Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
I’m not a great user of props, but I love a spectacle! So here are some thoughts on using props in your performance.
Do you really need the prop?
I’ve noticed that a lot of performers new to the Burlesque stage will use a table, a chair, feather fans and whatever else feels good. Yet they will be seated for only the first 15 seconds of their act, never to return to the chair. The table will only briefly hold the book, bottle of wine or other item and the fans are wafted around in the final 10 seconds of the act because, that’s what we do, right?
Russian Playwright Anton Chekhov famously said, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” If it’s on stage, it should be vital to your performance. If it’s not, it just clutters up the stage. And you need room to move the booty!
To channel Dr. Suess for a moment: Can you take it on a plane? Will it fit upon a train? Can you put it in your car? Yes you can! You will go far! Create the most spectacular props that your little hands and budget can and be prepared to include, or absorb the cost of transportation in to your fee. Things that break down in to smaller parts and reassemble easily are best. Also, consider commissioning a professional craftsperson or prop builder who knows how to make things modular.
Consider the crew
Consider who you will be working with. A show needs to keep the flow going and while all the MCs that I have worked with do an awesome job of keeping the audience hyped up in between acts, they shouldn’t have to talk for ten minutes while the panty wrangler or stage manager frantically consults her notes as she fills the stage with your infinite number of props. Rinse and repeat 4 minutes later when you’ve completed your act. That’s no fun for anyone. Don’t be a pain in the butt.
Tell your story/character with out props
As you finalise your act, try this exercise. Remove your props and practice the act in front of a friend, mirror or camera. Can you still tell the story or express your characters drive or desires? If not, then consider these as parts of your act you may need to strengthen. Your prop should not be more integral to your performance than you are.
If the act still makes sense without the prop than ask yourself if you truly need it, if you are hiding behind it and perhaps work on building your confidence on stage. If the act works without the prop, but is bigger and badder with it, then Congratulations! You’ve cracked the code! And I can’t wait to see you and your prop in action!