If you are just starting out on your burly journey, choosing your stage name can be a big thing… Do you want something that makes you stand out, yet “sounds burlesque”, how do you know what will describe you? Why do you need a name at all? Today’s post is here to help…
So, why do I need a burlesque name?
A stage name helps create a ‘fantasy’ atmosphere – that what the audience are about to see is not Joanne Bloggs from down the road (even if it is, in reality, Joanne Bloggs from down the road!), but a bigger, more fantastical personality, hitting the stage to entertain! A stage name creates an illusion, an image and a personality. Many performers say they feel more like the performer when they are referred to as their performance name, that it helps them forget about the everyday mundane things we all do (like putting out the bins and doing the washing!) and focus on being their bigger, stardust-coated, more stage-worthy selves. Other reasons for a stage name include separating different aspects of professional life (eg, if a performer were a nurse in their ‘other’ life, they might not want to be referred to ‘Nurse Bloggs’ on stage, similarly they might not want past/present/future patients recognising their name, so a stage name helps define their two professional lives).
What will I call myself?
That will be up to you… Names which mean something to you are ideal – like your favourite tipple or fruit, your favourite colour or something about a part in history that you like, eg Tipsy Tudor, Kitty Cutter, Abby Sinthe (you get the idea), or clever play on words such as Zoe Trope (she took our course in 2013 – we think it’s a marvelous name!) or Ben Dover… But don’t panic too much about your name when you get going, just choose something you like for now.
I hate my name, can I ever change it?
Of course you can! That’s why we say just choose something you like to get you going. Our Lilly Laudanum was called LaLa Rouge when she first started performing in 2009 – Lala being a name one of her best friends had called her for many years, Rouge being her pillar box red hair and the name of the night before it became Bluestocking Lounge. After a year or so of performing, she decided that it didn’t really fit what she was trying to do, so changed it to Laudanum (a Victorian, highly addictive opiate) as it sounded more ‘historical’, British and fitting (the lovely Diva Hollywood donated the Lilly part!) with her acts. But a word of warning, don’t keep changing your name. One or two changes are enough in a performance lifetime, as you will need to change everything once you have changed your name. Best to do it before you get established as familiarising yourself with audiences and promoters can be confusing if you’ve changed your name many times. If you want to change your name, sit on it for a few weeks to make sure it’s the right choice, test it out before going the whole hog to make sure it’s what you want.
Why does everyone always have French or ‘exotic’ names?
We really can’t answer that one – the only thing we can think of is just that – that it sounds ‘exotic’ and maybe the French part comes from people’s ideas of Moulin Rouge, showgirl etc etc and burlesque being a french word (for parody). You don’t need a French sounding name to be burlesque, just one that is unique to yourself as a performer. And in fact, names that don’t use French or exotic-sounding bits here and there stand out far more on a bill.
Ensuring your name is unique
Doubling up on an already established performer’s name is a real no no. A name is a brand (more on this in a bit), and an already established performer will have cultivated that for herself and you stepping in with the same name (or something very similar) will understandably upset the established name, not to mention land you in a whole heap of legal trouble. Not only this, but it would get very confusing, billing-wise. Audiences might be confused if they see your name on a poster, and think it was someone else; it can also be confusing for PLI reasons, as when you begin to perform professionally you will need to take out Public Liability Insurance in your performance name. Joining Equity with a name that already exists is impossible anyway, you will be told to change your name. Always google your chosen name, and google with a different spelling and with those all-too-common add ons ‘la’ and ‘von’ just to check – no one wants to make the mistake of calling themselves Immodesty Von Blaize or Dita La Teeze, etc etc… Do this before you set your heart on your name and stay away from already used monikers – or parts of moniker…
No, we don’t mean you have to get a hot iron and literally burn your name into your flesh, but metaphorically branding is burning your name into audience, promoters and producer’s minds. Take a look at some already well-known products – anything you like (if you need help, try looking up Hendricks Gin, Vivienne Of Holloway clothes, Sailor Jerry rum…) and see how they promote themselves across the board. See what kind of images their name conjures up. They have created a brand. Now try looking up some burlesque performers (again, if you need help, try Khandie Khisses, Missy Malone, Dita Von Teese) to see how this applies to performers. Essentially it’s the same thing. We’ll write a post dedicated to branding in the future, but just for now, your name is your brand, so setting up social media accounts with the same kind of message will help ‘market’ your brand. Also, carry this through to your CV – if you’ve used a certain font to write your name, use it like a logo across all outlets.
Do I have to use my burlesque name at shows?
Obviously, if you want to be taken seriously, using your burlesque name on a poster means you will be announced on stage as that name, but choosing to disclose it backstage is up to you. Some performers will readily be called their ‘regular’ name backstage, but often this becomes confusing, especially when there are a lot of performers in the dressing room; imagine, you’ve just learned everyone’s performance name – then someone says ‘pass this to Emma’ – well, who the hell is Emma? Confusing. We say keep it simple and at shows refer to yourself as your performance name, rather than creating a ‘barrier’ to the ‘real’ you, it is far more bonding, less confusing and a lot easier than giving someone the hard time of not knowing what the hell to call you…