Producing a Show

So this is generally my belly dancing blog, but one of the skills I've been working on is making my own work and being a better belly dance business woman. Organizing shows and producing them professionally is a big part of that, and I was recently offered the opportunity to produce for a local burlesque troupe. Again, I'm not a burlesque dancer, but as a belly dancer I work closely with the local burlesque community because of the overlap in our show-goers, student bases and the relatively small size of each of our followings. I dance in their shows, they dance in ours, and there is no conflict for me. I've written about how I feel about the relationship between burlesque and belly dance before, and it's been pretty widely read and discussed since it was published in February (at least insofar as my original intentions). In fact, it was most recently quoted on YIP podcast just this month!

I didn't mean to stir up so much controversy with it, and didn't even know I could, but there you go!

Now, I've been part of a production team with OhMaya for belly dance and variety shows, with the now-defunct Birds in Space for theatre productions, and goodness knows what else, but this past month was my first experience organizing an entire show start to finish on my own. It was the Burly Q Babies Summer Sweet and it went off at the Martini Bar on August 29th.

Let me preface that by saying that Miss Frankly Scarlet (the leader of the Burly Q Babies) is a deeply talented woman, both in terms of her art and her organizational abilities. Despite having some extremely wonderful and life changing events in her life over the past little while and needing a new producer, she was there for me every step of the way with advice, guidance and recommendations. I really look up to her for her leadership abilities with her group and her energetic, take-charge attitude.

There are so many more small details to show creation and execution than you know. I think everything I did for this show I had done at some point before, but it's so much more overwhelming when you're doing it all! So here are my most remembered moments from my first production.

Booking

I called the manager of Martini Bar. He was nice (most people actually are, apparently!) and we settled on a date, time and mused about drink specials within a minute or two. Pretty easy. All that fear for nothing. It was admittedly easier for me because the girls had done a show there before, so the groundwork had already been laid out.

Marketing

This is probably where I shine, at least relative to my other abilities initially when this all started. I make a mean poster, and I'm the queen of the press release. It's especially fun with the BQB because they have specific colours (soft pink, black and white) that they always use, and I've done work for them before, so it's fun to reinvent that colour scheme with new fonts and photographs. They already have vector logos to slap on everything and they're all so damn gorgeous, that it's easy to come up with something lovely every time. The poster we went with is top right (their favourite colours are also my favourite colours I noticed).

I also got to write up a description of the girls, the show and entice people to come. My sister (a former editor in chief of a pretty prestigious student newspaper) is the real content writing genius in the family, but I think she taught me well, so I can pull it off when necessary. Writing things up and designing posters and programs is the most fun part of producing for me, so this was when I was in my glee.

It's slightly scarier to actually distribute that to local newspapers and events calendars, but I managed. Again with the fear, although it is slightly diminished when i communicate via email.

Human Resources

I had to book two technical guys (Mark Haddon Strong and Johnny Rawkhard who are both, for the record, amazingly competent and very supportive of panicked producers). This was one thing I had never done before so I knew very little about how to pay them, what they needed to know, how long they needed to set up, strike down, and how to fool them into thinking I could do my job with any degree of adequacy. I lucked out and they were great, managed the lights, the music and all microphone/live instrument goodness.

I also had to book additional acts for the girls. The BQB are most famous for variety shows, with burlesque, belly dancing (usually me, or me and my troupe!), hooping, live music, comedy, yo yo-ing and way more. So I booked Lucy O'Lucky, a BQB-show veteran who hoops and tells jokes, as well as a few non-BQB burlesque girls-- Mirrabell and Fleur de Lys.

I enlisted some help to get posters and things out, with varying degrees of success, but the worst was still to come. I needed a host. Oh god please find me a host! Finally, I talked to Wanker Girl, a BQB who has quite a stage presence and agreed to host half the show (the half she wasn't performing in). I can't even tell you how grateful I was! And she did such a killer job! I had to host the other half myself, much against my will, but it was alright, and apparently I wasn't entirely embarrassing. Good. That being said, never again!

Night of the Show

I burned a song wrong (which we realized during tech and managed to fix!), an act showed up less than five minutes before going onstage (but she was wonderful!), the wrong music got played for one piece (also fixed!), and other than that, the show went on. Not bad. It could frankly have been far, far worse. I learned so much and got over a couple of major fears that I had about talking in front of people and talking to people with my professional voice :)

All in all, it must not have been too bad, because I'm signed on to help produce three more shows this fall. The Burly Q Babies Halloween show, the OhMaya Halloween show and my own production. I'm also insane enough to be performing in all three. I'll give more details about it once everything is booked and in place, but it's something I've wanted to do for almost a year. And I've got a tentative date-- November 28th. More soon!

I also got paid-- not an extreme amount, but a modest sum for my work. That feels really good whether it happens for my performance or my production skills. Every time someone pays me to do something I love, I get butterflies. Is that silly?

Next up, Illusion Studio's first end of term hafla. I got to see my students perform, first time ever! Also, career belly dance vs. enthusiast belly dance. Oh and a roundup of fall performance preparations.

In conclusion, tell me about your experiences putting together your first show, or your favourite show, or maybe even something that went really well or really disastrously! Favourite show stories here!

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