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Beginning Burlesque: Filling Out Applications (Part Two)

It's time to look at application forms! You understand the Types of Application Processes, now you're ready to actually apply! When it comes to forms, every producer (who uses them) will have their own formula. Some producers will request as much information as they can to fully curate a big show or to help create a smoother production process until the day of the show while others will stick to the basics. How can you navigate it all? Honestly, it's going to just come with experience. The more types of shows you get to be a part of, the more you'll begin to understand the various dynamics within burlesque and the performing arts. But for now, let's begin with the basics...

Below is one example of an application form that I may use for House of Cheek Productions. Even as one producer, I have a variety of forms that I will rotate between, depending on the preferences for the specific show. If you'd like to see the form on it's own, you can check it out here! Now let's get into it!

A photo of the beginning part of an online application form that describes the show details.

Show Description

Most applications will start with a description and any detail regarding the show that is being cast. Here, you can usually see if there is a theme, the date, when applications are accepted until, payment information, accessibility information, and any other important notes regarding the show. Each producer and application form is unique. Some may be super thorough, while others may be very minimal. Some producers will have a set performer payment fee or sliding scale for payment, while others (like listed in this photo) may leave payment as a non-set amount to further negotiate with the performer upon their acceptance to the show.

Performer Information

Producers need to know who's applying, which you can probably assume. "Performer Name" and "Email Address" are the two items that are almost always included in application forms. The other points will depend on the producer and, again, what they need or want. If your "Legal Name" is requested, it's usually because the venue requires legal names and matching ID for all production members who work within their facility or maybe for a festival who will be tagging performers/staff for full access to the backstage area and festival. Though it may feel daunting to some people to give their legal names, it is usually necessary information when requested. When a producer requests only your name, they are usually needing your performer name (i.e. Cherry Cheeks). If you're someone who the producer may only know you by your legal name but they don't request it, making a note in the performer name section can help the producer greatly if they may think you're a completely different performer (i.e. Cherry Cheeks - a.k.a. [insert legal name here]).

You'll notice in the above example photo, that I ask specifics to where a performer is applying from and if they'll need accommodations during their visit. Depending on the show, if a producer personally reaches out to you to perform (a.k.a. you don't need to apply), then the producer should be covering your expenses including performer payment, accommodations, and travel. This will be further discussed in a future post. If you're applying, then there may be discussion with whether the producer can help with your expenses or not. But in most cases, if you're applying to a show, you'll be responsible for at least your own travel, but most producers are happy to look for a local community member (if not themselves) who is happy to host travelling performers.

Act Information

Time to reflect! Depending on the size of the show and whether performers are performing one act or more, producers usually request that you fill out multiple forms for each act you're applying with. Though some will conveniently have two separate slots in their application already if a performer wishes to apply with more than one act. Also note: If a producer is hiring performers for one act only, it is usually okay for you to apply with two if you are not sure which one you'd prefer to apply with. If you're not sure, then feel free to ask the producer. And if you're applying to festivals, be aware that they tend to have application fees which are set for either one or two applications to help offset their festival costs.

  • Act Name: Is an act name important? Honestly, it's not a make or break situation... but it can greatly help with clarity when a producer asks for your act information later or when they're making the set list to send out to performers and put in the green room. For me, naming my acts helps to give them life. My "set" acts that I tend to promote the most through my website and to producers tend to all have names. Names like "Ticking Steam," "Hot Chocolate," or "Jellyfish Bliss" can help give an insight into the routine, even before the producer reads the description. Or if I really can't think of a name, I'll just name them after the song I'm using or a character if it's a Nerdlesque act. "Naming" my acts after the song I use also tends to be my own default if I'm applying with a more casual act or one I only plan to do the one time. No matter whether you plan to keep your act forever or just once, having a name can be important to help the producer and staff with identifying what's needed. Being listed as just "Cherry Cheeks" holds a lot less impact for say, a technician who has multiple acts to remember cues for. Where if a technician sees something like "Cherry Cheeks - Somebody to Love," then they instantly have an idea, memory and more inspiration before the performer steps onstage. I would say that having an act name is more of a very large convenience than a necessity.

  • Act Description: This can be incredibly daunting to a lot of people, and that's fair! I am almost always intimidated when I started to create a description for a new act. I try to focus on being as specific as possible, or at least stick with my personal basics if I'm stuck. Asking myself questions involving style (i.e. classic, neo, arthouse, draglesque, reverse strip, political, nerdlesque etc), story line/inspiration, core of routine, main focus of routine (i.e. audience based? intimacy? high energy? elaborate costume changes? Music used? electronic costuming? etc), props that may be used... these are all incredibly helpful places to start if you're feeling lost. And depending on your act, sometimes more detail is better. More examples of extra information to include could be costume colours/pieces, adjustments you have made or will make if it's been updated from the video, is this a duet/group routine? Is there mess? Is there a lot of set up? Do you already have work-arounds for these if there is no mess allowed and what are they? Any content awareness needed? And anything else you think will help the producers have a strong understanding of your routine. If you're ever wondering if your description is accurate or helpful for the act, it doesn't hurt to have a friend help you out if needed. You don't need to include all of this information, but it is a great place to start. The idea with a description is for someone to have a sense of your act without ever seeing it. The nice thing about an act description is that it doesn't necessarily have to be exciting... you just need to get the point across. If you can, try to avoid using descriptors that could be applied to most other routines. Things like "super sparkly costume" or "a fun routine" don't actually say much about your act, especially in a performance style that tends to be focused on those points. And, if you're like me and lazy... remember to have your act descriptions saved somewhere for you to return to so you can just copy and paste for each new application you fill out for shows. And please... even if you do have a video for your application you still need to fill out the description. Often if both are asked for, it's not a one or the other option. Your description can be as simple or as in depth as you feel is needed to get a strong understanding of the routine. Most of the time, mine tend to be a few short sentences, unless I feel like there is important extra information to note.

  • Examples:

  • Hot Chocolate - That perfect rich and creamy mix of classic and neo burlesque. This deliciously rich routine is a cheeky ode to one of Cherry's favourite winter treats: hot chocolate! Full of playful hidden reveals and tasty surprises, this act is one to savour.

  • Somebody to Love - This high energy classic routine is ALL about the audience and finding somebody to love. Cherry's intimate gaze, combined with her passion to reach every member in the audience, are what make this one of her most memorable routines. This act emphasizes breaking the fourth wall and has Cherry frequently changing her performance from being onstage to in the audience. This act is highly adaptable and can be done in any venue.

  • Phoenix Fire - Rising from the ashes of yesterday, this routine is inspired by a phoenix's rebirth. Starting in all black as a scorched phoenix, each layer eventually reveals bright fiery colours as she is reborn. With Cherry's rocker edge and typical Cheeky style, this piece is about empowerment. This was Cherry's debut act, and it continues to develop with her as she grows as a performer.

  • Ticking Steam - An arthouse neo-style steampuk automoton routine. Starting in blackout with a spotlight, this act is a whimsical story of an automoton (steampunk clock robot) who is a bit rusty but still working. As the act progresses, the automoton gains more fluid movements and slowly reveals their "inner workings," eventually leading up to a full costume reveal of becoming a clock.

  • Sheik - An edgy and mysterious nerdlesqe routine. Embodying one of the most cherished video game babes of the Zelda series, Sheik, Cherry Cheeks brings the masked figure to centre stage.

  • Bee - A playful and campy love affair between a flower and a bee

  • Video/Photo: Videoooooo... is it necessary? Yes! But also you can work around it! Let's start with if you do have the option of submitting a video... Video helps to give the best sense of your act and you, as a performer, for a producer especially if they've never seen the act or worked with you. Having a live performance video not only helps give a sense of the act, but also how the audience reacts to the act. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into an application video, maybe the audience is a particularly quiet one, maybe the video quality isn't amazing, what if this is your only video and your costume came off too early or incorrectly? Send it anyway. If you submit a video that's not your definition of "perfect" then you can always add more specifics to your written description to inform the producer of where the act is today. Sometimes seeing mistakes is actually more beneficial. If the producer sees you make a mistake, how do you continue your act with it? Even if your video isn't professional quality, that's okay... especially if you don't feel overly confident in your written description. You can send in professional, live videos or videos recorded on your phone in your living room. Both are perfect to give a sense of your routine. When sending in a video, usually you'll be providing a link where the application form asks for video. When you do this, make sure that your video is accessible and does not require a password or special permission to view. If you really don't want your video to be public, then make sure to provide the producer with the password in your application. I've seen a lot of applications tend to skip this step and leave the producer responsible to reach out to performers and possibly wait for multiple days to gain access, or no access at all. Being given the option of a video but no access to it can be a bigger hindrance to your application than having no video at all. What if this is a debut or you have no video? If you have photos, a lot of producers are happy to accept those. Or if it's a debut act, then you can say so and that is also good. Even just saying that you don't have video yet is okay. It's ideal to have video, but it is not the deal breaker.

Extra Information

This is all dependent on the producer. Each producer and show will have unique points that are important to curate that specific show, so you may see extra information in an application like above.

Some other examples of what producers may request: technical information, performer bio, photos and promotion information, producer references, how much set up for routine, why do you want to work with this producer... there are multiple points a producer can request. If there is ever a request that you're not sure about or not comfortable answering, don't be afraid to reach out to the producer for clarity or to inform them.

Closing Information

This can be included with the "Extra Information" as it is less common than the first few points but still important. If an application form doesn't have closing requests, then it may have a closing description to reiterate when you should hear back from the producer... or maybe nothing at all! The form just ends... the end.

Things to Be Conscious of

Don't assume the producer knows your act, even if you've worked with them before.. even if you've performed that act with them before. This is probably the most common things I see on applications. Even if a performer is one of my best friends, I want to have them fill out an application form the same as everyone else. Seeing performers comment in a section, like the act description, with something like "you've seen this act before," "you know my style," or "see video" really doesn't help me. Similar to how you can never assume you're going to be in a show, even if the producer is your friend, I recommend taking the same care to fill out their forms as you would with a less familiar producer to you.

As you apply to shows, remember to read all comments and notes from producers. If they say to email them if you're interested in applying to a show, don't message them on Facebook or Instagram. Or the more common thing... if they say to privately message them... please... don't just comment on that thread or tell them to reach out to you. It's okay to miss something or forget, we all do that at times. This is just a friendly reminder.

What if a producer, troupe, festival, or collective doesn't mention accessibility or any inclusivity-information on their form? My main recommendation is to reach out to them and also understand your own needs if you can. We are here to help where we can, and if a performer needs extra assistance with either applying to a show or ensuring that they will receive the support they need during the show, then we are there. Or maybe if this is a new producer to you, talking with other performers and their experiences with that producer can help you greatly. Maybe those performers will give you lots of help and insights while you're figuring the process out. Or maybe they'll give insights that let you know that maybe that producer or show isn't quite for you. There are other places throughout the show experience where I have more thoughts, but in terms of applications, direct communication is where most of my knowledge is currently at.

You will notice a vast difference between applying to a community-based show, festival, or to be a guest with a troupe or collective. Bigger shows and festivals tend to request a lot more information, than say, a monthly or weekly community-based show. From my experience, shows that happen more frequently tend to request the bare basics from performers and acts that are applying to perform. Those producers may also have more forms leading up to the show to receive act notes and set up so they can stay up-to-date with what's needed from their end. Troupes can have more specific standards when they invite guest performers to their stages, because a troupe tends to have a set style needed to keep their shows cohesive and on brand. A collective is a lot more casual, and often community based when producing. These are just basic descriptions of each production type. There will always be a variety of producers and standards within each style. You'll learn a lot about the different types of forms as you grow and perform with a wider variety of producers.

Can set up or mess affect your application? Usually no, but sometimes yes. A lot of producers won't ask about mess or set up until after a performer is hired. But there will be the rare producer who requests that information right away. From my experience, having a lot of set up or mess doesn't necessarily affect your chances of being hired for that show. It is mostly used as a way for the producer to be aware of how many big set ups they may have for the show (if there are a lot, then they may not have the show time to allow all of them), or if the performer already has a system for cleaning up or controlling their mess. Of course, there will still be the specific producers who cannot have any mess or set up, but usually if that's the case, it will be mentioned in the application's show description.

Try to get a sense of the type of application. Do you think you can copy and paste your typical descriptions into each section? Or do you think this particular show may want more candid authentic answers? Most of the time you can go with your generic answers. But be aware that there may be the odd show that will request more personalized responses. Or maybe, unlike what I previously said about friends... maybe you are friends with a producer and you two have a relationship where they don't care how you answer questions on the form and you can have fun with it. Again, like there are many types of application forms and production styles, there are many ways for you to send in your information. It's all about being adaptable, experimenting, and learning what works for you.


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