The Big Six: Elements of A Show That Sizzles

THE BIG SIX

I believe in a fair level of transparency when it comes to the creative process. How can our industry ever evolve if we keep each other from achieving a standard knowledge base from which to push the art forward? 

This post is inspired by my desire to share some of the things I have learned while producing live entertainment events, as well as hosting, performing in, and attending many other shows in my lifetime. I am not telling anyone how to do their job, or discouraging the next generation from stepping up to the plate. On the contrary: I think that if everyone subscribed to these most basic principles of event production, it would elevate our entire industry, and keep it moving toward a respectable and sustainable future that supports the innovation, authenticity and humor this genre was built upon. For a wonderful and edu-taining run down of the history of burlesque, I suggest watching 2001's 'It's Burlesque' TV Documentary, which is located in its entirety on YouTube.com

That being said, I believe there are six major factors any person should consider before throwing a live event. Keep in mind this is my advice based on experience, observation, trial and error. Also, none of this is new information. If you produce shows that sizzle, chances are you’ve already integrated these processes and principles into your work, and are well aware of the risks and rewards of legitimate live event production. I do believe that if those producing burlesque shows took these factors seriously before committing to events, it would as I stated above create a platform for evolution that can actually stand on its own two feet as we look to the future of our brilliantly diverse industry.

Because each element of The Big Six bares a detailed explanation, I have listed them all here (in no particular order, as they are all important), and have linked separate articles for each topic to this post.

THE BIG SIX: ELEMENTS OF A SHOW THAT SIZZLES

I WILL JUDGE YOUR BOOK BY ITS COVER: MARKETING POLISH AND PRESENTATION

AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT: EVENT TIMELINE VS. EXECUTION

A ‘PRODUCED’ EVENT: THE IMPORTANCE OF SET FORMULAS

CONSISTENCY IS KEY: OVERALL QUALITY OF PERFORMANCES

THEY SAY IT TAKES A VILLAGE: CREW PRESENCE AND COLLABORATION

SAY IT WITH ME NOW: CROWD ENERGY, PARTICIPATION AND FOCUS

My decision to compose this list draws from the experiences on my own journey as a burlesque and variety producer and performer. To put my opinions into context, I think it is relevant that I provide a little nutshell of said journey for you here:

It started with desire. My desire to satisfy an unexplainable attraction I had to the art of burlesque. In my city (Sacramento, CA 2007), there was no scene to speak of, and no troupe or show to attend or audition for. I did know that my interest was rooted in what took place behind the scenes, and the hope to create a vehicle for this style of performance close to home. And so, The Sizzling Sirens Burlesque Experience was formed in early 2008. I spent a good seven months doing research and forming an identity for the group in my mind and on paper, getting a business license, writing a fully formatted theatrical production that is still sitting on an old hard drive somewhere, and casting a group of eight women who would be my first Sirens.

Now don’t get me wrong, at the time I had no idea what I was doing, in the literal sense anyway. My background was in theater, marketing, administration and medical cannabis – all things I enjoyed, but that alone did not satisfy my inherent need to serve up some sizzle to the world. This brings me to a point I read a lot about within the burlesque industry: the hobbyist or newbie vs. the professional, what defines each, and how both are ruining the industry for each other. Some I agree with, and some I don’t, but it always reminds me of the same thing…we all had to start somewhere!

If I had not had the opportunity to put on my first show, I would not be sitting here six years later, with a popular and well branded event that draws 200+ people out to enjoy the presentation of our entertainment every month. I have wanted to give up a million times, because it never stops being a lot of work, but knowing I can take pride in the contributions I am making to this community is worth the extra effort. Even today, The Siren Show continues to evolve and push the boundaries of my cast and crew’s creative potential, which is something that should never stop. The day we stop striving for originality and innovation is the day our culture begins to die, and I refuse to allow myself a hand in that downward mobility.

I didn’t start in a big room, and have tailored the set formula and marketing of my events to accommodate my venue transitions and growth over time. I held a full time job for the first three and a half years of my business, and have been stable, poor, super poor, and quite fine all at different periods since then, with no real sense of consistency to speak of (other than the sizzle, which never stops). In addition to my work in burlesque, I also continue to pick up outside gigs, produce events in other genres of entertainment, as well as volunteer many, many hours each year to the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Why? Because no matter what my ups and downs may be, knowing I get to spend each day committed to my passions is priceless, and worth working for.

Whether burlesque is your beloved hobby, or something you have the opportunity to do full time, it is worth taking the time to manage your identity and creative product with dignity, commitment, organization and respect for others working toward similar goals.

However, even as a ‘newbie’ burlesquer or producer, there are a zillion things you can do to raise your own product to a certain standard before ever stepping on stage or throwing your first show. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where our true problem lies. People want instant gratification, and often miss the fact that whatever you put out into the public arena reflects upon the industry as a whole in one way or another. In that regard, we all have a serious obligation to each other to reach a certain level of refinement before bursting out into the public eye. If I attend a school recital, I expect to see unpolished, well-intentioned performances by budding entertainers. If I pay to get into a show at a public venue, then I expect to see an actual, ‘show.’ Something produced with intention that challenges my imagination and keeps me entertained.

Unfortunately, there is no universal measuring stick to tell you when you are ready to take that leap, and there probably isn’t enough honest constructive criticism going around to help new performers and producers stay on the right track. I have no real solution to this other than to share what I know, in the hopes that people taking the time to do the research come across it and use it to their benefit when producing events of their own.

 I don’t believe in placing sanctions on creative content, but in principle and execution these Big Six are the things I wish performers and producers alike considered before jumping into the spotlight (even if it means taking longer to get there).

In closing I will leave you with this: If you love yourself enough to explore burlesque, love burlesque enough to put in the work!

Sizzle on!

---Jay Siren