Sunday, February 15, 2015

Managing My Moniker

This week, I wanted to address a topic that as a burlesque performer, I get asked about a lot; my performer name, and the circumstances with which I use it. A lot of people that I perform with have a variety of different rules and circumstances behind the names they use, and about a year into performing, I decided I too needed to set some boundaries about how and when I appear as Dale Stones.

When I started taking classes and practicing striptease, I had no idea what to name myself. I had no idea what I wanted to say with my performance name, other than this vague certainty that there had to be a pun in there (I mean, that's how they come up with porn titles, right?). At some point, the person who first started bringing me to her performances, Jenny Jewels, mentioned that I should have a name that refers to a distinct quality. My yellow hair, perhaps?

The name I picked was a tribute to the stoner, guitar-playing surfer hippie Dick Dale, with "Stones" being a quintessential reference to the lifestyle, and a euphemism for the anatomical component needed to go out and do this kind of performance. Plus, although it didn't have a punchline in it (see fellow performer "Ricky Lime"), it rolled off the tongue, in the same way "hail stones" does. And I was ready to make it rain.

During my first year of performing, I used to give that insecure introduction to people I didn't know in the burlesque scene--you know the one.

"Hey, I'm Dale. Or you can call me           , or whichever really. I'll turn and look if I hear either! Har har har. Man, I'm such a loser. I'm going to go hide in a bathroom stall."

Aside from that being a comedy of idiotic non-sequitors that used to tumble out of my mouth at least twice a week, it's a statement that used to define me as a performer. What I eventually realized when asking someone about another performer I just met was that whenever I gave someone two names, chances are they didn't remember either one. In thinking about the most successful performers I know, I can always remember his or her performer name. For a handful of performers, I don't even know their real names, and still don't have a clue. From a marketing standpoint, I consider this a good thing. It means that I've heard of their brand, and it's embedded in my mind. It's effective branding, in that it's a name that ideally comes up when people are looking to book. This was something I was denying myself when I introduced myself as two people--and I didn't present either identity with true confidence.

Pictured; "Confidence."

This isn't to say that one shouldn't introduce his or herself how he or she wants. Rather, it was a way for me to answer a question about how I wanted to present myself. In a performance setting, I'm going to introduce myself as Dale Stones. That's it. That way, people will remember the name of that performer who just went on stage and pretended to play his own wiener like the bagpipes--and what name to tag on Facebook.

Nobody wants to have to deal with the double duty of un-tagging their semi-nudes from their work-week profile just to have to request permission and re-tag all of them under a different user. That's what total hell sounds like, and I don't want to have to endure that drudgery ever again. That's enough of a reason to not give new performers I meet my real name (at least not unless they ask for it). There's a chance that name might be associated with things my boss or grandmother might find unsavory--and I don't want to make my grandmother sad.

Just kidding, my grandmother helps me darn my costumes. It's my boss I don't want being sad at me.

...unless of course I'm telling him what I think about having to file that report by Monday morning.

A lot of performers I know use their names as an identity. I found that there are a lot of people who separate their actions and tendencies from the different names they have. From my name alone, people might have assumptions about what I do and what my hobbies are, which are ultimately misleading. I don't surf, I don't use drugs, and I am the furthest thing from a hippie slacker that you can picture. Alternatively, some people believe that what they do on stage should be a direct reflection of what they are in real life. For me, if the stage characters I show the world were anything like how I am in real life, I would have 66% fewer friends, and a lifetime ban from the Smithsonian.

Realistically, this is my way of compartmentalizing my day and night lives respectively. Though not necessarily an ego thing, especially when I start correcting people about what they call me when I'm backstage at a venue.

And in so doing, it helps me be a consummate professional in at least two aspects of my life.

I'd be curious to know what some of your own rules are, fellow performers.


No comments:

Post a Comment