A "Produced' Event:
The Importance of Set Formulas
When it comes to burlesque and variety, there are multiple standard styles of event presentation. Some require much more work to pull off effectively than others, though when executed with sizzle they can all pack a whopping punch of good clean dirty fun!
That being said, any sizzling event needs some sort of structure, and that is where a solid set formula and well curated set list come into play. Just like you want to stick to your overall schedule and begin and end your event on time (see The Big Six…Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That: Event Timeline vs. Execution for more on this topic), it is important to consider your audience’s experience from the time that they actually walk into the venue, to the time that they leave. How much time have you slated between the doors opening and the show starting? Will you have multiple sets? How long will your intermission last? How will your audience know these things are happening?
You don’t want to leave your audience hanging throughout the night with tons of dead space between your acts and sets. Every time there is lag time, you loose their energy, participation, and focus (see The Big Six…Say It With Me Now: Crowd Energy, Participation and Focus for more on this topic), which is the opposite of sizzling. Granted, shit happens. Sometimes circumstances out of your control prohibit you from executing an event the way that you planned. In fact, to some degree, this will most likely happen at every event you ever produce. The job of the producer is to cultivate a solid team, curate a good show, and manage the execution of said show with flexibility, organization, and consideration of the audience’s experience.
Learn about the performers and acts you are putting on stage before you create your final set list. Curate your show! Put intention into the placement of each act, taking into consideration not only the flow of entertainment for your crowd, but also the needs of your performers, who may be performing in multiple acts and need time to change, require large prop set up, elaborate act clean up, etc…A good stage manager and solid crew comes in great handy here (see The Big Six: They Say It Takes A Village: Crew Presence and Cooperation for more on this topic). The style/formula of a production should directly influence the way a producer arranges the presentation of entertainment during a show. A good producer has the ability to make it seem as though things make more sense than they actually do, based on intelligent and well informed casting and set choices.
Another thing people often overlook that is an integral part of the audience experience at an event is casting a great host. Whether you are doing a live band show, a comedy/variety show, a night of classic burlesque, a big theatrical production or a tiny student recital in a dive bar, a solid host will ensure that your audience stays invested in the show throughout the night, and can react directly to any unexpected/last minute changes or delays while keeping the energy in the room high. There are all types of burlesque and variety hosts, but I will say that no matter where their voice and style comes from, a good host becomes the glue that holds the acts in a show together, framing the entertainment in a way the audience can become engaged and emotionally invested in. (again, see The Big Six…Say It With Me Now: Crowd Energy, Participation and Focus for more on this topic)
Looking to the future, I like to think that we are on the verge of some serious innovation as far as the presentation of burlesque and variety entertainment goes. The resurgence of burlesque has hit a point in which I believe the industry must strengthen and evolve, or inevitably begin to wane. Mixed media, cross-genre collaboration, and community standards and support are all factors I think will play into the future landscape of burlesque and variety entertainment.
Sometimes it takes the people operating out of the box to look in and bust it open with new ways of interpreting things those absorbed in the art form can overlook or take for granted. It is healthy to look at other methods of show production, and stay open to the opportunity to try and learn new things that will inspire the evolution of your own work.
And at the end of the day remember…this is live entertainment! There is only so much you can do before it is happening, and once it’s rolling you should be able to enjoy it. I think it is appropriate to end this post by quoting the words of the illustrious Kingfish of San Francisco’s Hubba Hubba Revue:“Producing isn’t the fun part...the fun happens the night of the show...you gotta do the work!”