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Burlesque is a sensibility I’ve decided. You can burlesque your performance, you can burlesque your style of dress and in the case of film, you can burlesque the locations, the lighting and the editing technique.
This is the first film I’ve ever produced. I chose the abandoned LA Zoo morose (the animals lived in these horribly small concrete cages at one point!), hidden yet exposed. The natural lighting in late day was just soft and partially concealing and fellow actor Jason Paul Field (The Kill Corporation) directed and ran our single Mark 5 camera. My performance was decidedly taunting and dangerous, yet playful. And I edited the film myself, offering just a little more information in each clip while giving nothing away - building up to just one brief moment of reveal: my fire tassels danger art. Everything about this project was done with burlesque sensibilities.
I hope you appreciate my first film production effort – I put a lot of my taste and skill into it and am absolutely pleased. Inspired to create more! Heck my city apartment is too small for me to be building the next bigger act anymore – there’s a prop bathtub, drum kit and dance pole in my living room alone – so perhaps the next creative outlet for me will be in this digital medium.
Originally published in Pyragraph Magazine
At a certain point in my performance career, I became obsessed with paying tribute to my idols. My first official tribute act was this Bathtub Burlesque in honor of Lili Sy Cyr’s famous clear bathtub act of the 1940s. This year I’ve recreated Gypsy Rose Lee’s famous poetry act from her performance in The Stage Door Canteen film in 1943. I knew when legend, Shirley Temple, passed away this spring I would be owing her tribute for being the reason I dance at all. I was 4 when I started tap dancing because of her on-camera performances. I’ve idolized her since I was a child.
My Shirley Temple tribute act was to be performed to her actual Good Ship Lollipop recording, include actual tap dance, with burlesque sensibilities and of course: feature giant lollipops!
Now, I’ve performed at Madison Square Garden, on NBC, ABC, CBS and in blockbuster films. But what I just adore about burlesque, though the venues may not be as glamorous, I get to use my creativity fully from top to bottom. I design my own acts, my own costumes, my own props – everything is according to my vision. And when I perform the finished act, it is not corporate, but human. Here’s how I exercised my humanity and creativity to build the giant lollipops used in my Shirley Temple tribute act:
The guys at the local OSH here in Los Angeles, really got a kick out of my non-traditional fabricating and visits to their store three times per day for a little more of this or a little more of that. Each lollipop has four 10′ insulated foam tubes, hot glued in a coil with one another. The hot glue WILL MELT the tubing, so there is a quickness and finesse you wanna use when putting them together. It would help to have an extra hand to hold the shapes in place as the hot glue cooled, but I did it by myself.
When the tubing is all together, paint a base coat with WATER BASED paint. Oil base will dissolve the foam tubing, so use nothing labeled as enamel (oil base). You can use a brush or spray paint either. Allow time for each coat to THOROUGHLY DRY or you’ll regret it in the finished product.
Paint color on your coils with water based paint. This is about three coats here. Again, make sure each coat dries thoroughly because foam is not the best surface and the thicker the paint gets, the more likely it is to chip off the final prop. You do not need to complicate that action with a slightly sticky paint job.
I sprayed a glossy clear coat on the coils then and while wet, sprinkled iridescent glitter into the paint. You can’t see the glitter too well here, but there’s a lot of it and on stage, the lights really catch it.
I visited the local fabric store to grab many, many yards of cotton chord. Hot glue the chord between the coils to give this two-toned lollipop look. Remember to use quickness and finesse with the hot glue – it will melt that foam still.
Now, how does it stand up? I need my lollipops to disassemble for transport and multiple stage uses, so this is how I built the supports: I painted three 9′ wood dowels black and insert them into metal umbrella stands like this one:
To attach the dowels securely, but gently to the lollipop heads, I hot glued two water pipe joints to paperboard and then hot glued the paperboard to the lollipops. This is the most fragile part, so I try to be gentle with them when assembling and disassembling and even in transport. I’m gonna use these a lot and don’t want to be making repairs often. The piping is 1.5″ and as you can see, the cross piece is narrower in the middle, basically providing a stop which keeps the dowel from going all the way through.
And that’s I made giant lollipops for my Shirley Temple burlesque tribute act! See them in action below!
Brion Verkler contacted me on G+ requesting permission to paint from a photo which originally was published in Vertical Magazine, Issue 7. How respectful to request permission! People, learn from this man. OF COURSE I wanted to see his work and I in turn requested little teasers of his process. He doesn’t know how my artistic heart swoons over the process and the production. To my delight and surprise, he shared bit by bit before releasing the masterpiece. Each step was stunning in technique and taste, as you’ll see below. And the final, I feel, is truly more alive than the original photo (below). A human painting a human can only add to the humanity of the outcome, I say. Check out Brion Verkler‘s other work and share with him your support.
The eyelashes, the lumbar muscles, the blues and greens of the skirt punctuating the background.
At the bottom of a cold cup of tea. My needs collect in an attractive, golden syrup. I wasn’t aware – until the end – how sweet. The finish is so, so sweet.
Sipping across steaming luxury. I know I’m alive if it stings. At the start, I couldn’t get enough. I burnt my tongue. It was worth it. But really; I couldn’t taste anything.
In between I get some honey. In between I get some heat. But temperance and duration are foes to passion. I’m not looking for the perfect cup of tea.
I want it sweet or I want it to sting.
Greg Autry shot these stunning photos of my cruelty-free Peekaboo Feather Fan Burlesque solo at Trapeze 7/12/14. Stunning.