This is the hard bit! There is no hard and fast rules on what an act should be, the important thing is that it entertains people! But whether you choose to entertain them simply by stripping out of a fabulous costume in a homage to Dita or you have a story that you wish to take the audience on, illustrated by clothing removal, props or a special skill, you might want to think about the following:
Is the idea original?
Okay, with the scene flushed with creativity there will never be an absolutely original act, for instance, there are hundreds of cookery/Alice/Little Red Riding Hood /Marie Antoinette etc acts currently hitting stages as we speak but it’s how you make the act yours that counts. So you’ve got an idea? Google it and search on youtube to see if anyone else is doing it and how they are doing it. Still not put off? Think how you can make it yours. How can you put an original spin on an unoriginal idea. Brainstorm and expand your ideas however crazy they may sound at the time, then trim them down to a concept.
To Homage or Not to Homage?
There’s seeing an act and loving it so much you want to copy it – and then there’s seeing an act an paying tribute to it. The two are very different. Paying tribute is recreating an act (with the original performer’s permission), remaining faithful to the choreography and costume and name-checking the performer you are paying homage to. Copying an act is very different. Never, ever copy anyone’s act, choreography or costume. It’ll not make you look like a fan of the act – quite the reverse! You will look like you have no ideas of your own, it’ll really upset the performer whose act it is (and could result in legal action) and other performers and producers will distance themselves from you. But beware! In both cases you will be compared to the original.
Do you like the theme?
Sounds obvious, but you have to like the theme you have chosen! There’s no point doing a nun act because it fitted a costume you had if you have nothing to say about nuns or feel nothing for them. The easiest acts to devise are based on experiences or concepts that are close to your heart and that you feel emotionally connected to or are excited by. If you are interested in a certain period of history and know lots about it, then base a routine on that era! If you love Shakespeare and a certain character inspires you and you feel they have a lot to say, then say it with burlesque!
So you have an idea for a character or act? Get online and dig up some interesting facts to incorporate into an act. For instance, when devising her Dark Annie character, Bluestocking’s regular performer Lilly Laudanum read a lot about the Jack The Ripper case (she is a bit interested in the case having worked at the London Dungeon anyway, which helps!) and jotted down key points that she wanted to get over in the routine like: grapes the victims were given, the kidney and letter to mr lusk, the removal of one of the victim’s boobs (this is the end reveal), the disembowling, etc. Basing your routine on researched points will add depth and validity.
Do you have any special skills? Why not incorporate them into a routine? If you are a trained tap dancer, hula hooper, silks, fire (although most venues do not allow for fire), poi (and more) artist, this adds a great originality to an act. But beware – if you cannot do the charleston or have never tried tightrope walking before thinking it would be perfect for an act, do not attempt to take it to the stage. It’s not a good look.