working on my audience interaction with our High Jinks burlesque show after the play Saturday nights. The great thing about a weekly show (even if it is only five weeks) is that it gives great opportunity to work things out.

I've been trying to interact with individual members of the audience when I perform. This is what I call Vixen Violetting. I'll give this one a wink, that one a smile, and I'll look at another one when I take off a glove. It's very fun and it keeps the audience involved. Vixen Violette is the queen of interaction with the audience.

Of course, now I have to stop winking so much in daily life.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Extra! Extra!

I've been in the paper a few times. My parents and grandparents were in the habit of clipping newspapers when I was a child. I was a newspaper regular for honor roll except for a short stint in eighth grade when my parents were divorcing the first time. I also made the local paper for doing a television segment, Gifted/Talented program activities, Young Authors Conference, Beta Club, and maybe even Future Business Leaders of America. My photo rarely made the paper, but when it did they tended to use the worst pictures ever. I had one good photo in the local paper, and that's from the play I did with Andrew before we were married.

In college, I made the paper a couple times. My college always sent press releases to my hometown newspaper when I was in a play. Again, when they printed photos they were terrible. The blurbs said a little less about me than an obituary would have. I also made the paper for an act of vandalism on my college campus that I allegedly did, and another time for an act of vandalism/prankstering that I allegedly masterminded. Of course, my name didn't make the paper for those since they were alleged.

Most of the plays I've done in Los Angeles haven't gotten much press. Last year we got press to see Midsummer, but I didn't get any personal blurbs I could use for promotion. I think I had six lines total in the play and I was painted to look like a bird. What kind of blurb could I get for that? Pin-Up Girls has been way different. I've gotten blurbs I can use to promote myself from all four publications that reviewed the show. (Of course, I wish everyone in the show had such cool blurbs because they really give great performances. I guess we all get our time to shine, and seven years in Los Angeles has finally gotten me some blurbage.)

The Tolucan Times said "Acting is uniformly excellent, with outstanding work by Moore, Caskey, and Burns. Moore goes full throttle as the hard charging yet emotional Helen." That was pretty exciting for my first review out here.

Then L.A. Weekly said "...Helen (Moore, in a robust and sassy performance)." I'm robust and sassy! It's in print. (L.A. Weekly is a larger publication than the Tolucan, so this was pretty exciting.)

Of course, the L.A. Times had to top that with this: "As Helen, the most fiercely independent of the bunch, Pamela Moore parlays experience in both theater and burlesque choreography into a thoroughly convincing portrait of hardhearted survival." Dude! I was in the L.A. Times! How crazy is that?

And then it happened. I made Backstage West. Backstage West was one of the few things I made a point to consistently afford when I moved to Los Angeles (along with dog food and toilet paper). Backstage West was the place to look for acting work as an actor before the internet exploded. I got a blurb in Backstage West. Hell, I have a damn hyperlink on their website now. They said "The most pointed and effective humor comes from Helen, who readily has a tart riposte, as when she complains she was "raised by saints who wouldn't let me drink." And Pamela Moore has the most dimensional character and makes the most of it, with a touching ambivalence about giving up her freedom for a life of domesticity she clearly does not want." Holy cow!

So I'm pretty excited about the press I've gotten. I didn't put the clippings on my refrigerator, but I did send out postcards with the first three blurbs and I took a photo of myself with BSW. Of course, I couldn't have done it without Andrew and the amazing team we've had for this show.

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Buy This Movie!

Last Wednesday we had the honor of attending a screening of Underbelly, a documentary following a year in the life of Princess Farhana. My belly dance teacher, Jamilla, studied with Farhana. I've also taken some special workshops with Farhana and I have a number of her videos for home study. She's an amazing teacher and an incredible dancer.

She's also very active in the burlesque circuit so I've had the opporunity to spend some time with her. It's always a delight seeing her perform. Getting to know her offstage is a blast. Her experiences are so varied and off the wall that I'm constantly amazed that she makes it through them.

In the film, as in life, she's very candid, warm and generous. She talks so openly about personal stuff and her dance life that I recommend this to any and every person who has ever wanted to dance. She's absolutely inspiring. I got teary a few times during the film because she talked about things that I felt in my own life. BUY this film. Don't bother renting it because you'll want to watch it over and over.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Burlesque in a Theatre




(Artwork above is by Sebastian Kadlecik based on a photo by Chris Beyond for Pin-Up Girls, wardrobe by Christine Guilmette.)

Ninety-eight percent of the burlesque shows I've done have been in clubs or restaurants. From what I've gathered in my research on producing, most clubs let you keep most (if not all) of the cover charge and/or give you a percentage of the bar and food. That's what you use to pay your dancers, band, pick-up girl, emcee and specialty acts. If you're lucky, you'll be able to pay for the promotion you bought and maybe even get paid yourself from that. You don't have to shell out much money for the space except maybe a deposit.

In theatres, you have to rent the space. We're in a theatre with just under 40 seats. There's only so much you can charge people and expect them to pay. Let's say we charge $10 a person. That's $400 maximum we can bring in. If the theatre is $200 a night, it limits the amount that can be split between the performers. Without a liquor license, you can't serve alcohol so you lose out on money from that. Of course, many theatres won't allow folks to bring food and drink into the theatre. In our case with the High Jinks Burlesque, we're raising money for the theatre so we don't really have to worry about splitting the door.

Of course, in the theatre you have a captive audience. The cheers of thirty-some people are louder at times than those of a hundred because of the acoustics. You don't have to worry about spilled drinks. It also makes it easier to do a fan dance when the audience is on one side instead of three sides. It ups the theatricality of the whole thing. If I could figure out a way to make more money off burlesque exclusively in a theatre, I'd go for it.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Wardrobe: John Mayer Scarves #1 & #2


I decided to post these together. I saw the light blue scarf in Fayetteville but I didn't have the money to get one for myself. I knew a check would be deposited into my bank account the following day, but the four hour drive through ice and snow to get home had me concerned about having emergency funds as necessary. Instead, I bought the light blue scarf at the show for my small sister. She needed something to commemorate her first JM concert and it was only $10 or $15. I figured they'd have the light blue ones in Memphis the next night so I could get one to take home.

When we got to Memphis and I actually had the cabbage to blow at the merch booth, there were only green scarves. I like green, but I wanted a blue scarf. I went home with only a raglan for me, a t-shirt for Andrew and a t-shirt for my dad.

Last summer, they put the winter merch on the website so I picked up an orange scarf and the blue scarf when I ordered my Local 83 tee. They're both long American Apparel scarves. In fact, one could turn a scarf into a halter top but would lose the logos in the process. I tend to throw one of these on when it's chilly.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wardrobe: John Mayer Headband


That's right, folks! I bought a headband at the 2007 Hollywood Bowl show. It's cotton and has a really wide band. The wide band doesn't work so well on me since I have a small head so I rarely wear it. Of course, it looks really great today in the hair I haven't washed since Tuesday.

I love it when the merch booth has inexpensive stuff. I've gone to shows before and have wanted to purchase something to support the artist, but everything in the merch booth was too expensive. I think I paid $5 for this headband. There's always something very affordable for the fans at John Mayer shows.

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Wardrobe: John Mayer Shirt #9


I'm a member of Local 83. That's the John Mayer Listener's Union. They had a contest some time last year for a Local 83 member to design a t-shirt exclusive to fan club members. I didn't bother voting on any of the designs. (I usually just hit the message boards when I'm hunting for tickets and the presale system disappoints me.) I didn't really plan to buy one of the fan shirts unless it was so totally awesome that I couldn't live without it.

Yeah, I wound up buying one. I was searching through the online store for something and Andrew commented on how cool the shirt was. So I bought it. This is another shirt that sees frequent wear -- at least once every two weeks. It's cotton and very comfortable.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Hannah


Last night I did a post-Halloween show where we were all to dance as something scary. I did a Hannah Montana dance. It was exhausting but I think it was pretty hilarious. This is me catching my breath.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Double Booking

For Halloween, I accepted a challenge that other performers that I respect have undertaken: the double booking. I did our play in North Hollywood before hauling ass to Highland Park for a burlesque gig. The producer knew I'd arrive after my show let out. I raked the 1940s curls out of my hair and wrestled the snarls into a braid. With the car jam-packed with costumes and props, we rushed across town. I arrived later than I expected to find out we were a good 45 minutes from my first number. I hate being tardy so I was happy they started the show late.

My first number wasn't as tight as usual. I tried stashing my knife in my costume as I did successfully Wednesday night. Of course, I was wearing the wrong undergarments to make that work well. Oops. I had to go fishing for my knife while I was performing. Not very attractive. I also lost my costume bra between Wednesday and Friday. Maybe it was in Venice, maybe it was on my dresser. It definitely was not on me. I wound up wearing the bra I always wear to shows, the inside covered in dried spirit gum and glitter, the outside boring and blue.

I'd come down from my show high by the second number. The bands would take down their stuff and set up their stuff before our sets, and the band before our last set was pushy and prickish. They did an entire sound check before we were able to finish. It was close to 12:45 am before I got on stage. It wasn't a regular burlesque crowd. They didn't really hoot and holler. Some of the audience members were getting surly and hollered out some rude things between burlesque numbers because they wanted to see the next band.

It was a very interesting experience. I wasn't a big fan of the crowd. Andrew went out to our car to retrieve and put away props a number of times, and he always found loadies leaning on our car (WTF?) getting high. I don't know what about my four-door car speaks like Towelie to these jokers. In fact, people were leaning on our car when we hopped in to leave. One guy said he was sorry, but then he went back to leaning on the car so how sorry was he really? The loadies put a bottle under our tire so when we backed up, it exploded into glass powder. They seemed surprised. Guess they forgot they put it under the tire. They were still practically leaning on the car when we backed out, so I wouldn't be surprised if they had glass powder all over their pants.

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