THURSDAY, MAY 1
Day: When my alarm went off on the morning of May 1st I stared up at the ceiling from my bed, totally paralyzed with excitement. An entire year of work had led me -and so many others- to this moment; the ninth annual Vancouver International Burlesque Festival was finally here! This year, I was ready to wear many hats. As a first-time board member, I was responsible for all things volunteer-related as well as anything that came up over the weekend. Performance-wise, I would be part of a full-length production on Friday as a collective member of Pandora & The Locksmiths. I was also offering up a solo on Saturday night. What was I thinking? So many things! After putting on full hair and makeup, I made it to the Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver for afternoon tech rehearsal. As the festival has been growing steadily since day one, we decided to bring on the one and only David Bishop as our stage manager this year. Being behind the scenes with him was really an eye-opener; it was great to learn from such a perfect example of both efficiency and positive vibes!
Evening: After a quick sushi break, I changed into my shiny awesome space dress and helped the Front of House Manager check in and orient the volunteers for the evening. The volunteers were all dressed to the nines and extremely enthusiastic. It was so inspiring to see them -many of them just breaching the burlesque community and at their first VIBF- ready to help out and excited to be there. Once they were all situated and the show had begun, I took a seat in the theater and got to watch! It was great to see Vancouver all-stars hit the stage with signature, well-loved acts. Connie Cahoots did her hilarious waxing number, Voodoo Pixie and Arnt Arntzen fused live banjo, vocals, and burlesque for their take on the St. James Infirmary Blues, and Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society scarred everyone (hurts so good) with their epic Mary Poppins-inspired group number. Needless to say, my neighbors in the audience and I were cry-laughing by the end of the night.
FRIDAY, MAY 2
Day: Friday afternoon, I walked down to East Vanity Parlour (basically the official hair salon of Vancouver burlesquers) to get an updo with fellow Pandora & The Locksmiths member, August Wiled. As part of the Friday night production, we performed our duo where we have opposite-side matching costumes. So of course we needed opposite-side matching updos! From the hair salon, I scooted back home to get my show supplies and made my way downtown once again. Our tech time for Pandora was pretty intensive for a number of reasons. Firstly, we had a string quartet join our regular six-piece band so all the instruments had to be tested out with the sound system. We did mic checks, as per usual, but also had to test our projections as well as mark some group choreography on the stage.
Evening: On to the evening! I am really happy I got to perform in this production and in this year’s festival over all. Being on the board, we each have the option to adjudicate the festival submissions OR apply to perform in the festival (the other adjudication spots are filled by outside panel members). I chose not to adjudicate so I could be on stage. The Pandora production went over really well, and without a hitch! Most of the show was comprised of brand new numbers and songs so it was a pretty risky endeavor. By the time we had finished our set, we were all so relieved; some of us to the point of tears. It made me feel very lucky to be able to create genre-pushing work with such a supportive group of people.
I went back to the dressing room to change and was able to watch the two remaining showcase sets of the evening. Headliner Waxie Moon delighted the crowd with his purple-people-eating boa and out-of-towner Flirty Sanchez blew my mind with her silent clumsy clown piece. Sparkle Plenty rocked the house with her ode to our lego-haired Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and literally screwed Canada. I was lucky to have my mom there that evening. Burlesque is often off-limits to performers’ families and I am so glad that my mom is open to and supportive of my artistic choices. I sat with her when guest legend, Kitten Natividad, took the stage and brought smiles to our faces. Kitten’s confidence and hugely positive energy radiated through the theater. Seeing her perform has inspired me to try to be as happy and confident as her one day.
SATURDAY, MAY 3
Day: Saturday finally came! The last day of performances started with another smooth tech rehearsal. I was there to go over my solo for the evening as well as fix up my props. In my solo, I open fancy gifts and play with them, so I had to spruce up my gift boxes with some fresh sparkly wrapping paper! Once that was done, I went back to my dressing room to BLAST SOME SPICE GIRLS and get my hair and makeup ready for the show. And what a show!
Evening: Saturday night’s show was just as kick-ass as the previous two. I am really happy with my solo performance and am glad I got to see some truly memorable acts. Dressing room-mates and BHoF Queen candidates Melody Mangler and April O’Peel brought hugely unique numbers to the stage that are also some of my personal favorites. Melody played a Salem witch who burned up into a fiery, silk-fanned inferno of sexy, and April told a story of the life and times of a janitor and her philandering mop. Nasty Canasta from NYC lampooned what could possibly be the most horrendous song ever in an ode to stripper moms. I was pleased. Between sets, the board members gathered at the backstage photo booth for a group shot. The evening concluded with some of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen! Headliners Perle Noire and Ray Gunn dazzled the Vancouver audience with a mix of classic technique, theatricality, and modern dance styles- just the way this city likes it! Ray Gunn’s Jabberwocky number was completely inspired, mixing literature with dance to create a chilling mood. Perle’s multi-song solo blended many different dance forms, my personal favorite being VOGUING- mostly because I never thought I’d see someone Vogue in a burlesque number (I had been crossing my fingers for a while)! She did an epic death drop and then mimed fixing up her makeup… FLAWLESS!
At the end of the last set, the host, Crystal Precious, called the board on stage for a bow (actually, so we could cry in front of everyone). While Burgundy Brixx, the VIBF president, started to thank the audience the lights slightly shifted. We could suddenly see the entire sold-out house, both the orchestra and the balcony level. I realized in that moment, that what we do really matters. It’s so easy to get discouraged as an artist and to want to give up. Seeing all those faces on Saturday night reinforced my determination. People often speak about the therapeutic nature of creating and performing art, and this weekend I really experienced that for the first time. What was therapeutic and healing about my VIBF experience was being able to truly do something for others. Seeing the vibrancy of the volunteers who are new to the scene taught me that what I do actually affects others in a positive way. Seeing a full house from the stage on Saturday night taught me that what I do artistically can somehow matter, even to complete strangers. We ALL need to remember that what we do MATTERS, it is often too easy to forget!
SUNDAY, MAY 4
After a late night loading out all the VIBF props and supplies and dancing my butt off at the after party, it was time for Hangover High Tea! We held a ticketed brunch event at Chill Winston in Gastown and it was the perfect way to unwind. We were lucky to have three legends at the VIBF this year, Kitten Natividad, Suzette Monique, and Mama Beaver, Judith Stein! They were at brunch (with all the headliners as well) signing and selling photos. It was really fun being able to chat with them over Mimosas and was a total treat getting to peruse their vintage photo selections. The festival itself is done for the year, but the board will have to get together to debrief and make plans for our AGM, where some new board members will be elected. In the end, I am very happy I got to wear so many hats, as challenging as it was at times. I can’t wait for what next year’s festival has in store!
Next up, a tonne of us Vancouverites are headed to Las Vegas for BHoF! After every Canadian up for a title performed at the VIBF, we can’t wait to head down south to cheer on our friends!