Top 10 Tips On How To Be An AMAZING Burlesque Stage Kitten

Top 10 Tips On How To Be An AMAZING Burlesque Stage Kitten 1000 660 Vixen DeVille

Top 10 Tips On How To Be An AMAZING Burlesque Stage Kitten

If you’re reading this title wondering, “What is a Stage Kitten and why would I even want to be one?” then you need to go read my article “5 Fabulous Reasons To Be A Burlesque Stage Kitten” which lays it all out for you.

Now that you know the benefits to being a Stage Kitten, and what the job entails, here’s my Top Ten Tips on how to be an AMAZING kitten that producers and performers will value and call upon again and again.

Just as I talk about the “functional” and “cosmetic” when dealing with stocking peel and the art of tease. The stage kitten has both a functional and cosmetic purpose in any burlesque show and therefore requires skills in BOTH arenas, so let’s look at each of these skill-sets separately.

Functional Skills:

 

1. Be Responsible

You are first and foremost there to fulfill a task, to set up the stage and to clear up the stage. Take responsibility for this task and don’t assume that the producer has a prepared list or that the performers will come and find you to give you their set-up and clear-up information. Be professional – you may be volunteering, you may be paid, you may be working for tips. Regardless, you are being relied on to fulfill a very important job – treat this job with the respect that it, and you, deserve.

  • You need to be one of the first people at the venue since you are part of the set-up. Check with the producer what time you need to be at the venue (call time) and what time you need to be “stage-ready”. You should ideally be stage-ready before you start any of your prep work below.

  • Don’t wait to be given your instructions. Take initiative to connect with each performer in the running order so that you are clear on what is needed from you from each one for that show.

  • Check your emails in case the producer has emailed you the running order in advance and then print it out so that you have your own copy.

  • If you have not received an email, find the producer when you arrive and ask for a running order. If you are not given your own copy, create one.

  • Write down your own notes (on paper not on your phone) for you to refer to. Even if you are provided a running order WITH kittening notes, don’t assume that these are correct – they may have been copied and pasted from a previous running order or the performer may have changed their act since the running order was created.

  • Once you have obtained a running order, check in with each performer and ask what they need as set-up for each of their acts and what clean up is required. Some performers may also need you to do something DURING their act. WRITE IT ALL DOWN, don’t assume you can rely on memory, because, in the moment, you will forget.

  • Make sure it all makes sense – to YOU. If you need to write long form, or have a short hand or need to draw diagrams on the page to know where things need to be placed, you do you! Be responsible for understanding everything the performers need from you. It’s better to double check rather than getting it wrong.

  • Make sure you know how the show producer/performers prefer their clear-up to happen. Are you collecting all the costume pieces to one side of the stage for the performers to retrieve at the end of the show? Are you going to take all the costume pieces backstage directly to the performer in between each act? Are you going to have time to go backstage to give a performer their costume and still be able to set up for the next act? Be responsible for your tasks and make sure you communicate with everyone regarding their expectations and the reality of the situation so you can figure out the best way to make it all happen.

  • Once you’ve checked in with all the performers, check in with the Emcee/Host of the show. Introduce yourself and check if you are going to be kittening to music with the host off-stage, or if you are kittening while the host is on-stage. Connect and build rapport with the host as some may have “bits” they like to do or specific banter that they like to play out with the kitten so check in and see what vibe they have and how you can supplement their performance.

  • You may be part of a show that has more than one kitten. Communicate with the other kittens so that you can co-ordinate your tasks, maybe one kitten is doing clear-up while the other is doing set-up. Once you have finished your tasks, help to complete the remaining tasks in case the other kitten is struggling or having issues. Team Effort!!

2. Be Personable

We all want a great experience backstage. You have no idea whether people are stressed or nervous or were just in a car crash or just lost their day job. SO MUCH IS GOING ON backstage and you are there to help! Interact with everyone in a pleasant manner.

EVERYONE!!

That means security personnel on the door as you walk into the venue, the bar staff setting up, be nice to EVERYONE you encounter and don’t bring your issues from the outside world into the venue. Have a positive attitude, so that if a performer is stressed about something that could go wrong, you can assure them that, “you got it”… you’ve got them – they can rely on you to help with anything.

If there’s a larger issue with the venue or the organization or some comments have been said about a performer backstage, this is not the time to stoke that fire and add to the conversation – anything you want to contribute or address you can send in an email to the producer tomorrow AFTER the event.

Be especially nice to anyone who is a debut performer – they will be especially stressed out and nervous. Be encouraging and let them know you’re there if they need anything even if that’s just a glass of water or a hug.

3. Be Alert

We are dealing with live theatre and human error, so nothing is ever going to go according to plan! You need to be attentive, watching everything going on at all times so that you can immediately trouble-shoot any issue.

  • Once you’ve set the stage, check or look back to make sure that nothing’s moved or that an audience member hasn’t messed with anything. If the Host is still on stage you can either go ahead and fix the issue or get the host’s attention and let them know “in character” or whisper to them what the issue is so that they can fix it. Alternatively if the host has already left the stage you can let them know off-stage what the issue is, or you can alert the performer who is about to enter stage, so that they can trouble-shoot the issue during their act.

  • Watch the performer’s acts – they will have given you information on their pick up and clean up, so keep an eye on where costume items are discarded. Costume can end up ANYWHERE, in a completely different area of the stage, stuck in a rafter, slid under some furniture, or, completely off the stage. Maybe an audience member has picked something up! It is your job to retrieve all the items the performer specified beforehand, so make sure to watch where they end up since this can be an unpredictable part of many solo acts.

  • Be aware of anything that seems to be “going wrong”. If backstage a performer says “i’m not going to be ready in time” ask them “do you need help?” or “do you need me to stall the host?”. They may just need you to help with some costume or they may need you to go on stage and ask the host to stall/vamp for a moment. Equally if the host announces a performer and there is silence, you might have the opportunity to check in with the sound engineer if they have the right track or if it’s in the wrong format. If there’s a problem with the music it may be that you can fix this by running backstage to get the music from the performer’s phone or some other alternative.

  • Don’t wander off or take a break just because the running order shows that you have some “downtime”. Make sure to check in with the producer, host or performer about to enter stage if you need to step away during the show at any moment.

4. Be Stage Savvy

Know the basics of stage topography. When a performer tells you where to place things or where to find things, they are more than likely going to use the following stagecraft terms. Imagine that you are standing in the absolute middle of the stage area, facing the audience.

  • Upstage – This is the area behind you.

  • Downstage – This is area in front of you, between you and the audience.

  • Stage left – This is the area on YOUR left hand side.

  • Stage right – This is the area on YOUR right hand side.

There are some more detailed directions such as ‘upstage left’, ‘downstage right’ etc. these are shown in the diagram below.

5. Be Prepared

This is not necessarily required of any stage kitten but a huge bonus if you have these at the ready. Take to every show your backstage prep bag in case performers need help in an emergency: scissors, glue, needle and thread, safety pins, hair pins, pastie tape, even a spare pair of stockings. The more gigs you do the more you’ll hear a call backstage for last minute items needed or items forgotten. If you are there to the rescue, you will be remembered and loved forever.

Cosmetic Skills:

 

1. Costume, Hair and Make-up

Ask ahead of time if the producer wants you to wear specific costume pieces. They may have a theme that requires a certain style such as Vintage, Circus, Halloween, Holiday Season, some ask that you wear some ‘kitten/cat’ element such as kitten ears or a tail. They may just have a colour scheme that they want you to follow such as Black and Red or Black and Gold. If there are multiple kittens in the show, take initiative to contact them and co-ordinate your costume so that you look like a professional team. If the producer doesn’t specify a theme then make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your costume and that you are dressed as if you were about to do a routine on stage. Your hair and make-up should also be show-ready. Make sure that your shoes are cute but comfortable and allow you to do your functional kitten tasks, for example, picking up costume pieces and running between the stage and backstage at a high speed if need be.

2. Pick-up Performance

Yes, your functional job is to clear and set the stage, but cosmetically, we want the kitten to do this in a fun, engaging and performative manner. Check with the producer and Emcee/host if there are times in the running order where you can take more time doing this, maybe they need to fill time to cover a quick change or maybe the second half of the show is really full and they need the stage changes to be much quicker. When you have time to fill, decide on how your persona is going to pick up and set up. Are you embodying the characteristics of a cat and playing with the costume pieces? Are you innocent and playful? Are you overtly sexual? Explore different intentions and attitudes and decide which feels more fun for you.

3. Audience and Host Interaction

It’s not just the performer’s costume and props that you’re interacting with onstage, you’ll also want to make use of interacting with both the audience and the host of the show. When you know you have time to play these moments out, explore ways in which your persona interacts with the audience and their attitude towards the audience. Explore your relationship and attitude towards the host, are you eager to help, are you flirting with them, are you ditzy and always getting things wrong? You can also chat with the host beforehand if there’s any “bits” you want to try out during the show.

4. Persona

We talked a bit about ‘Persona Performance’ but the way that you are introduced in the show will also infer your performance before you’ve even stepped foot on stage. Make sure to decide on what your kitten name is and let the host know so that they can introduce you correctly. Some people might decide to have a different kitten name to their burlesque name, some may prefer to use their burlesque name to solidify branding, some may prefer to remain anonymous and just be referred to as ‘The Kitten’. Likewise you may feel that ‘kitten’ doesn’t quite fit with your persona at all. If you have a different term you want to go by, let the host know. Maybe you’re “The Stage Maid”, or “The Stage Puppy”, I’ve had people specify that they are the stage “Lioness” or, during holiday season, “Santa’s Little Helper”. If it helps your persona and stage performance feel free to have the discussion if you prefer to be referred to as something alternative to ‘The Kitten’.

5. Have Fun

As with everything I teach, if you’re not having fun then neither are the audience. If you’re not having fun, then stop! And FIND THE FUN. Find the fun in everything you do so that the audience, the producer, the host and everyone around you is having fun in your presence. This, above all, should be the reason for performing as a stage kitten and indeed being any part of a burlesque show.

If you want to chat with me on how to get involved as a stage kitten or to help you in any other way on your burlesque journey, book in for a free consultation with me at https://www.vixendeville.com/consultation-questionnaire/


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