While I believe this was to my own benefit (and the benefit of Sirlesque), I can't help but wonder how effectively a group's individuals retain their own performer identities in these scenarios. While in NYC with Sirlesque, it was simply easier to identify myself as "one of the Sirs" or "a Sirlesque member" because my individual performer identity wasn't on the radar of people outside of my four-hour performance radius.
It doesn't bother me at all, considering Boston is pretty unique in that way. Most of the burlesque and circus performers here are unionized in a sense, and are typically booked within their group's respective productions (e.g. all of Sirlesque's members perform in Masculinitease and Geek Peek, all of the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts perform in A Dark Knight and Revenge of the Robot Battle Nuns).
|And sometimes, everyone you've ever performed with happens to be in the same show.|
Other groups in Boston are the Lipstick Criminals, Sparkletown Productions, The Bloodstains, All the Rest Burlesque, The Boston Babydolls, and of course, our sister troop Rogue Burlesque. Sure, there are individual performers going at it their way, but most of the performers within the city limits are a part of one or more of these individual groups. In Boston, there are rarely exceptions to this.
So in the interests of how to burlesque better going forward, should I pursue more individual bookings, or do I focus more on the Sirlesque brand and building more quality productions?
|Some folks will try to drag you away from your group to be in other things. Trust me.|
While each group has enough pull to draw its own crowd by simply being listed on a flyer, there are consequences to involving other troops and individual performers from outside the group. If I'm listed as a guest performer, does that mean my fans will come to a show that they might not have been to otherwise? If Sirlesque is given credit and billing on someone else's show, does that mean that all six of us should assume we have a degree of creative say on the content that gets produced?
If I were to really roll up my sleeves and get into it, I'd tell you that groups can quickly become petri dishes of unkempt drama. Once you get on stage enough times and begin to see the kind of attention you can get fairly regularly, you tend to think more highly of yourself. Where this gets problematic is when the sliding scale moves away from gratitude and more towards entitlement. You might recognize this as the "I should have at least 3 straight strips in our upcoming show" type, or the "I'm going to cast myself in every role" kind of attitude, with a rapid estrangement from "guys, I still can't believe that people pay to come see me take my clothes off in public."
Inevitably, egos will clash. It may not resemble a spectacle like Oasis or The Who getting into an on-stage fistfight, but it can easily devolve into passive-aggressive bullshit behind the scenes. Casting snubs, over-heading someone else on an issue, performers refusing to work specifically with other performers, people blowing off rehearsals or commitments, dissent on act plot points, over-sensitivity to criticism, being overly critical towards others, and gossiping are all things I've played host to both inside and outside of my group. Because of my own tendency to be self-sacrificing and introspective as a person, I've often had to moderate these issues. I've had some success and learned a few things about drama management. But then, I've also failed miserably.
|...which often results in the sexiest argument you can imagine being a part of.|
In different cities and countries (and NYC especially), it seems like individual performers are the most successful in cultivating their own recurring business. With over 500 individual contractors who are burlesque performers in that area (thanks to Anja Keister for providing that stat), there seems to be plenty of work to bounce around to. Since Sirlesque is an LLC, the finances have to be regarded as a group endeavor, with those of us who book more than the others ultimately contributing more to the fund that keeps the group going. With that said, Sirlesque is a brand name and a powerful enough one that people come out in droves to see a show with our name on it--we're pretty fortunate in that regard, and are financial self-sustaining through two major shows every year. A question I often ask myself is "If I were to produce a show with just my name on it, would it still get that kind of attention?"
Would the kind of drama that might be involved in that undertaking be worth the effort?
What I've found is that group-produced shows give performers a chance to show their expertise and performance ability, and eventually get them bookings on an individual basis. Looking back at my own history, this is something that used to only happen sporadically, but is now happening often enough that scheduling skills have become a necessity. While it's a great benefit to both my ego and my performance resume, I have to constantly remind myself that people book other people who they like working with, and not necessarily the best performer.
|"I'm great, and you're a nerd! Ha ha! Seriously, can I be in your show?"|
I have to thank Ricky Lime for helping me to get myself on stage in a burlesque capacity five years ago. It led to all of this nonsense you see under the Dale Stones umbrella, and being minus one on the Sirlesque roster (especially being one of the most creative and talented performers I've ever met) is going to mean a tough road ahead. This all keeps me thinking about what the future of Sirlesque has in store.
So I think that at some point, we'll be having open auditions. I'd like to have a couple extra dancers and a full-time MC, so keep your ears to the ground about that. Of course, there are a couple other concerns I have about filling a group lineup with more staff(s), but I would be curious as to what you see the advantages and disadvantages are. Is it "The more the merrier" with group numbers, or is it just an additional risk of added drama and schedule synchronization? Is it best to have guest performers on a permanent basis and not give insider responsibilities to solo performers?
Leave me a comment and help me make that decision. Group wisdom, activate!