We get it! You’re excited! You’ve entered the industry, invented the colourful characters and made everything you do B I G… You have the confidence, your stage persona is on fire… But you’ve woken up one morning and realised you don’t know where the off-switch for the on-stage persona is…
Putting everything into your chosen profession is a must if you want to succeed. Passion is what drives us and obsession is what makes the magic. You’ve immersed your entire being into your craft and actually, you feel like your every day life is turning into a burlesque of what you are on stage. Your actual, every day make-up is now FULL VOLUME and we mean full volume, you need to pop on a boa just to get a pint of milk and you find yourself in a constant state of glitter-haze (and that damned stuff is everywhere – on the cat, on the sofa, in the car and in a breadcrumb-like trail to all your usual haunts). It’s really not all bad, this glitter-coated life, but for your own sanity (and that of your actual friends!) it’s good to have your feet on the ground and return to ‘normality’ – if only for a rest!
You may have heard of ‘method actors’ – actors (like Robert De Niro, etc) who immerse themselves in a role for a film so intensely that they live as that character in everyday life. They basically take on aspects of the character to feel, think, see and deal with situations as their character would. It’s a way of emotionally connecting to their (fictional) character by becoming it. Bob Geldof famously – and accidentally – became the character of the disturbed rock star he was playing in Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ to the point his behavior effected his family and friends. We’re not talking about this extreme, but when you are excited about everything burlesque and cabaret, it’s really easy to slip into ‘going method’ and bring burlesque into all aspects of your life. You know when you need to ‘reclaim yourself’ when they play the national anthem on TV and your ‘inner Queen Victoria’ starts shouting at those around you (often bemused peoples in a supermarket, but mostly the husbands and cats) to “get UUUUPPP!!” and stand in respect of your royal (burlesque) resplendence. Yes, you’ve gone method without even realising. That inner stage switch is on. Yes, it can be great to live like a unicorn every day for ever more but don’t ever lose sight of who you are.
Treat Your Art Like A Relationship
We all have known friends in the past who, whenever they are in a relationship, disappear off radar, only to return when the single status is restored. And working in the creative world can be like this. Like the relationship bubble, we are attached so intensely to our passion, and only have eyes on the prize that we forget that there are other people out there; people who are a bit important, like husbands,boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, family and friends (or all of the above if you are that way inclined). It’s so easy to accidentally overlook or even neglect these important people in our lives – without even realising we are doing it. The, ‘I can’t come to your wedding because I have a show’ / ‘I’m rehearsing that night so I’m going to miss your birthday’ / ‘I’ve got to get a costume finished so I can’t make that important get together’ – even the ‘Sorry (cat/dog/goldfish/child) I forgot to feed you for days, like, I’m rhinestoning…’ Nurturing our relationships is the core of who we are. These relationships are so crucial to our own personal development in life. If we are guilty of any of the above, we have to ask ourselves what we are putting into a relationship when the other person (or people) are giving so much more. No one wants to be the flaky friend who always has some excuse (how ever glitter-coated it might be). Make a dedicated time for your friends and family. It’s so easy to forget to call that loved one because you are caught up on all the fun, frills and feathers (hands up – I’m guilty!) and so easy to let most of the year go past after you’ve said, ‘Let’s get together soon’, but friends and family are so important to remind you that you are you, to remind you of the other things you love and share… And most importantly, they keep you real – and they know the ‘real’ you.
The Burlesque Bore
We’ve all done that thing where all we’ve talked about is what we’re planning for our new act, the costume trouble we are having or the really exciting things that have lined up really nicely… I remember around seven years ago when this term was used a lot, like, ‘Don’t be a burlesque bore’ if burlesque was all you spoke about (it’s probably been said to me!). And that’s just the point: if you met up with your group of friends for a night of cocktails (after possibly a long period of promises – see above – again, guilty), and all you talked about was burlesque/cabaret/the cabaret gossip/how many shows you are getting/how many rhinestones, it could be a bit boring to those not involved in the same way as someone getting out the holiday pics or talking about their baby in minutiae. Be mindful of your time and also be mindful that in indulging in your passion, it may not be the passion of others. No one likes a one-sided conversation. And there must be something other than burlesque you’ve been doing – or interests that you share with the friends you are enjoying a cheeky gin with that involves everyone in the conversation.
Social media is great for spreading the word about us as performers, it’s great for creating a brand, but always, always be you! If you are constantly ‘branding’ every time you post, or worse – talking on social media as if everyone who reads it is a fan (worse still, addressing everyone in the third person as if you are making some kind of fanclub announcement to the fans…), this is the quickest way to lose yourself. Besides, those who you have requested as friends will not respect you for calling them fans. It can also be confusing to yourself if you are not using your own, true voice and if you are constantly trying to guess what your “fans” might want to see or what your “branded version of you” might want to put out there. Just be you – but obviously a respectful version of you (ie, never trash-talk on others, get involved in online spats or gossip and conduct yourself with love and respect)… If your cat is doing something cute, post it, etc (Cats! We always love cat posts!). Put your real thoughts as people love genuine and authentic. Because only Liberace lived with rhinestones, diamond-encrusted Rolls Royces and marble-floored mansions dripping in champagne 24-7.
Staying True To Our Own Visions
On another side of the coin, we all have a vision of what it is we want to express and who and what our on stage persona is. Remember this, as it is the core of what you are doing. It is the key to everything. Never be tempted to second guess what it is you think the audience want and change to fit in their version of what they think you is. Confusing? Yes, it bloody well is! Stay true to your instincts and be real and genuine. Incorporate everything you know about and love into your acts and never be tempted to mix in things that are alien and uncomfortable or jar your values. And don’t do things you hate or make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable because you think people will like your acts, or you more. Never change your true vision to get gigs, because you won’t get gigs – gig-chasing (ie changing like a chameleon to fit castings – even if they are totally out of your remit to the point where you have confused yourself and lost your ‘style’ or ‘gimmick’) never works. Keep on doing what it is you do and producers will recognise your style and the thing that makes you stand out. By all means try new skills and styles but not to the detriment of your true self.
Return To Earth…
So, if you are finding all this a bit much, that you have lost yourself and you recognise your stage name more than the one you use(d) in your every day life, that when you open your wardrobe and all you see is glittering gowns (like, “What the Fk do I wear normally? WHAT DO I WEAR ‘NORMALLY’?”) then it might be time to get back to your values and take stock of yourself. Just switching off the persona for even a few days can be restorative. We are so conditioned now to broadcast on social media everything – from selling ourselves and our skills, selling products, selling these lives, which in reality might not be the ‘real us’. Phone up some friends, have a get together and promise yourself you are going to be in the ‘here and now’ and take stock. We have all been there, when our burlesque selves has over-spilled into our “real life” (and actually, I am currently writing this, sitting with an effing crown on my head and a green sequin gown – I think I need help most of all!), but it’s so grounding to just forget about it for a time (whether that’s a few hours, a few days or even – yee GAAADDSSSS! – a week or more). We might be in a burlesque bubble, along with some other fabulous people we’ve met on the way, but don’t let that bubble isolate you from yourself and your own reality. Remember what is real. Look after your self and those you love.