Get Show Ready With Gracie

Now, I’ve had a few showgirls ask me what my pre-show regime entails. Well, to really explore this, we have to start at the beginning.

One month before the show:  This is usually when I get booked. So, with nearly 30 days to prep, I think to myself how lucky I am to have so much valuable time. Usually at this point I have pitched a song for the act in question. So, I listen to it on repeat, until I feel like if I hear it one more time, my ears will start bleeding. And I think: What would Gracie Do? Then I come up with a story arch for the song. And plant some joke seeds.

Two weeks and 3 days before the show: I write up my Iva Handful inspired musical spreadsheet. It details all the musical hits, when they happen, what the lyric is, and what I expect to happen. Don’t be fooled- this is tedious work. It takes a lot of listening for flute solos and drum hits; being in touch with how the song naturally makes you move. But it pays off when you step away and actually start working it. A strong foundation is very important when you’re building your dream act.

Two weeks before the show: My costume is designed. Notice the italics. This means that I’ve picked the pieces. And made a list of those missing elements & necessary embellishments. Then I spend 2 days straight stitching, pasting and forcing all these parts into a cohesive costume. Then my Hubby gives me a lecture about how all the crafting items don’t need to be strewn across all the flat surfaces in our condo. I sigh, cuz I’ve heard it all before; put my headphones into my ears, and listen to that song again…and again as I clean and tidy. While I’m focused on the swiffer and wiping the mirror, I imagine my costume coming apart just right. **NOTE: This step has to happen a lot sooner for Showgirls relying on the kindness of strangers to build their costume. Luckily, I am a crafty little dancer.

One week before the show: Everything is ready, except me. I have run my act according to my spreadsheet. Now, I mod it. Of course, there are moments that just don’t work. Writing something down in Excel and executing it in real life are two very different things. The confines of time and space are the natural enemy of the dream act, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your goal another way. Modifications are a showgirls’ BFF. And I still have time to rejig all those moments to fit. This is also when costume flaws are fixed. The music I’d started hating has become my theme song. And I find myself running choreo at the bus stop and giggling when I realize another joke I planted has grown strong.

Two days before the show: I decide that this is the worst concept I’ve ever come up with. That nobody is going to understand it, let alone like it. I hate everything about it.

The day before the show: I wake up early stretch and figure that yesterday I was wrong about everything and that I couldn’t be that bad, and even if everything goes horribly, horribly awry, I’m Gracie Klutz…and that’s kinda my thang. I give everything a once over. This is my last chance to get that shit tight. I make sure every stone is stuck. Every seam is sewn. And then I run it 4 more times -in show shoes-, before packing my showgirl bag- with checklist- in costume chronological order. ( Meaning from bottom layer up: ie: panties & pasties, stockings, bra..etc)

SHOW DAY: I pretend that my tummy is upset cuz I drank too much coffee. I pace and mark it in my mind. I tear my showgirl bag apart and  re-pack it. Then double check it again. Again. I leave early for the venue cuz you can’t rely on TTC to be timely. I arrive way too early. Run tech. Then I wait. There’s this long time between getting there and going on, so I pretend to be totally fine as I pace backstage. And I wait some more.

Performer Before Me: I hear the audience and think I can’t match that reaction. And forget how to breathe for a minute.

During My Intro: I stand in the wings. Straightening myself again and again. I hear my name. The host runs past me and I am alone and dizzy.

My Music Starts: Then I lose myself for 3 mins. I make myself laugh. I move through my dream act. With those movements and emotions I’ve planned. And maybe a few I didn’t.

The Music Ends: Then it’s over until next time. Unless you count working the crowd as part of your act, but I like it too much to think of it as work.

Rinse, Repeat to FADE or Infinity: I plan, pitch and proceed with my next act.

So, that’s how I do it. Did that help anyone, besides me and my OCD Showgirl brain? I sure hope so, cuz that was the plan. And I like to execute my plans. So, consider this plan on death row. And see you Feb 5th @ The Rivoli- Toronto*

*Side note: Throughout this entire process, I am promoting my show on all my social media- like a good little showgirl. Cuz what’s a show without an audience?

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Tick Tock Time

Rush. Rush. Rush. Busy is the new good, and all that. And that, is terrible. Can you remember when you didn’t feel constantly pressured by ever looming- seemingly- life or death deadlines? When the time allotted to a project was uninterrupted by the tinkling alerts of a smartphone? When you were focused on the task at hand? Yeah, me neither. It’s as though being busy has replaced being productive. But who am I to complain? I am a busy-body*. I am a work horse. I have a hard time saying No, and I tend to stretch myself thin; in all the wrong places.

Gracie finds herself circled by stacks of acts.

Gracie finds herself circled by stacks of acts.

On a (nearly) daily basis, my Hubby vocalizes how my time management skills affect our lives. Specifically our living space. There are piles of ongoing projects on every flat surface. The sad stacks of half-cocked ideas and nearly done nonsense, litter our tiny Toronto condo. Unlike many of my burlesque colleagues, who have a dedicated space to tuck their wares away; my open concept living quarters display my disaster for all to see. Now, I could blame this on architectural inadequacies, but honestly, if I didn’t have a to-do pile, nothing would ever get done. I am naturally drawn to disarray. It is a nature/nurture flaw/foible that I acquired from my ever lovin’ Momma. She too is a busy-body*. The house of my youth was stacked with all the diverse distractions she loved/loves doing. Then once a month, when those oh so special hormones would kick-in, she would hit the roof and callously cleanse the house…And by that I mean, fill the junk drawers and hide the evidence. I too have this monthly habit, although I don’t have a junk drawer, I have a serious collection of over-stuffed Ikea organizational elements. So, those projects remain. Stacked. Taunting me.

I submit this blog into evidence as exhibit XXX. I get pleasure from writing it. I receive pleasure from those reading it. But I often find myself with hands full, unable to type or afford a typist. So the ideas sit, stagnant in a doodle diary; until their interest for me expires or the topics become outdated. The time for action has disappeared but the pile remains and I am still too busy to finish it. But with what am I filling my time? My over active imagination has had me convinced that my piles could animate themselves. Becoming paper monsters that haunt me. And I’m scared. So, what does one do when they don’t have enough time to be so busy? Well, my little lambs, that is a question for the interweb at large. So, if anyone has a meme that clarifies life, I’d love to see it- especially if there’s a baby animal involved.

*Busy-body in this context meaning a hustler, a go-getter, a do-gooder and just an all around fun-time-seeker & joiner

This Is Not A Drill

Last night my fire alarm went off. Not in the, “I was busy over baking chicken fingers” kinda way, more of a “The Toronto fire services have discovered a fire on level P3” fashion. So, Hubby, forced me out from under my sewing machine and into the cold dark night, with dog baby in tow. (We left the Puss, cuz I think she’d prefer to stay and roast than have to deal with society…I know how she feels) So, we took to the stairs with our neighbours, who are also strangers. I hrumphed the whole time, wearing two sets of gloves. We stood outside watching the firemen, who know it’s a faulty alarm in a new building, mill around, until someone turns off the alarm. I was day dreaming about how beautiful and dangerous fire is, and what it would look like dancing. When suddenly it dawned on me: I hadn’t grabbed anything. My house is on hypothetical fire and I was more upset to lose the time working on my costume. I seriously didn’t grab anything but my keys. Keys to a house that is potentially on fire. I guess the point of this antidote is that when the mythical fire was burning my condo to the ground, it was all just stuff. And if I’m really honest, I could use the insurance money.

But all was safe and sound. I am blogging from underneath the sewing machine again. And I am on fire.

She’s Freaking Out

By she, I mean me. I am seriously starting to freak out. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. It happens, I’m aware of it, but that doesn’t make dealing with it any easier. One would think that with my track record for overwhelming myself I would be used to dealing with my head below water. I’m not. And I am starting to pay for it. It’s started effecting my dreams. I’m not talking about my big picture dreams here either; the way figuring out a new talent effects your lifetime dreams. I’m talking about when I am asleep, my dreams are about all those things I’ve promised people I would do. And those dreams are starting to look a lot more like nightmares.

As we know I have been launched into Burlesque with little regard for a countdown or a plan of attack or any preparation really. I found this thing that combined all my knick-knack knowledge and submerged myself in it. I jumped in with both feet, and I did it gladly. I was so excited to find something that I can call my own. Something that welcomes and encourages all the little quirks that make up this neurotic and creative beast I call Gracie. Don’t get me wrong, I love being Gracie, she’s my favourite me. (I’ve said that a billion times) The problem that’s keeping me working through the night is the level of expectation, I expect from myself. There in lies the rub.

Gracie gets to pretend it’s effortless. That all the hours of work and rehearsal don’t even exist. That somehow she just does, what she does naturally. Now, if I am honest, I know that can be true. I am naturally crafty. I like figuring out how to fabricate solutions to creative problems. I love the feeling I get from a job well done. I like almost all the aspects of burlesque. I am naturally musical. I learn songs by their emotional arc as well as rhythmic hits. I love performing, which after 13 years of practise now seems to come naturally. The real, honest to goodness problem is the timing. I mean, I like to sit in something. To marinate in a song and storyboard all those secret and unexpected moments. I want to write a 3 minute movie for all those lucky audience members. I can’t do that with less than a month of lead in time. And the work suffers, disappointing me. It effects my creative spirit and my sleep pattern. So, after the mad dash that is December, I have a much-needed respite from performing…at least performing new acts…at least I think I do. Though knowing Burlesque, I’ll probably book gigs in those quiet months… but at least I’ll have time to sleep on that.

The Plan: ROCKtober!

Smug GracieWell, well, well, October my old friend we meet again. Can I just tell you how much I love October! Love it. The air has a gentle nip, the apples have a crisp and the best of all, it’s my birthday and Halloween. Amazing. But enough about Rocktober, here’s the real deal. When I started this little foray into the burly-world, I told myself that I would be ready to perform in October. It seemed ideal for my Burl-launch, just far enough away that I would be able to prepare myself: Emotionally, physically, burlesque-ly. That was my plan in May, I was planning for October. Well, we all know things didn’t go down like that.  My plan took on a life of its own and had me performing in August. And that, ladies and gents is today’s lesson. Sometimes the best laid plans are just that, plans.

A plan is a super great tool for motivation. It can keep you on track, marking your progress as you work towards your goal. Now, I always recommend starting any new endeavour with at least some semblance of a plan. The bare bones of an idea give shape to an otherwise erratic and lifeless, well, for lack of a better word, performance skin.  At least by having those bones in place, you can rattle them as you go. (Ew, that was the worst metaphor. But I think you know what I mean, despite my attempt at spooky literary devices) The plan is what keeps you on track, the action is what gets you there. But it’s your ability to use your funny bone that will really keep that skeleton dancing. It’s easy to be blown off course by a pirate wind; hijacking your motivation, passion and even pleasure. It’s common to be distracted and disconnected from a task half-way through…Thank you smart-phones. Also, I’ve found that if you give yourself too much time you’ll never be ready. But if you have a plan, there is always something to fall back on.

Now, what I don’t know about life could fill the encyclopedia Britannica from Dumbass through Nincompoop, but what I do know is that most of the time, the important part is just doing something. All too often people give themselves permission to fail, simply by not trying. And regret is a tough thing to fix later. But by having a plan, you have made a promise to complete the task at hand. It doesn’t matter if the plan is to clean out your storage unit or sequin a matching set of under garments. It is the plan that begins, the action that motivates and the ability to roll over, around or through obstacles as they arise that will have you reaching higher heights. In my case, I’m revving up to break neck speed and holding on tight to my weapon of choice: a glue gun. So, as October officially launched yesterday, I wanted to congratulate myself for having a plan, setting it in motion and achieving (in record time) the goal of getting myself out there. I also wanted to inspire others to create their skeleton plan, if nothing else, it’ll make a great Halloween costume.

The Craftey Burly Girl

Now, I have been a crafter fo’my whole life. I can decipher any crafting quandary. I rely on my resources and resourcefulness to overcome every crafty obstacle. This is a helpful trait for a burlesque lady who is also hindered by budget- ie: yours truly. I don’t want quality to suffer just because I can’t afford it. So, I have honed my craftiness to serve my needs to keep up appearances. You know, as any power hungry dark-lord might.

So, as I’m running around trying to gather the bits and bobs I have left to complete my Babes in Space (Aug 25&29) kittening costume, my spooky Halloween number, my winter wonderland number, festival applications, personal branding and all on the budget of an unemployed actress. I’m lucky my craft drawer recently had babies and that most of my craft-drawer stuff suits my needs…and I need them to go the distance.

As a resourceful crafterpreneur, it gives me a sense of pleasure that I can think logically, fiscally and responsibly- while still plotting Burl-domination.  Burlesque can be hectic. It can be expensive. It can be a pain in your act. But for me it’s worth the reward. At least I think it is… So, as I head back in to my crafternoon resort, I think the force is strong with me. I mean I force the force to be strong with me. That could happen right?

Klutz: Vintage Style

There is something inexplicable about vintage. The way it feels, almost like it chose you. The way it smells, the special way it lays. It’s impossible to decide if it’s because the garment has been loved by another. Love by someone who must’ve loved it as much as I do if it’s still in such great condition. Maybe it’s the fact that these classics feel like they’re alive with memories. Or is it that they may be the last piece like it left anywhere in the world. Well, no matter the reason I will always love clothes that are older than I am.

Just by walking through the door of a vintage shop, I am transported. I find myself drifting back to the heyday of glamour and prestige. It seems like I can remember evening gowns at the theatre and crystal droplets dangling from Motown crooners. When I find a piece I love, it makes me feel as if I can travel back to those times. And if those dresses, gowns or slack suits can look great at their age and it’s way over 50; then I can too.

Vintage as applied to burlesque, well that’s tricky. The delicate fabrics and unique finishings can challenge even the most accomplished vintage enthusiast. While performing in vintage, there is little room for error. Co-ordination and accuracy become the only thing between your reveal and an unplanned seam split. The act of bejewelling becomes a delicate game of plan and scheme. Exhausting every idea before finally attempting one. Always test your planned moves to ensure the fabric’s malleability, or lack there of. And be prepared to reinforce or release seams. But the extra effort is worth it. By investing in a special vintage piece I force myself to be meticulous and measured; 2 traits Gracie should get used to. And I would like to use my garment enthusiasm to my ad-vintage.*insert Fri-Yay eye roll.