Having worked with a lot of performers over the last couple of years, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing a performer turning up for a performance dragging what can only be described as the world’s biggest suitcase (and usually thanking some form of higher power for the invention of suitcase wheels!) Burlesque performers – like all cabaret and variety acts – are essentially a travelling one-human show and therefore need to be prepared for anything, whether it be a costume malfunction, an extremely long tech rehearsal or an unexpected press interview. This week I’ve been active on Facebook and Twitter asking performers to name the three most essential things in their suitcases are, in order to compile the Burlesquer’s Survival Kit. Have you got everything in your suitcase?
Costumes: Probably the most obvious one, but definitely most important! Make sure to check off every item of clothing from outer to underwear as you pack your suitcase, as this is the point where you’re most likely to lose items. Consider giving each costume their own individual tote bag, so if for any reason you need to change suitcases you can pick up the entire costume in one go, saving you from forgetting those all important sparkly pants!
Props: Equally as obvious as the costume, but usually harder to pack. Consider how you will be transporting these first before filling your suitcase with other stuff.
Costume Jewellery: Perfect for adding a little bit of extra bling to your outfit. Most performers tend to carry around a small box of trinkets with them, including a couple of pairs of earrings, necklaces and a couple of bracelets.
Make Up Bag: Another staple item, containing all your favourite products which may include primer, concealer, foundation, pressed powder, eyeliner, mascara, blusher, bronzer, eyeshadow and of course your perfect red lipstick. Its best to keep a separate set of cosmetics in your suitcase so you should never need to take it out of your suitcase unless your getting ready for a show. Also, if you keep show make up separate from your day make up, you should be able to claim this as an allowable business expense.
False Eyelashes: For a more dramatic look on stage. Its always good to have a spare pair too if you’re performing regularly, as they are pretty fragile (not to mention tend to get put down in strange places at the end of the night!)
Glitter: Perfect for enhancing red lipstick or for adding a bit of sparkle to your performance. Use liberally, but remember that once glitter has invaded the area, it never leaves. Expect everything you own to be covered in glitter from now on. Including your cat.
Mini Sewing Kit: For all those last minute costume alterations, including broken straps and zips, popped buttons and torn fabrics. A good sewing kit will contain at least a couple of needles, thread (matching your costume) scissors, safety pins and a couple of spare buttons. You (and often your fellow performers) will be grateful for the safety pins.
Mini First Aid Kit: Although it should be the venue’s job to make sure there is a first aid box, its always good to make sure you have the bare essential around in case of emergency. Common cabaret casualties include badly broken nails, stage splinters and broken glass cuts after one too many wines. A couple of plasters, antiseptic wipes and some paracetamol won’t take up too much space and save you going on the hunt for them mid show.
Important Phone Numbers: Ok, not technically for the suitcase, but always make sure you have phone numbers for your stage manager, accommodation and a local cab company stored in your phone for the local area. Just in case…
2 Copies of your Music: You’ll need to give one copy to the sound technician anyway, but its good to have a back up.
Nipple Tassels and Pasties: Self explanatory really – come in different shapes, colours and sizes. Make sure you are wearing a pair that give you full coverage, and that match your outfit. A generic coloured spare pair might come in handy too. For more on nipple tassels and pasties, read here…
Hot Glue Gun: Brilliant for quick backstage fixes including broken shoes, loose feathers on fans, broken jewellery, damaged props… anything you can’t (or can’t be bothered to) sew.
Nude G String: Also referred to as a safety thong.
Double Sided or Carpet Tape: For sticking on pasties, C strings, merkins, and anything else you’d rather didn’t fall off on stage. Tape is also good for any last minute fixes on props
Spare Underwear and Female Hygiene Products: For emergencies. Enough said on that really!
High Heels: Great for adding height and confidence to any performer. Make sure yours look in good condition and are comfortable enough to perform in.
Flat shoes: As much as we love our favourite pair of heels, a good pair of flats are just what you need after a show when you’re dragging your survival kit home again. Staple black pumps go with pretty much everything and take up very little room in your suitcase.
Mirror: Not all venues have mirrors, so its a good idea to bring one with you just in case. It will make doing your hair a little easier before the show.
Hair Care Kit: Speaking of hair, remember to pack a hair care kit including rollers, brush, straighteners, comb, grips, pins, hairspray, hair elastics and hair accessories.
Dressing Gown: Depending on the venue, your route off stage at the end of the performance may involve a slalom through audience members or a long walk down a cold corridor. Protect your modesty with a stylish dressing gown, which will also keep you warm backstage between acts. Or a onesie, if you’d prefer!
Travel Slippers: Ditto the dressing gown, and they will also protect your feet from dirty, sticky floors as well as protecting you from safety hazards such as broken glass and other loose materials.
Wet wipes: Brilliant for removing stage make up, cleaning hands, removing glitter, wiping off fake blood and generally helping to you feel more hygienic after your performance.
Deodorant: Very important in small, confined changing rooms. Just go outside to spray. Nobody wants deodorant lung.
Spare stockings: Because it will be just your luck that when you don’t have a spare pair, you’ll rip a hole in you stocking putting them on!
Clear Nail Varnish: Great for stopping runs in your stockings or tights, plus painting your nails will kill half an hour backstage between the tech run and the final performance.
iPod: Perfect for zoning out backstage, rehearsing in public spaces and also a handy back up if your CD’s malfunction.
Smartphone: Brilliant for checking train times, locating venues on maps, keeping on top of all those booking enquiries and of course a app or two to entertain you whilst your waiting to go on stage. Just remember to keep your phone on silent during the show!
Playing Cards: Pure entertainment value, whether you’re playing poker, drinking games, or practising magic tricks. Far more social than a smartphone too, so may help you break the ice with other performers.
Evening Attire: Some shows are just so much fun, you may want to stay and party afterwards. Make sure you pack something glamourous yet comfortable to slip into after your performance so you can continue to maintain your stage presence.
Business Cards: Shows are a great place to network, so make sure you have a couple of business cards on you at all times. You never know who you might bump into backstage, outside, in the audience, at the bar…. you get my drift.
Invoice Slips: Some venues like you to pay in cash on the night, so keep an invoice book in your suitcase and keep a record of everything you receive. Makes filling in your tax return easier too.