My First Burlesque Performance (That Ended in a Trip to the ER)

After being accepted into the troupe, I was invited to submit an idea for a performance for their Twisted Fairy Tale themed show. I had the perfect idea! Since my name is Scarlett and I love wearing red, what could be more natural than being Little Red Riding Hood? I picked the song out, wrote up an abstract, and put together a submission. Although, I didn’t want to send it until after the party. What party? A BURLESQUE PIZZA PARTY!

It was my first gathering with the troupe. My husband and I drove out to a house in the middle of no where. It was Bearcat Betty’s house. She was the mime I saw that first time at the club. She was a co-producer and all around talented lady and still is. They welcomed us in, and suddenly I was in a whirlwind of “how do you do’s” with people with very strange names. They loved a good pun, loved food, loved party games, and I was in the best place ever.

At one point, I went outside to puff on my vape pen (more than two years without a cigarette!) and hung with the smoker people of the group. There were two girls and a boy. I say boy…he was a man. But in burlesque when a guy strips it’s called “boylesque.” Also, when I say girls, I don’t mean in it derogatorily. They are grown women. However, since they have since become family, they are “my girls” so I call them that here. If you wanna get into a deep discussion about gender and nomenclature, I am usually all for it. However, I am writing how I talk here and mean no disrespect. So there. But I digress…

While outside with these lovely people, surrounded by farmland and cats wandering over from the barn across the street, we started talking about the upcoming submission deadline for the show. I mostly listened to the boy, Tweets (not his real name), talk about a Puss in Boots act he wanted to do. I finally got the courage to pipe up and say something and said I was thinking of doing a Red Riding Hood act. Note: I said “thinking” about it. I didn’t tell them that I already had a submission package prepped. Then, one of the girls said, “Oh, I already submitted my Red Riding Hood act” and she further explained what the twist on it was. Damnit. She was one of the founding members, no way I would get picked over her. Crestfallen, I went inside and told my husband that my idea was not going to happen. After most people left, I was hanging with two of the producers (there’s a third one you’ll meet), the White Rabbit and Bearcat Betty. I told them I wanted to submit a Red Riding Hood routine but the idea was already taken. The general response was, that sucks, but there are other ideas. I went away from the party totally defeated. I had a good time and I already loved my troupe. But, I just wanted my premiere to be EVERYTHING. All the good fairy tale people were taken.

The next morning, about a week before the submissions were due, I received a message from Bearcat telling me that it wasn’t the end of the world and I could still premiere in the show. “How about Pinocchio? We were hoping someone would do that.” I rolled my eyes. Ugh…really? Pinocchio? Are they just saying that because my hair is short and I can pass as a boy? But I wanted to be in the show. I wanted to get my burlesque life started NOW. I don’t even know what song I would do….whhhaaaaaa….

After a bout of “why mes” and “it’s not fairs” I thought of a song. I thought of a twist on the tale! I thought of sparkly red suspender shorts and an equally shiny hat! I started to get excited. Just because something isn’t your idea, doesn’t mean its a BAD idea. People will make suggestions to you for a reason…they have YOU in mind for a reason.

So I submitted my routine for approval and BINGO. I was in. Holy shit…I’m IN. I’m going to be performing in a month. A MONTH!? I’m going to be NAKED in front of PEOPLE. Woooo….this will be something else. But, I would soon find out that showing some skin on stage is nothing compared to showing skin on stage while sporting some kind of freak infection while doing so.

I made my costume, had the perfect song and cut it to ribbons in a good way. I practiced my little butt off. The time came for dress rehearsal just a couple days before the actual show. I did my routine! People loved it! I felt crazy alive! I felt at home in the dressing room. There’s just something about dressing rooms I always loved about being in theater. Every dressing room felt like home. My clothes were there, my make up was there, I got naked in it, and got ready in it. Whatever theater (or in this case, club) I was in, I had a tiny little safe space just for me. But it might also be the place where I was bitten to all hell on my arm by some unknown bug creature.

The day after rehearsal, little bumps showed up on my arm and hand. I wasn’t alarmed. I usually get hives when I’m stressed out or nervous. I was a little of both, understandably. But, the bumps grew in size and became hardened lumps underneath. Puss started to ooze from them and they itched like crazy.

It was the day of the show and I was freaking the hell out. I covered my arms (yes both…for symmetry) in band-aids which I rationalized made sense since my strings were getting cut anyway. My compatriots looked on in sympathy and White Rabbit said that it looked like I was getting the dreaded injured performance out of the way on my first night.

My friends started to arrive at the club and I went out to greet them. My arms were just leaking puss at this point and my opera gloves were soaked. My friend put her hand on my arm and was astonished. “You’re burning up! That is a full blown infection you got there.” I couldn’t argue. I felt awful, but not too awful since I was also on a fantastic adrenaline high.

I will never forget standing backstage in all my my wooden boy glory. I’ve been waiting in the wings for an entrance more times than I can count. But, this was different. I cut the music, I choreographed everything, I wrote the story line, I made my costume…everything was on me. I felt like I was going to throw up as I dabbed at my puss-soaked gloves and tried to breathe. Then, my fairy burlesque mother appeared. Bearcat took my hands and looked deeply into my eyes. “You are going to be great,” she said, “just breathe. You will be fine.” Her grip on my hands and my soul steadied me. I was ready. And then the MC said my name.

The performance went well….ok fuck being humble. I ROCKED IT. A girl rushed the stage at the very beginning of my act to lay dollar bills at my feet (that is where the featured picture came from). I stayed in the character and didn’t think anything of it. Then, after I went through my routine, she rushed me AGAIN trying to stuff dollars into the bra I was trying to take off. I loved the enthusiasm, but I was trying to perform! The crowd was so loud when my strings were cut and I stepped off of the stage. I spun, twirled, and went down to my knees. At the end, I revealed my pasties and gave them a shake. I ran offstage afterward, higher than I had ever been before. I did it. I accomplished it. I made it. I felt high as a kite, which was due in part to my accomplishment, and also the benedryl mixed with alcohol. I should have left and gone straight to the hospital to get something done about my arm before gangrene set in. But I didn’t! I stayed and I danced and I chatted and stood around with people basking in the glow of their love.

My husband and I left the club just before closing at 2am. We went home and weighed our options: go to the ER right now covered in sweat and glitter with smeared mascara or sleep for a few hours and then go to the ER. I opted for going to the ER right away because I didn’t feel like sleeping with an arm full of puss.

My show people were still up and chatting in the Facebook group message. I told them we were at the ER and just like a family, they showed their concern and demanded updates. I didn’t get out of the ER until 8 hours later, well into the morning light of the next day. No one could identify what had caused the bumps and at one point, it felt like an episode of House, M.D. There was a particularly awful blood filled GIANT blister on my hand that had ballooned in just a couple hours. While I was sitting up in bed, I had two doctors hover over my hand while pointing at it and talking about it as if it were a separate entity from me. One of the doctors turned to me and said “Sorry we’re talking shop. It feels like we’re back in school.” Fantastic. They sent me off with more benedryl and a healthy dose of antibiotics to fight off the infection.

As we were leaving the ER, after the initial grumbling about long wait times and such, I suddenly grinned ear to ear. My husband asked what was up, and I said “I did burlesque last night.” he smiled and said “I know.”

Thanks for reading! I don’t really have a schedule. I just post when I feel like it and some posts will be longer or shorter than others. Stay tuned for more stories from the burlesque stage!

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