Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, used to be when my grandparents allowed me to open one present before Santa came while I slept.  Those days are long gone but I am sitting in the house where it used to happen. Since B and I started dating almost 10 years ago Christmas Eve has become the day we travel to Knoxville when I usually wrap the last minute gifts he bought for his family. We actually bought gifts yesterday instead of today so that's practically like we planned ahead.  It's a weird seemingly slacker tradition, but it's ours and works for us. With his family being in Knoxville and until 3 years ago I would come visit my grandfather as well, we've just stuck to the schedule. Come see his family, get cookies, go see my dad on the way back to Atlanta to do the holiday and give him the cookies B's mom made for him as well.  Tomorrow is my favorite though. B and I will come back to my grandparents house with a ton of cookies and we'll curl up on the couch with them and watch horror movies. That's our private holiday!

Tonight I ran out of wrapping paper. Hopefully tomorrow there will be a convince store open so I can pick up some gift bags for B's mom and sister-in-law's present.  Luckily I was able to get his dad, brother and two nephew's presents wrapped so it's at least mostly done.  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve and a Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Festivus

Festivus for the rest of us. What has pissed you off for the past year?  Today is the day to air grievances from the past year to get a clean slate.  A made up holiday that generally makes more sense and has a better chance of actually helping people than most of the other holidays combined.  (The feats of strength are a little weird, but whatever)  It seems so silly, but airing your grievances is much healthier than letting them be bottled up inside of you.

With that in mind, even if you don't tell anyone else, maybe it's a good excuse to make a list of what's been bothering you.  If you can't bring yourself to tell whomever it is, maybe burn the list and try to get it out of your system, keeping it all inside will just make you sick.  With that in mind, I'm going to bitch a little bit.

1) I hate people making me feel guilty for not being able to go out and do things that cost money.  I do not have a regular full time job and most of this past year was me getting my footing as I just finished school in December of 2013.  Things are getting better financially, but I still also have to pay for a house in Oak Ridge that I don't live in.  So please don't act like I'm blowing you off because I am just now getting a little more financially stable.

2) On that note, yes, I have been super busy in the past with school and then work for a while now.  That doesn't mean that I don't miss hanging out with people, I just haven't really been able to.  It hurts my feelings when people's reasoning for not inviting me to things is because they assumed I was busy.  I get that you are probably sick of me not being able to show up for things, but getting invited still really means a lot and sometimes I'm even actually able to show up.  I do miss you guys and I do want to see you and catch up, but that will never happen if you just always assume I'm too busy.

3) And going into the next grievance.... quit standing me up.  I have very limited free time (see above) so when I make plans with you and you no call no show on me it upsets me.  I understand that things happen and stuff comes up, I'm not mad about when people have to cancel because life happens.  It's the not canceling, it's the not hearing anything that really upsets me.  So please, if you know you're not going to be able to make it please just let me know as soon as you can so I don't sit around waiting on you to show up.

I think three is a good number and it get most of the general stuff out in the air.  Anything else would be for specific instances, specific people, etc... and that doesn't need to be publicly aired.  So, what do you want to bitch about on the Festivus?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Solstice

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.  By a weird fluke of science and nature, it was also the longest night ever in the history of the Earth.  And for those of you that pay attention to such things, it was also the New Moon.  It was quite literally the longest, darkest night ever.

The Solstice is the turning point, a celebration of the days getting longer which ironically officially marks the first day of winter.  It's a rebirth, a new start, the return of the light.  The New Moon, when the moon is closest to the Earth and yet hidden from the sky by the Earth's own shadow like a creepy stalker trying to get closer to you by lurking in the shadows.  The New Moon is also a rebirth celebration in many beliefs, so yesterday seemed to be a good time to get a new start on the problem is that I don't want a new start.

I guess that's not entirely true, I want a start over.  I want to fix things.  I want to make things better.  I want my life to be something meaningful and creative and not boring, yet I also really want things to be stable and comfortable and safe.  There's a balance in there somewhere, I want to find it.  I don't need to start new things, I just need to be able to do more than one thing at a time sanely.  This means saying no more instead of taking everything on, this means having down time so I can rest and relax, this means also simplifying my life in general.  Less things, less stress, less work.

Maybe this is fitting for the Solstice and New Moon.  Maybe it's right that my life would be turning upside down right now.  Or maybe I'm just looking for a greater meaning for my upheaval than just sometimes things go wrong, go weird, go away and there's no reason for it.  Not even the universe can make sense of it sometimes.  Either way, this next year is going to be something new that I don't know if I'm ready for, but we'll see.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October Performer Spotlight: Mickie Sinn

Photo by James Cano
We're all very excited to have a brand new amazing addition to the Atlanta Burlesque Community.  Mickie Sinn has recently relocated from Austin, Tx, so please give her a warm welcome!  I'm very excited to get to work with her in the future!

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line? Does it have a special meaning to you?

I had a heck of a time coming up with my name. I thought it about for years before I ever worked up the nerve to perform. I knew I wanted something playful and just sort of cutesy. I love the early 20th century and I love when girls have names that are versions of traditionally male names so maybe a week before my first performance I settled on Mickie Sinn. I was honestly just tired of thinking about it but it's stuck. It's a play on Mickey Finn, both the person and the slang term for a knockout drug. Everyone assumes it's Mickey Mouse but it really wasn't even though I do wear a lot of Mickey stuff now. My tagline is still a work in progress. I usually go with "She'll slip you a little temptation." The MC for the Jigglewatts, Jade Esteban Estrada aka Pretty Boy Rock, thinks I sound like a liquor brand and then my name turns into a cheesy booze commercial. "Had a bad day? Why not pour yourself a little Mickie Sinn"

2. How did you get started in burlesque?
Photo by Hill Country Pinup

I attended my first show in 2006 at SXSW in Austin purely by accident and I loved it. It happened to be Cardinal Cyn performing between sets for an Austin rockabilly group. But it was several years before I really started going to more shows, probably around the time I met my husband actually. I really wanted to do it from that first moment but I had no idea how, thought I was too broke, too clumsy and was definitely too shy. I didn't realize until later we're pretty much all broke showgirls. While I was planning my wedding in 2012 I attended a class Coco Lectric was teaching but timing was bad and I didn't start classes again until 2013. It's been a whirlwind ever since. I have been training with Coco and Ruby Joule under the Austin Academy of Burlesque umbrella most of that time as well as other Austin and guest performers teaching 6 week and drop in workshops. Now that I am in Atlanta I can't wait to gain more knowledge from a new group of performers.

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?
Photo by Viva

Oh my! That is hard to pinpont. This past year I have done so, so much despite being a new performer. It'd be a tie between doing the Viva Dallas Valentine's show where I had an audience member follow me back up on stage when I went down to the VIP as part of my number. But I went with it and made him part of the act and we had everyone laughing. And then probably getting to compete in Edmonton, Canada and winning most comedic in the Bunny Competition. But honestly the best part of that was having Waxie Moon and Canadian Wolfman tell me I did a great job and that they enjoyed it. Having someone you look up to you say that and even go up to your husband to say that is just amazing and still gives me the warm fuzzies.

4. What is your favorite act to perform?

Right now my Daddy number. It's a 20s piece to a White Ghost Shivers (a local Austin band that actually played at my wedding) cover of "Daddy, Won't You Please Come Home?" I love doing it on a small stage where I can go out and play with the audience.

5. What is your burlesque dream show?
Photo by Lone Star Pin-up Helen Kane

A show where the whole audience is paying attention? haha Hmmm...I have been giving this some thought the last few days. It's silly but a show on a gorgeous, historic stage where I can perform with my friends and idols, have an amazing audience, amazing lighting for a change and just have a ball!

6. Where do you see your self in the next five years?

I have had to think a lot about that lately with my husband and I relocating for his work to Atlanta very unexpectedly and quickly. I have a strong and close knit Austin burlesque family and it's been scary as hell to realize you are about to pick up and have to start all over without that support system nearby. Thank goodness for internet & text messaging! And that Atlanta folks have been very welcoming. I really hope that over the next five years I am able to continue to combine my love of travel with my burlesque career and be able to say I performed in fun new cities and countries. I hope to be a role model for even just one new performer by then because I have been so, so lucky to have been able to learn from the most amazing performers both on and off stage and I want to be able to share that knowledge and joy with others. And having produced my own show by then even if just one. I have helped put together a fundraiser show this summer so I know I am not nearly ready to produce a full show. Chasing performers gives me a headache. Wait! I mean I love you all. :P

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.
Photo by Ed Ballot

I loveee food and wine. It came down to burlesque workshops or starting training to become a sommelier. I may still do that someday as I would love to own a wine, chocolate and cigars shop or an olive oil shop. Don't get me started on the amazingness of fresh olive oils. I love to try new restaurants and go to local vineyards. My husband and I make an annual pilgrimage to New Orleans just to stuff ourselves silly.

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque? 

Driving my husband crazy and making messes. Haha And being able to decorate my house on a beer budget despite my champagne taste. My muggle degree is Interior Design so that probably explains my champagne taste.

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian? 

Hopefully getting to travel a bit more both as a performer and with my husband. We were hoping to make it to Cuba this year but not sure it is going to happen with the cross country move. His mother was born there. I am also looking forward to getting settled into Atlanta, meeting new people and becoming an active member of the Atlanta glitter community.
Photo by Lone Star Pin-up

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch? 

Soooo, soooo many people I admire and love to see on stage, Waxie Moon, Imogen Kelly, Paco Fish, Pearle Noire, Ruby Joule, the list goes on. And I mean who doesn't love all of the Stage Door Johnnies. Swoonnnnn. It's a toss up right now between two members of my own burlesque family though. Does that fall under nepotism? haha I have seen Coco Lectric performer for hundreds of people, taking home Queen of New Orleans Burlesque and I have seen her perform on the awkward Gibson stage in Austin to 20 people and no matter how many times I have seen a number I know it'll be different and she is going to be amazing. Doesn't matter what is going on off stage that woman puts on that 1000 watt smile and kills it. My other favorite is my burlesque sister, Lola LeStrange. She is a little bit of Coco, a little bit of Pearle Noire and a whole lot nerdy Comicon goodness wrapped up into this busty, fiery package with the biggest grin in the world. We pretty much started at the same time and I remember thinking in class that this girl is a nut so this should be interesting but from the minute she took the stage for her debut last fall she has been on fire. I am like a proud big sister every time she performs and I can't wait to see her take the rest of the burlesque world by storm.

Photo by Lone Star Pin-up

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keeping your cool on fire

On Wednesday, October 8th at 7 Stages I was lucky enough to be a part of an amazing show put on by The Georgia Glitter Collective, which is a collaboration of many of the performers in Atlanta.  This particular show had a star studded cast both on stage and off as well as amazing special guests Armitage Shanks, Russell Bruner and Mistress Kali.  Ursula Undress and Sadie Hawkins did the bulk of the heavy lifting leading up to the show, Roula Roulette was Stage Manager and I (Katherine Lashe) was Technical Director.

As far as the show itself, it was an amazing experience and there were so many wonderful acts.  I was lucky enough to get to perform with Jed Drummond, who is a local Atlanta musician.  We have done this act once before and it went really well so we figured it was as good a time as any to do it again.  Jed played his guitar and sang his version of Paper Roses while I did my routine.  The routine isn't overly complicated, but the catch is that I have flash paper roses that I light up and end with lighting two attached to my pasties.  Again, I have done this before, I have been playing with fire in one capacity or another for around 15 years, not nearly as scary as it sounds.  However...

For the past month I have been extremely busy with The Doctor, The Devil & My Dad at 7 Stages (we actually did the burlesque show on DDDs set) and had not had time to go and collect the items I needed, including the flash paper.  I went to Atlanta Costume/Norcostco and they had some, but flash paper doesn't have an expiration date on it...and it should.  It turns out it was old, instead of a short burst of fire it was slow burning.  I started getting nervous when I put the flower from my hair to the candle and saw how long it took, more so when the one from my garter also took a while.  As a result, the culmination of the act ended with slow burning flash paper attached to my pasties.  it was the big flash that you always get, but it was almost 5 seconds.  This doesn't sound like a long amount of time, but believe me it was enough.  Below is the video of my performance recorded on my phone, it's not great, but it's what happened.  Me getting more and more nervous with each passing light of the flowers.

As you can see, I did not freak out on stage, no one knew that it didn't go exactly as planned, not even Jed who escorted me off stage.  I didn't want to freak out the audience or the other performers as there was still the entire second half of the show to go through.  As soon as we hit the dressing room however I took off my pasties my slightly melted wig, brushed out the part of my hair that was burned and then began digging through the First Aid Kit trying to find aloe or burn cream or something.  I ended up rubbing Neosporin all over myself, B picked up aloe with lidocaine on the way home so I could use it.  It wasn't until the next day that I realized what I thought were minor burns were actually second degree.

The funny part of all of this is that the only bandages that I can put on my breasts are panty liners with wings.  They are the only things big enough with the right shape to go over my DD cup injuries.  Plus the sticky on the back keeps them in place in my top so I can keep them protected.  I am on day seven now, the blisters that cover most of my chest are sloughing off and painfully revealing the new skin.  I am on my second day off since the accident as the day after and three following days I had to run DDD.  So I'm currently trying to take it easy, rubbing aloe and Zim's Wound Care on my burns and taking Vitamin E and Fish Oil to help try to jump start my healing.  That, along with sleeping most of the past two days, I seem to be on the mend.  Now I know how Uncle Frank felt in Hellraiser.

Moral of the story: always be careful, always be prepared for something to go wrong, and keep your cool!...and never use old flash paper!

Monday, October 13, 2014

September Performer Spotlight: The Chameleon Queen

Photo By Marc Turnley
I apologize for the delay, September was kind of crazy but better late than never!  I've know The Chameleon Queen since before either of us were in burlesque so it's interesting that we both wandered up this path.  She's an amazing performer to watch and and amazing person in all of her charitable causes as well.  Please enjoy and we'll see if we can get two interviews in this month!

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line? Does it have a special meaning to you?

The Chameleon Queen comes from having my friends not recognize me while performing under different characters from show to show, or even in the same one! I didn't want to limit myself as a performer. Having the Chameleon Queen as an umbrella name for a small cast of characters gives me the opportunity to explore different personas and genders. As for the tag line: "I can do anything!" It stems Jim Morrison's calling himself the Lizard King.

2. How did you get started in burlesque?

We got lost going to the first audition, so I rang up the group to let them know. They were kind enough to schedule one just for me. I rang three times to verify...nary a return. An ex-boyfriend told me about another one. So, I went with his girlfriend-at-the-time to Big City Burlesque's auditions. She got in, which was great! I was happy for
Photo by Marc Turnley

The director asked me to give the fan dance a go. He handed me the fans and said that he'd play the music till I was ready. Now, having tried to get to the first audition without success my thought was: what have I got to loose?! I turned to him and said: Turn on the music, give me the fans, let's go.

Years late while telling this story, he was there. I thought I had gotten the part about half way through the song. He stepped in and said that no, it was mine when I said let's go.

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?

There are actually two, but they are similar. The first was a gig in Asheville, NC for a charitable event. I had performed the first blue fan dance to "Lament." And after an fellow came rushing back to speak with me. He said that he got what I was doing. It left me a bit bewildered, until he gave an explanation. He saw that my performance wasn't just a fan dance, but a shamanistic expression. That was at a time when I spoke very little of my point of view on sacred performance. So, my jaw pretty much hit the floor. A total stranger understood. Somehow my beliefs in art showed through.

The second time, was my first fan dance with the white Sally Rands, a beautiful string arrangement of "Someone to Watch Over Me." It was for my Grandma Brake who had breast cancer, and the show was a breast cancer benefit. My friend Oscar came running back stage out of breath and said, "I get it! I get it!! She's watching over you! You are watching over us!" Needless to say, but the tears that I was already fighting to hold back broke through.

Photo by Moonbird Design
4. What is your favorite act to perform?

Mainly, I adore fan dances. But, "The Monster" piece that combined burlesque and stunt work is up in the tops.

5. What is your burlesque dream show?

A large scale old fashioned Christmas variety show, like "White Christmas." Giving the joy that we had as children to others when the season is so fraught with stress and worry. Something that when it's thought about, a tune whistled from it ...that afterglow of happiness lingers.

6. Where do you see your self in the next five years?

Still performing, teaching, reaching out into other artistic media, and learning.

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.

Pit Bull rescue and advocacy. I've my own Pit mixes, The Greer Boys, Sophocles and Herman Munster. They've been my inspiration to do what I can: perform, donate, rescue, write letters...whatever I can do to help Pit Bulls just be recognized for the beautiful, loyal, and fine dogs they are.

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque?
Photo by Kevin O'Connell

This is a tough one...perhaps connecting good people for everything from performances to philanthropic endeavors.

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian?

New and exciting collaborations! Mystery and history are on the horizon!

As just me, more opportunities to dance and do stunt work; marching in the PRIDE parade with Angel Action Atlanta, the Pit Bull Candlelight Vigil, just being able to do good things.

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch?

This is not a one person answer at all! My favorite legend is Kalantan. Her movements are beautifully hypnotizing, very serpentine. She's not well documented sadly, but I've been able to find her on Something Weird videos, Pinky Shear found her under Adele the Petite Parisian, and she danced in one of the Sinbad films.
Sally Rand for fans, she is my idol and muse after all! Toni Elling brought me to tears at BHOF in '07 with her graceful walk and mink peel.

And honestly, I tear up watching my burlesque daughters. It is pure joy to watch each one of them take wing.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August Performer Spotlight: Ursula Undress

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line?  Does it have a special meaning to you?

It actually just popped into my head one day, and I mentioned it at the meet-up and told everyone "Don't steal that! I am sitting on it a while", then, as you well know - Chrystal Shawnda Leer died a quiet death while performing at an Unknown Hinson show, and was reincarnated as Ursula 

2. How did you get started in burlesque?

Before I moved here, I had already been looking at the scene and within a couple of months of moving, I went to a meet-up and met some amazing ladies! You (Katherine Lashe), Talloolah Love, Sadie guys made me feel so welcome! It was nice to have an outlet for my love for the theater.

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?

Hrm....I think it was the first time I performed at the Texas Burlesque was so awesome to have friends drive in to see me and be in my home state as a real performer. 

4. What is your favorite act to perform?

I think it is my Star Trek one just for the sheer joy of hearing the audience....they love the costume and the stoic face....and the Trekkies are awesome about it! 

5. What is your burlesque dream show?

OH MY STARS!!!  It would have everyone! Michelle L'Amour, Dirty Martini, Trixie and Monkey, Jo Boobs, Indigo Blue, The Jigglewatts, Ruby Revue, Perle many more that I can't list here. And of course Satan's Angel would be there, and I would choreograph the largest strip tease that included EVERYONE in the Atlanta/Athens scene!!!

6. Where do you see your self in the next five years?

Hopefully still running The Atlanta School of Burlesque and producing shows regularly. I would also love to perform in Europe. 

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.

I actually have an art degree, and love to paint & draw. Currently, I sometimes design handwritten fonts. I am also getting into doing DIY stuff in my house. A pallet-wood headboard is in my near future!

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque?

Other than sex? (HA!)I think I am good with people.... 

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian?
As a performer, I look forward to some collaborations that I have in the works. As a civilian, I look forward to taking up yoga again and working on my house.

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch? 

I could watch Lola LeSoleil all day! She's always interesting and innovative and so well poised. And all of her numbers are completely different!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recipe Test: Pineapple Angel Food Cake

My Pineapple Angel Food Cake
So I got bored and was on Pinterest again...seriously, this is what I do with my off time because it's so weird to have any I feel like I should be doing something.  So I found this recipe for Pineapple Angel Food Cake  that look ridiculously easy.  It had two ingredients and all you do is dump, mix and place in oven, I could have actually slept through the whole thing and it still would have been lovely.

Their Pineapple Angel Food Cake
I used the Duncan Hines Angel Food Cake Mix
and a 20oz can of the Kroger brand pineapple tidbits in juice.  Honestly, I followed all the instructions which is what went wrong.  The recipe said to follow the cook time on the box (approx 30-40 minutes).  The box of Duncan Hines said 38-48 minutes so I did 38 minutes.  It was a lie.  As you can see from my cake there is a dark almost, but not quite, burnt layer on the top of the cake.  Other than that, the cake was great.  I had totally forgotten that Angel Food Cake is basically the cotton candy of cakes because it had been so long since I had any.  Next time, will definitely just do the 30 minutes and then check on it.  I am not sure if it's just because my oven sucks or because I didn't put it in a bundt pan because my 9x13 has a lid which makes me happy.

Good things: this was super easy to make and pretty tasty after I scrapped off the almost burned part.  Also, it says you can use low calorie cherry, blueberry, or lemon canned pie filling instead of pineapple so it's pretty versatile.  The ingredients are cheap and it makes like 12 servings so it's great for a budget.

Bad things: The box lies...don't listen to it if it says 38-48 minutes.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Recipe Test: Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

I made these!
Sometimes I get bored and poke around on Pinterest and stare at recipes that I will probably never make.  However, lately, I have been actually trying more and more of these recipes that I have found.  The other day I made Bacon Cinnamon Rolls.  Yup, you heard me correctly.  I mixed the eewy gooey-ness of delicious cinnamon rolls covered in delicious melty icing with the duct tape of food that is bacon.  We all know that bacon makes everything better, right?

So I bought the generic Kroger brand cinnamon rolls rather than the Pillsbury Grands! that the recipe calls for.  I lucked out because the reason it calls for Grands! is because many of the prepackaged cinnamon rolls no longer actually unroll, they're a lie, and instead are cinnamon biscuits that you cover in icing.  Luckily, the Kroger brand isn't a lie so I was actually able to unroll them and shove in the bacon.

I may have over done it a bit with the bacon.  I totally didn't follow the directions and cook it first before rolling one piece in each roll.  Rather than roll one piece of bacon in the center of each cinnamon roll I did two pieces that went from end to end.  The issue was that it meant the rolls didn't have dough to seal itself with on the outside and made them want to fall apart rather than stay tightly rolled.  Also, the bacon didn't get as cooked as I wanted.  These are things that happen when you don't follow the recipe!

The pictures to the right are the ones from the website.  The one above is what I made.  I used super thick and delicious Pine Street Market bacon and it may have just been too much for those little rolls!

So over all, yum and something I will probably try again, but next time I might follow the directions and if I feel the need to have the extra bacon I'll just crumble some on top!

Monday, July 28, 2014

IRL: Being Depressed is Lame

I know I am depressed.  Surprisingly, that's not the problem.  The problem is that I keep getting told that I am not allowed to be depressed because my life is so awesome which is really unfair.  Way to completely invalidate my feelings, what I am going through, etc... because you don't immediately understand what could possibly be wrong with me or my life.

I have battled with depression for most of my life.  Yes, sometimes it has external triggers, but generally it is something that I cycle through because of chemicals in my brain.  If it's just the chemical cycle I can usually shake it off and power through it by keeping myself busy.  When things are actually wrong on top of one of these cycles it gets really bad.  Telling me I have nothing to be sad about is not helpful.

Why are you stressed out about work, at least you get to do something you love?  

It's true, I do get to do something I love for a living and it is amazing!  I do often get to work on stuff that I am so proud to be a part of and really fuels my soul with awesomeness, but not every job is artistically and creatively fulfilling.  Sometimes I'm working tech for a panel, for a school's meeting, for terribly written shows, etc...  However, as a recent graduate (I finished school this past December) I am trying to get myself more into the job market.  I am a freelance technician which means I have ZERO JOB SECURITY.  My employment is on the whims of others and is only every temporary.  Sometimes these contracts are for one day, one week, one month, etc... but they're going to end.  This means that while I am working on one job I am also having to constantly line-up additional jobs and I can't really say no to any of them because I don't know if there's going to be another one after that and I have to keep all my bills paid and try to stash as much money as possible for the dead times when there is no work.  Which brings me to my next point

Why are you so stressed out about money when you your boyfriend pays your rent?

This one just generally pisses me off.  B pays for our apartment, this is true.  I cover the storage unit that we share which costs around 1/3 of what he pays for where we live.  I also pay for my own health insurance, cell phone bill, car insurance, gas, etc...  you know the general things that one needs to exist.  Oh, did I also mention that I pay almost $1000 a year on property taxes for a house I don't live in 4 hours away?  That I also pay the electric bill for this house each month?  Don't forget the phone bill and the alarm system that I have to keep since the house sits empty on top of buying things for repairs and up keep ON A HOUSE I DON'T LIVE IN.  And somehow I pay for all of this while making an average of $500 a month.  Some months are better than others, but some months there is almost nothing coming in.   B and I have taken turns helping the other out if one of us gets a head, but neither of us completely financially supports the other.  When we first lived together I covered all the rent and he paid for the storage unit so things come around.  Which leaves me to my next point.

You have an awesome boyfriend, how could you possibly be sad?

Your happiness is not based on another human being.  I'm going to say that again, your happiness is not based on another human being.  It doesn't matter how awesome another person is, happiness is internal.  External things can contribute to your over all happiness, but if you are not basically happy it won't magically make you happy.  Depression includes:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches,  cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

These all cause major stress on any relationship; be they friendship, your partner, your co-workers, etc...  Being depressed affects all of the aspects of your life because it is an underlying theme in your existence.  Again, your happiness is not based on another human being, it has to come from within.  If you don't have it no one else is going to give it to you.  Significant others, friends, family, they are all helpful; but they are not your source of happiness.  It is something you have to work on for yourself and you have to work on it every day.  Some days are harder than others to keep it up.  This is normal.  It is a daily struggle to be a functioning member of society if you suffer from depression, especially if all you want to do is hide under a pile of blankets.  

I didn't write this as a "poor me, I'm so sad" post but as a "hey, these are things that happen so please don't invalidate my feelings because you don't get it" post. You may not understand why this happens because it may not happen to you.  If it doesn't happen to you then congratulations, you don't suffer from depression and that's great.  For those of us that do, this is our reality.  This is our daily struggle to keep going and try to make the best of what we have even when we don't feel up to it.  So please, PLEASE, don't tell someone their experience is doesn't matter because they're going through something you don't understand. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014-07-20 Late: A Cowboy Song

I was fortunate enough to be invited to go see The Weird Sister's Theater Project Late: A Cowboy Song's preview last week at Actor's Express.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am friends with Christen Orr, the actor playing Red in this production.

The show is nestled on top of Actor's Express production of The Rocky Horror Show so the setting is very much found space with the elaborate Rocky set wrapped in black and the floor is covered in a painted drop cloth.  It is a very interesting way to make a set being used for such an opposite feel work with only the occasional glossy red marble from Rocky peaking through.  The rest of the set (designed by Lee Maples) seemed very literal as there was talk of being fenced in and the set was comprised mostly of chain link fence.  Though appropriate, I would have liked to have seen something a little deeper.

The script, written by Sarah Ruhl, is a bit jumpy and hard to follow at the beginning of the story.  The opening seemed very forced with trying to establish the central relationship.  I don't know if it was because it was the first showing, the director's choice or how it was written, but the relationship between Mary and Crick did not seem natural.  The scenes were short and the scene changes were as long as the scenes they were between.  The second half the transitions went much quicker and the holiday montage was pretty amusing.  The second half explained many of the choices in the first, I just wish we hadn't had to wait so long for things to become clear.  The script dealt with multiple issues such as abusive relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation and traditional genders roles.  These were a lot of issues to cram into a show that was around an hour and a half long and made dealing with each issue seem weaker than if the author had chosen to pick just one to have as the focus of the story line.

One of the choices I thought was interesting was not having the baby be a doll and was instead portrayed by a blue light.  Once I understood that was the case it was a nice touch, but it did take a minute to realize what was going on due to site lines as it was not always visible from where I was sitting.  In general, I understand that the lighting design (done by Tara O'Neill) was probably difficult for the same reason the set was hard, as it was focused for Rocky, however, there were moments due to the angles of the lights that the audience was blinded by the LEDs used.  I am unsure if this could have been avoided somehow, but it was very distracting during the show.

Over all the acting seemed to match the intention of the script, but some of the directing (which was done by Jaclyn Hoffman) felt like very obvious first choices and I think it could have been pushed further and emotionally deeper.  Crick, played by Jacob York, was the emotionally abusive husband with homophobic tendencies, who went between nice guy to possessive, needy and jealous.  It was not an easy role and I think York did a pretty good job with what he had to work with, however his nice guy was much more believable than his villain.  After seeing his amazing performance in 7 Stages 2013 production of Topher Payne's Angry Fags, I know he has a lot more to bring to the table if he had been pushed in the right direction.

Mary, played by Kelly Criss, was a very complex character with the internal struggle between her childhood love, her intersex child and confusion as to her sexual orientation.  The underlying emotional struggle was there in many of her scenes, but again some of the directing choices seemed to actually be holding her back.  I really felt she had a lot more to give to the role.

Red, played by Christen Orr, was the stereotypical lesbian cowboy playing guitar and wearing chaps.  As someone who grew up around horses I felt that the chaps were unnecessary in inappropriate in the non-horse scenes, but that may have been due to time constraints for costume changes to work.  Some of the highlights were when Orr played guitar and sang during some of the scene changes where the songs were funny and complimented the previous scene.  They also gave the audience something to do rather than just sitting in the dark waiting for the many scenes changes to finish.  As the role was written to be stereotypical that is what you get from Orr and it is appropriate, but I would have liked to have seen more layers than the stereotypes that we keep trying to reject in society.

Speaking if highlights, the shadow puppet of the horse, created by Beau Brown, was amazingly well done. The joints were articulated and very much represented an actual horse. I do wish that the actors had also been behind the screen and the scenes with the horse were purely in shadow. With the actors standing in front of the screen interacting with the horse it was sometimes hard to see duty sightlines as the actors bodies were actually blocking their shadows.  Due to this site line issue there was actually a very powerful moment at the end with the shadow of Red, Mary, Blue and the horse that was almost completely lost due to not being able to see all of the shadows.

Overall I wasn't wowed by the preview, but I did see that it had a lot of potential and I hope that during its run it reaches it.  Though nothing can be done about the script, I think that if they can settle out of their roles it can still become a show that the actors can be proud of.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014-06-29 Last Pasties Standing: Motown Showdown

Not long after we moved the Syrens of the South Tease Tuesday shows to Red Light Cafe a second super awesome burlesque show popped up there as well called Last Pasties Standing that is produced by the ever amazing Sadie Hawkins.  Sadie's vision is a ridiculous game show of improv and intrigue!  Each show has a theme which dictates the music that will be used for the acts.

Here's the description from the website:

"Last Pasties Standing is a burlesque game show in which two (8, actually) will enter, one will…. well, nobody will end up wearing much.

This show is all about on-the-spot, creative improvisation and audience response. Eight burlesque-a-teers will take the stage and create spontaneous performances in head-to-head strip-offs to songs selected right as they get on stage. Who does it better? That’s for the audience to judge. Winners will go on to the next round, playoff style. There are additional burlesque-themed games inviting audience and performer participation, as well.

Join us for a night of spur-of-the-moment striptease and silly, sexy fun!

So how this works is that each performer brings 3 costumes (one for each round) and you find out who you're up against and what song you'll be performing to by the luck of the draw.  The audience decides the winner of each pairing and they go on to the next round.  In the case of a tie they become a duet, another tie they become a trio, etc... until at the end of the three rounds there is a winner declared.  The winner gets bragging rights and assorted crappy prizes!

After months of this amazing event happening I finally got to go see the June 29th Motown Showdown.  The show was silly and fun, full of ridiculousness and a a great time.  Watching the performers pull the routines out of thin air along with trying to make their chosen costumes work with their given song was really an amazing show of skill.  The performances sometimes got really weird, you can tell a lot about the performer by what their default improv styles are, but they were always fun to watch even if they were kind of a train wreck because of not being familiar with the song or trying to duet a trio with people you had never even met, let a lone worked with, before.  The winner was Benjamin Elizabeth and she was very excited about her crappy prizes!

The shows are one Sunday a month and a seriously fun time.  I highly recommend going and enjoying yourself immensely.  The next one is on July 20th at Red Light Cafe.  Doors are at 8pm, show at 9pm and it's usually done around 11/11:30ish so you can still get a decent night's sleep before you go to work the next morning.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July Performer Spotlight: Nikki Nuke'm

Photo by Trent Chau Photography
I met Nikki Nuke'm almost a year ago at the open house for The Atlanta School of Burlesque.  She was an amazing teacher, a wonderful person and with Ursula Undress's recommendation I began hiring Nikki for Tease Tuesday shows that evolved into her having a open invitation to perform with Syrens of the South whenever she was available.  She's a great addition to the Atlanta Burlesque community!

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line?  Does it have a special meaning to you?

I came up with Nikki Nuke'm while I was driving in my car coming home.  I was thinking about my persona...whacky, daring, almost cartoonish.  Nuke'm (like Nuke Them!) holds a special place in my heart from my love for the Fallout franchise and all things post-apocalyptic themed.  

2. How did you get started in burlesque?

I was first introduced to burlesque by Ursula Undress, Lola LeSoleil, and Fonda Lingue!  I saw them perform at the South East Mosaic Festival last year and became enthralled with this fabulous art and dance form.  Within a month of moving to Atlanta I was performing in local burlesque shows as a fire eater and snake dancer and before I knew it...I bought my first pasties!

Photo by Lisa Eckman June Tease Tuesday

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?

Honestly it would have to be when I was stripping for the first time and my tearaway pants got stuck in my butt cheeks.  I was SO scared all night that my butt was going to grab hold of those pants and I was going to be so embarrassed.  And it happened.  But it really wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be.  Everyone laughed and cheered anyway and no one died and I relaxed way more with my mistake.  Mission accomplished.

4. What is your favorite act to perform?

I really love eating fire and it's the act I perform the most.  I love the "rise" I get out of the audience!  But honestly...I would have to say my favorite act to perform is anything with my ball python Mordecai.  A lot of people have misconceptions about these gentle creatures and at EVERY SHOW I bring him to, I get to show people just how sweet snakes can be!  Some people who were too scared to be near him will have him around their necks by the end of the night!

Photo by Broken Skulls Productions
5. What is your burlesque dream show?

Oh gosh...I don't really know!  I'm still so fresh to the burlesque scene I haven't even witnessed a fraction of the possibilities!!  I guess...I would be tickled pink if I could see an all "legends" show...I have a love for classics and to see women who ruled the stages then, take those stages yet again, would be really amazing to me.

6. Where do you see your self in the next five years?

TAKING OVER THE WORLD!  But no seriously, I see myself getting more involved and more brave and going on tour--with fire, snakes, swords, canes, and more!  And of course...making more and more sparkly costumes for people I adore!

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.

Outside of burlesque, belly dancing is actually my main source of income.  But I could talk about dancing all day!  My actual hobbies include:  swimming (recreational and dance, of course), exercise and weight lifting, video games, and drawing.

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque?

I'm a pretty great swimmer, not gonna lie.  Not just swimming laps I mean, but modeling underwater, inversions, free diving, coaching, etc.

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian?

As a burlesque performer, I am most looking forward to learning!  There is so much history and knowledge for me to access that I can barely contain myself.  It's like entering a huge cave system--but instead of stalactites, it's tassles!  As a civilian, I love how many shows there are in the area that are so easy for me to access.  As someone who performs constantly for a living, it's very refreshing to have so many options to just put on a nice dress and grab a cocktail and see a show.  

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch?

Photo by Trent Chau Photography

That's a tough one...there are so many I love to watch!  But I'll go ahead and choose the latest celebrity performer I saw--Franki Markstone.  Her muscular isolations, her smile, her costumes... everything!  She's funny and has a great stage presence.  And she's super sweet to boot!  She's definitely someone I look up to now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sometimes it's more than a paycheck

Mass Transit Muse
Photo by Stungun Photography
Every once in a while people get to do a job that they actually love, I am one of those lucky people.  This season has been filled with amazing shows that I have gotten to work on that are not only a paying gig, but artistically inspiring and fulfilling.

I started the 2013-14 7 Stages Season helping bring Mass Transit Muse to the Beltline, to Elevate as the first performance ever allowed on MARTA and then to the stage as a full production in May towards the end of the season.  This was a show that I accidentally stumbled into back in January of 2013 during its Homebrew workshop and became part of the MTM family and it was a wonderful experience.  To work on it from the beginning and see it go from the book based on Michael Molina's spoken word to the 30 minute pieces we did for the Beltline, to a moving piece using space and travel in addition to staging on the Marta to the stage with full lights and cast.  It totally didn't hurt that a critic actually complimented my lighting, calling it "moody and effective" which almost never happens.  Usually if tech is in a review it means something has gone terribly wrong and we're being called out (they did say they wished it was a but brighter) rather than complimented.  So yeah, that was pretty exciting!

Krampus Presents: The Tragical Death of Faust
Photo by Stungun Photography
The not quite so long term yet also long term project I got to do was Krampus: The Tragical Death of Faust in December.  Though each year is a different story the basic premise is the same, a celebration of Christmas with things that are not normally the highlights of the holiday season.  The disfunctionality of God and his abandonment of his son, Jesus.  Satan trying to make it as a single dad with his daughter, the antichrist.  The age old story of trying to sell your soul and how if you do it around the holidays you may be interrupting holiday plans for the underworld so you might not get what you bargained know, the normal holiday stuff.  With the video sections being filmed in advance we actually started in November to get everything up and running as much as possible for December.  We turned the lobby of 7 Stages into a crappy mall to go along with the actual mall shots of Satan (yes, in full make-up) taking Damien to go see Santa.  I assure you that they were not ready for Rob to be walking around the mall in full make-up and horns, but the footage was priceless (especially in the food court).

Dracula: The Rock Opera CD Release
Photo by Stungun Photography
January was my month off as I had just graduated school (with High Honors during all of these shows no less) and it's that ambiguous dead month in the theater as everyone disappeared for the holidays and it takes a minute for everything to get back up and running.  February we came back for the Dracula: The Rock Opera CD Release.  If you've ever read my blog before you may remember that I actually attempted to document what it's like to do one of these in my Dracula Diary.  People are always asking what it is exactly that I do and this gave a decent brief summary of what my life is like during these shows.  Fourteen hour days, lighting design, stage managing and in this particular case, video editing.  It was a fun reunion of most of the cast and crew that worked on the full show two years ago.  We decorated the lobby with their costumes, we sang, we told stories and generally had a blast getting to hang out again.  It's one of those shows that I will never get sick of because the cast and crew are so awesome!

Secret History of Love
After getting through Dracula and Mass Transit Muse I got to do some smaller fun things for the theater.  I was Master Electrician for the Sean Dorsey Dance Company touring show Secret History of Love which was just beautifully done and came with an amazing free workshop!  Seriously, just dancing and having a great time with everyone was awesome.  It was so inspiring to just have that much fun with movement again.  Sometimes you just need to have a break, take a step back and reconnect with the basics.   I also ran the tech for an amazing reading for Mommer 'n' Diddy What Live Next Door by C.W. Thornton, which had me laughing in the booth so hard I was afraid I was going to miss my cues.  However, part of being at 7 Stages is the element of activism and I ran tech for The REAL State of the Union by Georgia WAND and A Conversation with Chairman John Eaves which discussed the funding and budgets for the arts community in Fulton County. Though not necessarily as fun and creative as the other jobs this season,  the meeting with Chairman Eaves may have been the most important event  I worked all year.  This meeting has inspired multiple artists to go and speak at the budget meetings and have their voices heard to show why the arts are important to the community.

That was my second season with 7 Stages.  I've gotten to do more shows thanks to being at 7 Stages such as The Atlanta Fringe Festival and Exposed: Humanity in Motion which I just finished, but those were separate amazing opportunities that I'll go into later in another post.  My season at 7 Stages, just what I did directly for 7 Stages, was amazing.  So when people ask me why I choose to hang around 7 Stages and keep working and sometimes volunteering my time there, this is why.  These amazing shows, these amazing people I get to work with and these amazing events I get to help create and put out into the world because sometimes it's more than a paycheck, it's what I need to feed my soul.