Burlesque Show Etiquette For Audiences…

We often get asked what to wear and how to behave at a burlesque show by ticket holders who have never been before. A burlesque audience can be quite different from other ‘sit down and watch’ cabaret audiences, in that audience participation is encouraged… Here’s a few pointers…

Never, ever, get on the stage unless the performer in question has invited you on there as part of their act or unless the compere has asked you up there. No performer will ever thank you if you invade the stage during their 4mins thinking you can assist or enhance their act. It can also be dangerous. Picture this: an audience member in high heels stepping onto the stage, glass in hand, swagger in tow. You may have noticed the stage maids/managers who pick up shed items and props sweeping up the stage after every act to ensure the next performer has a safe, slip-free stage to work on (glitter is VERY slippery!). They will not thank you for the extra work in having to mop up wine spills or clear up glass. Our own Lilly Laudanum once stepped on a shard of broken wine glass during her first performance in 2009. For one drunken audience member’s momentary stage invasion actions there was a lot of blood (and pain!).  
Why the hell not? All performers love a bit of encouragement. If you see an item removed, whoop! See something that you likie, clap. Go for it. 
Some comperes love a bit of heckling and at some shows it is appropriate – we like you to feel involved and the compere enjoys a bit of banter to play with. But how much is too much? Continual shouting out, drunken bawling and diverting attention from the stage to yourself is too much. Trying to upstage the acts or the compere is too much. And disrupting the flow of the show (most shows run on a schedule; too much interruption will upset the timings) and the compere’s well-researched intro of the next fantastic act will just annoy and spoil other audience members enjoyment of the professional acts they’ve paid to see. 
Yes! Go for it! Where else can you wear glitz, glam, exotic millinery, wild make up, extravagant hair (and that’s just the men!)? Enter into the spirit of things. Just don’t turn up in your underwear and a smile. You will get cold. We’ll pop up a post of what to wear very soon if you need any pointers… 
So a performer has put in a particularly vigorous performance and part of her expensive or hand-crafted, one of a kind costume or prop has landed in your lap. What do you do? You hand it back to the stage maid. A burlesque show is not like a gig where the drummer will throw out (pre-signed) sticks for all to scramble over as a trophy. Costume parts are essential to an act, no performer will thank you or be flattered you wanted to keep part of their attire. It will not look good on your wall, but it will look good on the performer during their next performance.  
Some shows permit photography. Some do not. If a show does allow photography, by all means snap away at your wonderfully-attired friends and the great night you are having, but putting photos of performers online without their permission is a massive no. Particularly the ones where they are semi naked. “But the performer has been brave enough to let it all hang out on stage, why would they be upset by my artistic snaps plastered all over the internet?” you ask… Here’s the deal… Some performers also work other jobs. Some may work with children or vulnerable adults. Some may work in areas where what they do on stage could compromise their positions and result in a sacking. And those performers who shed their stuff full-time? It could be a case of them not wanting the end of their act (or punchline) to be revealed. You gotta have some mystery, right? After all, would you be eager to read a book, watch a film or listen to a joke if you already knew what was going to happen – no matter how fabulous? Most shows have an official photographer in attendance and these photos will have been approved by the producer and/or performers and are usually the only ones permitted to be posted on the internet and social media connected to the event.     
Again a big no for the reasons above and more. Performers like to control how potential bookers see them or their ‘brand’. They also want to keep a check on how much of their act is ‘out there’ for many reasons, but mainly copyrite. Here’s an example for you… In the very early Bluestocking days someone was in the audience secretly filming all the acts (including Ms Laudanum’s inimitable Barbara Cartland…) for the purpose of replicating with a local dance troupe to put on their own show – an infringement of copyrite. When we got wind of this, we strongly advised them (legally) to protect the integrity of the international performers we book and the shows we put together.         
Burlesque audiences are a friendly bunch! If you haven’t come with a group of friends, you’ll probably end up leaving with some! A lot of audience members who once came to a show on their own now find themselves part of a crowd… And there’s a lot to chat about while waiting for your drinkie at the bar – the fabulous outfits everyone is wearing, the wonderful acts you have seen, the annoying heckler who fell over on stage whilst trying to rob a performer’s costume piece and was ripped to shreds, expertly, by the compere…  
We know you’ve had a great time and you’ve seen something totally magical and memorable but please save your praises for when you see the performer after the show… The performer will not thank you if you burst backstage to shower them with enthusiastic complements, especially if they are in the middle of a quick costume change, trying to adjust a c string or apply a pastie. Nor will the other performers who are more than likely in the same boat – and bringing back your boyfriend to say hello (the performers have just been near-nekked on stage, they won’t mind, right?) is not a good idea. Backstage is a private area for a reason. It may sound like such a mysterious place where only the special few are permitted, but here’s what’s really going on… Space in backstage areas can be at a premium and one more person could tip the balance… There’s massive suitcases, performers vying for space to change costume, an array of discarded shoes, costumes, props, bras, spray – lots of spray, make-up application, performers trying to unite a pair of gloves, wigs, hats, stockings, the stage manager in and out ushering performers to the stage on time, returning props and costumes, talk of wine and shows, glitter spillages… In short, it’s a hive of activity and organised chaos and bill-watching/ time keeping. Far better to chat to your favourite performer at the bar over a relaxed glass of wine. When they are dressed.      
Finally, the big one! Have a great time! Enjoy the performers that we have carefully selected for your viewing pleasure, because we create these bills for you, the audience. And we want you to come back and enjoy the next fabulous show! 

2 thoughts on “Burlesque Show Etiquette For Audiences…

  1. Pingback: Burlesque Show Etiquette For Audiences… | Bluestocking Lounge

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