Preparing to Face the Fear

Burlesque, like any live performance art, has the potential to go stunningly well, and also, horribly awry on stage. It also has a darkside that can accompany any creative medium, such as crippling self-doubt, creative block, and isolation in varying degrees. The dark side is a subject I will touch on later in my blog. At the lighter end, it is often referred to as the “Creative Process” by some of us. However today, I want to talk about preparing to overcome our fears on stage.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and it is no less true in burlesque. To help one prepare, I use lists. Lists are great. You get to check stuff off and it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. So, here’s a list of lists that may help:

The “Act” List
Have you got an act? I know this seems obvious but hey, you never know. Do you have an act with music, costuming and choreography. Yes? Good Check it off and move on!

The “Shit That Could Go Wrong” List
I suggest to my students that they write a “Fear List”. This is a list of all the thing that could possible go wrong in their routine. Common items are “Costume won’t come off”, “Costume comes off too soon”, “I forget my choreography”, “I trip and fall”, “Nobody laughs”, “Somebody laughs”, so on and so forth. By writing down what could go possible go wrong, you can then plan on how you are going to respond if it does actually eventuate. For example “ I trip and fall” is dealt with by extending the leg, lifting the chest up, give them a smile and wink. “I forget my choreography” is often solved with a burlesque walk and a shimmy. And if all else fails and everything fails… own it. Make it the best worse performance ever!

The “Yay I Got Booked” List
Promo info – Have you sent your picture and bio to the producers?
Tech – Have you sent your music, lighting requirements, stage set up requirements and cues to the producer?
Do you know what the stage space is like? You may want to rehearse in a similar space. On that note….Have you rehearsed?

The “Show Preparation” List
Costume – Have you checked your costume and made sure ALL the bits for it are there and completed any repairs needed? Is it packed together? Have you packed your shoes and accessories too? Does this include any props?
Beautification – Do you need to do your nails? Have your hair set? Buy more makeup? Don’t forget your pastie adhesive!
Last minute supplies – Is there a consumable you need for your act? Did you pick up spares? If it’s donuts, always take spares, because no doubt someone will eat it backstage if left unattended.

The “Clean Up” List
Yay! You’ve finished your performance. Have the Kittens returned everything to you? Is it all accounted for as you pack up? Did you remember to pack your props in to your car? Do one more check and stock take of your things before you leave the venue (and before you leave for the gig too). This is commonly known as the “dumb ass” check.

The “Follow Up” List
Have you unpacked and cleaned your costume? Any repairs that might need to be made? What about your act, did it go okay? Was there something you needed to adjust, change or ditch completely as it just wasn’t working on stage? This is your time to take any constructive feedback you may have received, critically analyse your act (don’t forget to be forgiving as well) and using that information to improve your act further. Act development is a process and sometimes it takes a few times on the stage to work out what you need to do better. The key here is to be objective. And whatever you do, don’t start picking at it until well after the show….. definitely do not do it on the night. Lastly, look at what you did well and celebrate those successes as well.

Fear is often about the unknown, of not knowing what is the outcome. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Some people thrive on fear, using it to drive them and getting a thrill off it. Some do not. All should be prepared to face the fear. By thinking about what could go wrong and how you are going to react if it does occur, you are removing an element of the unknown and it becomes less scary; And make like the Girl Guides/Boy Scouts and Always be Prepared!