Editor’s Note: When we at Pin Curl were brainstorming on what new additions to bring to the magazine, a question and answer etiquette column kept coming up. You know- backstage etiquette, producer/performer etiquette, all sorts of burlesque related questions filled our heads. We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook! We are so thrilled that Miss Weldon is our newest monthly contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Backstage Etiquette with Jo Boobs Weldon
When I started out I definitely wasn’t demanding fancy dressing rooms and making people treat me like a star… I’ve seen girls do it, and I discovered early on that when you don’t ask for all that and you just do a good job, well, they want to do nice things for you, you know?
Dita Von Teese, quoted in The Burlesque Handbook
When I was a teenager going to rock concerts, all I ever wanted to do was go backstage (which I did, eventually, but those are stories for another time!). When I worked in strip joints, I loved hanging out in the dressing rooms shooting the breeze with all the other strippers. Now, in burlesque, spending time backstage with other burlesque performers is one of my favorite parts of the life. It’s not entirely unreasonable to say that I sometimes think of performing as just the gateway to backstage access. I’m a groupie of my talented and glamorous friends. There is certain etiquette to backstage. It isn’t just a matter of behaving rightly so people will like you. People in burlesque are often performing for artistic and social reasons that they value as much as getting paid, and everyone (yes, everyone) is hustling to some degree to get any gigs at all. They need to enjoy what they’re doing since they’re working so hard for such uncertain rewards. It stands to reason that if you want to not only get booked, but get booked again, you’d better be a pleasure to have backstage. Otherwise performers and producers are going to have you rather low on their lists of first-to-call. So many performers are also producers; you never know if the person sitting next to you gluing on false eyelashes can get you the gig of your dreams. It’s important to get along backstage if you want to get ahead. Plus, it’s just more fun that way!
Points to consider: Most backstage areas are tight. Some things to keep in mind if you know square footage will be limited:
*Think about how much space you’re occupying. If you have a fantastic big gown, of course you must take up space to get into it. But plan ahead. If you know you’ll be in a small dressing area, consider taking a costume that takes up less space.
*Try not to bring your entire makeup collection. If you’re a real aficionado, it can be tough, but consider doing most of your makeup at home and just bring enough to finish and touch up.
*Don’t bring food backstage. A protein bar or something that can’t spill or smear onto other folks’ costumes is probably fine, but a plate of Chinese food not only has a chance of getting on their clothes, but also has a strong odor that can permeate fabric and wigs. Likewise smoking.
*Try to control your perfume, hairspray, and other aerosol products. You can stain other people’s clothes or agitate their allergies.
* Do your best to pack so that you can find things and don’t have to dump out your bag. Have a checklist so you don’t have to borrow (of course everyone does borrow at least one thing a night, but try not to depend on it) eyelash glue, pastie tape, etc.
* Try to keep your personal affairs personal. Even if everyone knows and cares, it might be hard for them to feel like good friends if they are annoyed when you are backstage emoting while they are doing their run-through.
* Watch the gossip. You never know what kinds of relationship the relative stranger next to you might have with the person you think is a jerk.
* Save the critiques for appropriate space, even when people ask. Hardly anyone can really handle being told they need to improve their posture right after they come offstage. And certainly be aware that a person who is not present who you may be critiquing may have acolytes in the room.