Monday, September 22, 2014

PA Burlesque Festival and 24 hours in NYC

Road tripping, my first crossing over the Canadian/ US border, my first sighting of Niagra Falls, two nights of performing in a beautiful theatre for a rowdy crowd including five Aussies, an excellent workshop, a burlesque legend, an endless search for food and lovely, funny, genuine new friends.
Not a bad weekend then.

PA Burlesque Festival!
I often say that it's the community spirit that I enjoy most about Festivals, the performers I meet who blow me away with their creativity, demanding my unwavering attention, providing beauty, comedy and a unique interpretation to the paths we travel.

Two weeks into my move to Canada, I was stressing about transport to Pennsylvania. Bus or train would take hours, flying was impossibly expensive, when Madame Corsetiere informed me that Toronto local, Lucky Minx was driving to the Festival.
This turned out to be serendipitous for both of us as although shorter than the bus, it's still a long drive so Lucky knew that if she needed a rest I could take the wheel. I kept my concerns to myself, I'm not sure that I'd remember to stick to the right side of the road.
Happily Lucky didn't flag and we remained alert by sharing our life stories, to the amusement of Zeno, an Austrian, who was coming along for the ride.

James and the Giant Pasty was with us to cross the border, it sounds like the start of a bad joke or a border scam, an American, a Canadian, an Australian and an Austrian try to cross the border... Nevertheless we made it across with nary more than a short wait and a passport stamp.

The Mauch Chunk Opera House
Jim Thorpe has the facade of a charming tourist town, the buildings are beautiful, the locals are friendly but the prices are steep and the service in some of the shops lacked finesse but the town came out in force to support the Festival.
Medianoche's face was in every shopfront and the locals gave you a friendly nod when they saw the head scarves and pin curls.

Lucky and I arrived too late for our tech but had a quick walk of the stage which was large and grippy. We unloaded into Mary's guesthouse which was right across the street from the venue and met our third room mate, the very funny, very blonde, Ula Uberbusen from NYC.

Posing with Ula and Lucky on Saturday night

Lucky took a nap and I took to the streets, I say streets but Jim Thorpe is really just a main street which loops into High st both ending at the main road out of Jim Thorpe.
I first headed out across the bridge to the new part of Jim Thorpe where a supermarket had every bread and pastry conceivable except for a fresh bread stick or crossiant. 
I ended up purchasing a box of very small crossiants with ham and a couple of gluten free artisan bread sticks from the freezer.
I also needed a basket but was loathe to purchase something new, I tried a few shops and finished at Dreisbach House, a gorgeous house, the bottom floor devoted to vintage clothing, hats and knick knacks.
The owner Lisa who was sitting behind the counter surrounded by her beautiful hats ferreted out the basket for me and loaned it for the evening.

If I could fit that box in my luggage...

The front counter at Dreisbach House
So many hats!
Friday's show featured neo and comic acts and a smattering of classic.
Backstage after I finished getting ready I watched as Sizzle Dizzle transformed from fresh faced and youthful to a 70 something hilbilly grandma with a skunk fur.

Sizzle Dizzle and her skunk

Madame Corsetiere leads the way to Stella's on Friday night
Lucky and I called it an early night and left the after party dinner at Tony Stella's for bed, I was so exhausted that I dropped off quickly and woke up early the next morning ready for a coffee and to see the town's sites.
Lucky and I left Ula dozing in bed and went for a morning walk around the town. A local recommended we walk up to the High street street where we found pickles and gorgeous views of the town.

All about pickles

American flags dominate on High street

Attention to detail and bright colours

The church now houses an art gallery

Further up the main street we hit the fire house
Contrary to Australian Festivals, many US Festivals feature a Queens style competition. PA Burlesque Festival was no different and Saturday night was devoted to the Crystal Corset award.

Magdalena Fox backstage in her Dr Seuss costume

gratuitous selfie
The audience was packed and included some Aussie's who just happened to be in town. The top three acts were all classic numbers, the winner Poison Ivory was gorgeous in purple backstage, I didn't see her perform as we were both in the first set but heard great things, Nina La Valois who drove up that day threw a lot of backside into her classic and Rosie Cheex was clean and polished in red.

The after party was again at Stella's and after a pointless search for real food during the day (a $10 cos lettuce salad with greasy roast vegetables had made my stomach turn after the first tentative bite) I needed sleep.
On Sunday morning our happy band of room mates disbanded. Lucky hit the road early, making her way to Baltimore to meet James. I had one last coffee, sampled some mango sorbet from Alice's Ice Cream shoppe, made it to Ula's workshop and then joined Sizzle, Rosie Cheeks and Medianoche in Ula's car, back to NYC

Making a pit stop at a WaWa which according to Sizzle is AMAZING

So much jerky.

I blame Sizzle for the purchase, I blame myself for eating more than one.
We had a long drive back to New York City. Ula's stamina amazed me, I was exhausted after the weekend, but she dropped everyone off in the vicinity of their homes or subway stops, checked her emails, prepped hair and make up and then with the prepossessing Perle Noire in tow she packed the car and drove us to a gig in Brooklyn.
The bar was startlingly quiet and being one of only two people there for the show the producers decided to cancel what promised to be a fun show featuring the likes of Ula, Perle, Peekaboo Pointe and Gogo McGregor.
I was super disappointed as I wouldn't be there for Monday's show (the show was scheduled to have a three night run) I don't know if it's scary or reassuring that even in NYC, a city that never sleeps and beckons performers with dreams of endless gigs and patrons, even they can have a quiet night.

Sunset in the East Village

Vinnies pizza on Bedford

PIZZA. Gluten free, freshly made pizza!
We moved the car closer to Bedford and ended up at Vinnies Pizza where Perle proved that you can eat pizza like a lady and respond to advances like a lady- in the car ride from PA to NYC we'd had a fairly serious conversation about cat calls and more threatening advances from men.

We moved on to a cinema, I was flagging but my spirits rose when Ula suggested we see Get On Up which was incredible, moving and enlightening.

I was also the backseat audience to Ula and Perle's impromptu Madonnas lip synch but then so were all the passers by, one guy snuck to the back passenger window to try and ...lip synch video bomb?!

On Monday I was again on the move. I bumped my suitcase off Ula's bannister and rode the subway to 8th and 20th st where I stowed my suitcase at Chelsea International hostel.
I was feeling vitamin deprived so I indulged in a $9 juice from Organic Avenue on 8th avenue rationalised by the  $10 inedible salad in Jim Thorpe.

Overpriced but much needed juice!

fresh flowers at the Union Square farmer's market

I grabbed a gluten free blueberry and lemon muffin from the Union square farmer's market, spent some time shopping at Beacon's Closet on 13th street and Tatyana's on Bowery and picked up some souvenirs from the Strand. My plan was to get a book in anticipation of a 12 hour bus ride to Toronto but reading on vehicles makes me nauseous so I ignored the contemptuous glance that I received from the cashier when I brought magnets and postcards to the counter instead of making a purchase from one of the thousands of books the Strand stocks on their shelves.

Last sights of the City.
I've caught the Megabus from NYC once before in 2008. Back then, it was a single decker that departed from 34th and 8th. Now it leaves from 34th between 11th and 12th ave. I joined a long straggling line of confused people, the sign we were instructed to queue behind stated Philly as the destination and the confusion only grew when people bound for states further South joined but it was all sorted in the end and I snagged a seat at a table on the bottom floor which made me pretty happy.
On route to Megabus

Truck Stop, they all looked the same and housed a variety of chain shops including a Starbucks

We stopped three times at Onroutes, large identical buildings that house Starbucks, Taco Bells (or in Canada, Tim Hortons) the looked exactly the same and I had no idea where we were, we could have done one big loop for all I knew.
My travel companions were friendly although life became awkward when the family sitting across the aisle from me started smacking their very little children for being children. 
If you feed 5 year olds sugar, don't expect them to sit still or sleep, especially if they have nothing to entertain them except watch their parents use their mobile phones.

The second stop a few hours after I heard the news of Robin Williams death. Fly free Peter.
Thank you to Madame Corsetiere for showing me a tiny town that I'd never otherwise have seen, to Lucky Minx, Ula and Perle for their generosity and the other performers for dancing with their hearts.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Touching in with the Toronto Burlesque Festival

Oh Canada, you're more expensive than I realised, hotter than I thought and apparently, come Winter, well according to the locals, winter will break me.
I arrived a week before the Toronto Burlesque Festival opened, my first days were spent getting used to Toronto's streets, a fairly easy grid of busy arterial streets interspersed with leafy suburban areas.
Perth expat Agatha Frisky found me loitering on a street corner my first morning and took me on a walking tour of downtown Toronto including Kensington Markets, an area filled with vintage boutiques, cafes, organic food shops, restaurants, print shops and a burlesque school.
The Toronto School of Burlesque run by local dancer, Red Herring is next to Bellevue Square which comes alive on Tuesday nights with fire twirlers and music, it's hard to choose between watching the fire twirlers or watching the classes through the plate glass window.

I dropped by the school on the first day of the festival, Red was rehearsing with her horse Illian. Virginian performer Deanna Danger was chilling in a corner and Blaze the cat was being hopelessly cute- until you patted her stomach when she became hopelessly angry and latched on to your offending hand with claws as sharp as hooks.

Agatha Frisky with Blaze
I stayed in on Thursday night and missed Hotel Tryst, I hadn't realised there was a proper show on that night and from all accounts I missed something special.
 Friday was a warm day which I really felt as I power walked to the Mod Club on College street to do a quick tech run. The stage at Mod Club is mid sized, floorboarded, smooth and polished. Tech went smoothly although I felt a bit unprepared lacking costumes and back up dancers.
My Erte act seems to be cursed... or perhaps it's the lack of dancers and costumes at the tech that leads to malfunctions... hmm...

Mod club running tech
I headed home to grab some food, an omelette for protein, oats to sustain me, coffee because I'd only had two earlier in the day.

Australya represent! In my ABF 2014 tee
Agatha was performing in the second act of the Dangerous Liasons show and arrived early - backstage was big but mirror space was hot property.

Putin on my make up. Yeah. So that's actually Wrong Note Rusty and me making awful puns together.
Regina and Kitty Litteur were to be my back up dancers, we organised a rehearsal but it fell through so we managed a super quick explanation backstage with a final "if it all goes wrong, just kneel down and I'll deal" which was lucky because one of my veils unclipped early in the piece leaving Regina to quickly kneel down and me to deal!

Kitty performed in the early show before joining me in the Late show.

And one more with Kitty... being a bat. Or something. You be the judge. Caption this or whatev's
Photo by Ruth Gilson

Photo by Chris Hutcheson
 Agatha Frisky performed her Love is Blind fan act in the second half of theDangerous Liasons show.
Waiting backstage on the stairs she applied a blindfold whence I questioned her wisdom in descending in heels, a panel skirt and with her hands full of feathers... but she's an agile creature and made it steadily and safely to the stage.
Security guy was super happy with his job that night. Essentially watching performers go on stage in costume and return half naked.

Agatha on stage at the end of her act
We had the choice of dancing or eating after the show... I was tired and hungry so headed to Lake View diner with Red Herring and Deanna Danger where I ate too many sweet potato fries and too much chocolate malt milkshake... Perhaps a third choice should have been to go home and rest my stomach and feet.

Waiting in a line at 2am outside Lakeview
Saturday night bloomed early, I reluctantly took my headache to a pole class at Brass Vixens and coffee at Jimmys in Kensington,I had meant to sign up for the classes that were being offered by Dr Lucky, PerleNoire and Inga Ingenue but a lack of a job means that funds are tight.

Love that the artist passes were customised!!
I prepared for the Saturday show slowly, thinking I didn't need to leave for the Mod Club until 7:30. A message from Kitty at 7pm telling me that the Early Show was already underway and that she was on soon,  got me moving, but not quickly enough to see her Attack of the 50 Foot Woman act I did however make it in time to see another Aussie, The Great Gadso rip it up on stage.
The Great Gadso brought it, the Canadians loved it, backflipping, butt bouncing, sunglass wearing, exotic bird dancing, back up girls samba-ing, high energy act.

The Great Gadso and his samba back ups including Regina Denata and Agatha Frisky
Photo by Chris Hutcheson

I was watching from upstairs near the entrance, hanging with Deanna Danger, Kitty Litteur, Albert Cadabra, Danger Doll, Bianca Boom Boom and Angela MccConnell who was shooting centre stage back. I was wearing a black flocked body suit and found that by simply extending an arm for others to stroke I was causing a lot of pleasure- should have asked for tips or, as I learnt from Red Herring, "make it hail!"

At the finale of the Early show we headed up College to Smoke's Poutine where Deanna and I attempted to share a vegetarian poutine. It was gross. Poutine is really awful. (all views expressed in this blog are my own, you may love poutine, it may be your staple diet, your grandmother possibly invented it, I will sticked to hotcakes and maple syrup) everyone else was happy to assist with my share.

Photo from Bianca Boom Boom

It reminds me of school lunch I had in Glasgow when I was 8. Nuff said.
I ran into some of the girls who'd been samba-ing in Gadso's act at Harry's, Regina said she'd skipped the poutine in favour of fries and ketchup- she's got the smarts.
We walked back for the late show and upstairs in the artists mezzanine I found Agatha and Gadso chilling. I filched Gadso's seat but only made it through the first half before my back started cramping and I headed home.

BUT not before seeing Kitten de Ville's Garden of Eden act, loved the track, MIA's Bad Girls and to be fair, Kitten really doesn't have to do much more than laze around on stage for people to love her, yet her movement is so energetic and involved.
I'd seen Kitten's producer's act the night before, it was taught to her by Burlesque legend Dixie Evans who originally performed it in the 1950s.
Backstage on Saturday night the chair was just casually standing on the stairs, it felt wrong to sit in it so I took a picture instead.

Gotta respect fellow performers props and costumes, never touch unless they offer.
Hugely grateful to Coco Framboise, Ava Noir and Sauci Calla for having me be part of the Festival and to all of Toronto's community, including Red Herring and Chris Mysterion for welcoming me to Canada and showing me the ropes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three years of the Perth International Burlesque Festival

Headed by Adora Derriere and Coco Poppin' from Sugar Blue Burlesque the Perth International Burlesque Festival has been hitting its stride from year one.

This year I would be without Perth locals Agatha Frisky and Kitty Litteur who have escaped the cat race and are tending the stages in Toronto - where I'll soon be joining them!
I arrived Thursday afternoon and flagged down a dapper looking Charlie D.Barkle in a three piece grey suit. He took me to Maylands where one of my hosts, Perrie (Ruby Slippers) was waiting on the sunny porch steps.

With Lulu Liquer at the opening party, photo by David Wooley
Ruby accessorised my dress, adding a fur stole, black gloves, necklace and fancy updo to my vintage black velvet gown.
The opening party was great, a chance to mingle and catch up with friends from all over Australia who had made the trek West to Perth as well as the locals who are always in fine form.
From Lallah Rook we moved on to Devilles nightclub where kareoke was in full swing and Magnus was holding court on stage.
Dumplings at Darlings
We took over Darlings for late night dumplings and drinks and then retired for a thankful night in bed.
I awoke after a short five hour sleep and spent the morning sneaking around the house trying not to wake the Maylands girls. Chat their cat was quick to sense that someone was awake and came out to the kitchen to wail for food.

Chat testing the smoothie
Ruby rose to make me a super super food smoothie of banana, cacao, chia see, milk, yoghurt and bee pollen. She tested me for allergies by insisting I rub the bee pollen on my hand.

Charlie dropped by around 11:30 with a giant cardboard box that Anne and I deconstructed to create a crate, we took a tea break before Anne armed herself and painted in the wood grain.

The Amazing Anne (Flying Wolf Co) at work
My phone was still set to Tasmanian time when I  ran outside to where Anne was enjoying a peaceful moment with a cuppa. I fell to the ground in mock pain  and said dramatically "Oh GOD, I'm due at Tech and we haven't finished." As I said this something clicked and I realised... It was only 1:30 and we had another two hours before I needed to leave. Cue me slinking away to make Anne some more tea.

Almost done!
Tech was finished quickly and I headed to the Fremantle markets where I discovered chocolate macadamia infused coffee. SO good.

Freo market's Coffee Connection
Dark of the Night Cabaret was held at the Fly By Night, a large hall  in Fremantle with a spacious stage and a large backstage area. It was a subdued but happy group of performers that settled in to get ready. We shared a large mirror in the dim area, faces ducking in and out at different angles as make up was applied and hair curled.

Is it lucky to hug a unicorn?
I was debuting a brand new act which was exciting but a bit daunting. The costume is by Zoe Felice and although I'm happy with the first section and received some good feedback, the second section needs some work.
Photo by John Leonard
Photo by John Leonard

Photo by John Leonard

Photo by John Leonard
I huddled over the quinoa salad after performing with a couple of the other performers, the food backstage was impressively good and we shunned the backstage gossip to eat our way through three bowls of salad.

Post performance- eating ALL the good food!

Curtain call! Photo by John Leonard

I skipped the after party and fell into bed, this time I slept a good 8 hours, waking in time to get ready for Coco L'ectrics Kicks and Spins workshop. We grabbed a quick coffee from Uncle Joe's before hitting up King st dance centre.

Yeeeah good signwriting!
Perrie with her honey layer cake
The workshop was excellent, fairly easy choreography but a strong emphasis on musicality and building on simple movement to add complexity.

Kicks and spins!
Charlie was in the class and ran Ruby and I home so I could pick up my costume before heading out to tech at the Astor Theatre.
I was one of the first there and once the two stage kittens arrived took them through the choreography they needed to know for Erte. Casey and Jess were fantastic and took it all in stride.
I ran across to Planet Book where Anne was working and then checked out the local general store where I stocked up on post show food.

Backstage was packed but everywhere there was laughter, jokes, costume appreciation and support.
My wig had previously slipped a bit while performing but I stuck about 30 bobby pins into my hair and it felt fairly solid- and itchy!

Backstage with Coco Lectric
I was feeling confident with my Erte act as tech had gone well but unfortunately by the time the kittens had cleared the stage and ran to where I was standing in the wings, Asher the emcee had finished his intro and the music had began. I told the kittens to just "GO!" and strode out looking calmer than I felt.

Photo by John Leonard
Photo by John Leonard
The girls (I imagine) followed me out and sadly one of the four veils detatched from my neck, but we persevered and after I realised what had happened - I have a clear image of Jess's apologetic face as she raced past me with the detatched fabric- I just kept going and tried to focus on the choreography and the new end.

Curtain call! Photo by Rachael Barrett
 Backstage I hunched over and devoured my hommus leading Bella de Jac to check that I was ok!

When not eating all the hommus I was posing with Virtue Van Tassel
The Afterparty was indecently close, at the bar across the street. Alyssa Kitt held court on a couch (her feet were sore) Bunni and mr Lambada joined us for a while and Ginger Leah Rye perched on the chaise couch.

Posing with Alyssa Kitt and Ruby Slippers
Sarah Park gave Ruby and I a lift back to Maylands and I spent a while scrubbing my face free of the pancake- I had already started deconstructing, removing my eyelashes and hairpins at the bar, a sure sign that I need to go home.

Brunch at Bread in Common with an assorted group of mostly Perth natives. Bread in Common is, funnily enough, a bakery, however they do have a decent gluten free menu. I had the sauteed mushrooms with macadamia nuts and a giant banana smoothie and felt pretty much like the hungry hippo after it's eaten ALL the marbles. Amazing.

C'mon, tell me we don't pull up well!
We checked out the Retro market and then headed to a bar where assorted performers slowly arrived in stages. Most of us were past legible conversation but we tried anyway.
Ruby and I caught yet another lift with the awesome Charlie, back to Maylands where I was force fed a gluten free pizza with SIX different types of cheese, force fed meaning they politely informed me they had ordered me delicious food which made me feel like I just couldn't refuse. (who'd wanna!)
I caught the red eye with the Miss Kitty's Meow girls, it was a full flight and being someone who can't sleep on planes I spent three hours glaring at the seat in front of me and wishing I could sleep like my reclining rowmate. Instead I watched The West Wing, my new favourite binge show, second only to House of Cards.
We arrived in Melbourne at 5:45am and spent the next three hours sitting in massage chairs, wandering the airport, cartwheeling through the halls and - if you're Oopsy Daisy- sleeping on the floor.

Nothing to see here...

Thanks to Mel and Mel and the cast and crew of Sugar Blue Burlesque. You gals (And guys) know how to put on a show!