Brown Paper Tickets uses cookies to provide the best experience on our website. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy

Cookie Settings

5 Secrets to a Successful Community Arts Event

community-arts-festivalHere’s the scenario: someone delegates you the enormous responsibility of planning a community arts festival. It needs to be wildly successful, but you have little-to-no budget and a short time. You nod and say alright (there’s a reason they asked you after all), but your mind is telling you to run screaming.

You can pull off a rockin’ community arts event, even under such constraints. You just need to get out there and connect with venues, community members, and artists.

Here are 5 tips that will help your event:

1. Find a Venue that Will Benefit

Ideally one that has power, running water, and restrooms (inside), so that you don’t need to rent the infrastructure separately. Before you approach the venues, have a good idea of how your event will benefit the space. They may be able to cut you a deal or even allow you to have the space for free.

The definition of venue has changed a bunch. Don’t overlook bookstores, warehouses, barns, and dance studios.

Watch our webinar on turning your empty space into an event space.

2. Pool Community Resources

Don’t underestimate the human need for passion, purpose, and connection. Clearly define your cause and publicize it. Make flyers, post to community apps and Facebook groups, put up a notice at community gathering spaces in your neighborhood. You will be amazed at how easily you can pull together a team of local volunteers.

Every city and town has talented artists who are excited to show off their work. Establish a common vision, make new friends and pull in their friends.

3. Include a Range of Arts

A powerful community arts event can draw a range of people. Keep this in mind as you book and schedule entertainment. When you include a diverse range of acts and people from all walks of life, you will attract and appeal to a wider audience. Consider posting a call for artists and step outside your own comfort zone to find them.

The term “arts” encompasses a range of activities; don’t limit yourself. You could include magic, storytelling, painting, dance, jump rope dancing, circus arts, burlesque, spoken word. The talent is out there, you just need to look for it.

Pro tip: Set up areas at your event for people to chat, before checking out the show. They’re more likely to stick around for the whole event that way.

4. Find Creative Solutions that Don’t Cost

Investigate your venue space and brainstorm ideas for creative ways to engage with it. You will be surprised at how innovative you can get.

At a community arts event we held long ago, our staff member transformed the black-and-white checkered dance floor into a giant game of checkers. Creativity is half the fun and you’re working with one creative bunch, so use their brains.

5. Invite EVERYONE

Don’t limit your invites. Use the steps outlined in this post on how to announce an event on social media . Tell all of your friends, family, coffeehouse owners, people at your gym, local eateries and shops about your arts extravaganza. Talk to local publications and neighborhood blogs—if you can get listed in just a few of them, you’re all set.

Create an event promo video and post it everywhere. Get listed in local events’ newsletters and finally, ask your friends and family to spread the word.

Have you ever had to plan an event that was outside your comfort zone? How did it go?


Arts >

BHoF Weekender Hits, Highlights and Big Winners

burlesque-hall-of-fame-weekenderBrown Paper Tickets is proud to have handled ticketing for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, the annual gathering of the glitter tribe in Las Vegas, June 4 to 7. This was my first year attending the Weekender and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet many of our burlesque producers and performers in person.

Sunday night’s co-host Ernie Von Schmaltz dubbed the event “summer camp for sexy weirdos.” That’s definitely a fitting description. But to me it’s more of a big, glittery family reunion as I get to catch up with performers I’ve worked with or have seen perform.

Titans of Tease

I missed Thursday night’s Movers, Shakers & Innovators Showcase, but I did catch Friday night’s 58th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase, which featured burlesque legends from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Early burlesque performers were often outcasts from mainstream society and even mistreated by family members. One shared a story of how, in the early 1960s, her religious mother made her burn all her burlesque costumery. She obeyed. Years later, while looking through her grandmothers’ attic, her daughter found the one dress that wasn’t lost. She performed her routine for the showcase in that dress and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house (including mine).

These ladies live loud and age isn’t slowing them down. It must feel so empowering for the performers, now in their 70s, 80s or even 90s (the oldest dancer was 93) to be celebrated and looked at as role models. Our charming, graceful host, The World Famous BOB summed it up. “These women are redefining what it means to age as a woman in our society.”

Tigger’s Talkshow

On Saturday afternoon, I caught Tigger’s “Let’s Have A Kiki” live daytime talk show. Tigger cracks me up. The show featured interviews with Burlesque Beat founder J.D. Oxblood, famed burlesque photographer Don Spiro and performances by Edmonton, Alberta’s River City Revue.

Saturday night’s show was the 25th Annual Tournament of Tease hosted by fellow Seattleite and old friend Armitage Shanks, the Carny Preacher. At five hours long, it was a marathon of a performance, but as a testament to the quality, it didn’t seem long.

And the Winners Are…


Keep your eyes out for the best of burlesque, performing around the world. They’re well worth your time.

Best Debut
Zelia Rose – Melbourne, Australia

Best Small Group
The Original Twins (Paris Original & Trojan Original) – Seattle, Washington

Best Boylesque
Matt Finish – Tucson, Arizona

Best Large Group
Jenny Rocha & Her Painted Ladies – Brooklyn, New York

And, finally, the Reigning Queen of Burlesque, the winner of Miss Exotic World 2015 is:
Trixie Little – New York, New York.

Trixie killed it in her banana dress. She has been a large presence in the burlesque scene since 2002, when she debuted as part of the award-winning acrobatic burlesque superduo Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey. Since then she’s performed with John Waters & The Flaming Lips and was featured on season 4 of “America’s Got Talent.” Not only that, she’s been a mentor and inspiration for many within the community. Way to go Trixie.

Meanwhile, at the Pool …

DSCN2086I was able to duck into Sunday’s pool party for a bit and enjoyed the killer tunes being spun by Gigi & Pop (New York, New York) while taking in the poolside fashions of the glitterati. Good times.

Sunday night’s show was the Icons & All-Stars showcase hosted by Ernie Von Schmaltz and Victoria Deville. This show featured past winners of BHoF’s past as well as the presentation of the Sassy Lassy Awards to burlesque pioneers.

The Sassy Lassy was the name of the bar that legendary tassel twirler, Jennie Lee and her husband owned in California. Lee was a veteran of the 1950’s burlesque scene, known for inviting all her burlesque friends around for impromptu performances. Purportedly, one morning after picking up stripper refuse from a wild night with her friends, she started nailing bras, gowns, pasties and g-strings to the wall, creating the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum’s first home. The first BHoF gathering took place in that same bar in 1965, creating the tradition that celebrated its 50th anniversary with this year’s Weekender.

Making this Weekender extra special, Dustin Wax, Burlesque Hall of Fame President announced that they will open the museum in a new space in downtown Vegas, expanding their square footage by 20 times and allowing them to (finally) put their large collection on display. From a dive bar in San Pedro to a legitimate museum in Las Vegas, BHoF’s come a long way, baby.

For more detailed coverage of the weekend, visit Burlesque Beat and 21st Century Burlesque. If you’re a burlesque event organizer or performer who wants to support the Burlesque Hall of Fame, check out our Burlesque Hall of Fame Fund, which allows you to add an additional fee to your ticket price, 100% of which goes directly to the nonprofit museum. Or donate directly.

That’s a wrap. Can’t wait until next year’s Weekender.

Photo credit:  Museum interior photo courtesy of the Burlesque Hall of Fame. 

Arts >

And the Brassy Award Goes To …

Brassy Burlesque Exposition

It’s my esteemed honor to announce the winner of the inaugural Brassy Award: Mistress Kali. The $500 cash grant and mentorship will be applied to her winning show Storyville Rising, premiering in New Orleans May 16 and 17, 2015. Thunderous applause from the glitter tribe erupted as I gave her the award at The Great Burlesque Exposition 9’s Main Event.

Brown Paper Tickets is all about supporting communities. That is the driving force behind the Brassy Award. We’re thrilled to give the first one to such an innovative concept and talented event producer.

How the Brassy Came to Be

The Great Burlesque Exposition in Boston has long time supported Brown Paper Tickets. I attended in 2013. I was touched and humbled by producers who relayed how impressed they’d been with our customer service and all that we do for burlesque. We owe much of our East Coast burlesque success to key figures like Scratch and Miss Mina singing our praises and using our services for their shows, classes and festivals. Scratch and the Expo were top of mind one afternoon in January 2014, when I sat with our CEO Steve Butcher to brainstorm how we could further support burlesque. A cash sponsorship didn’t feel right. We wanted to develop something that could grow, benefit the community and act as an ongoing gift from us to burlesque.

I’ve seen awards given to burlesque performers, but never to event producers and organizers, the unsung heroes of showbusiness. They crunch numbers, deal with sound and lighting technicians, create rehearsal schedules, negotiate with venues, set up ticketing and promote the show. They’re an essential part and rarely recognized publicly.

So we thought, why not reward event producers? A cash prize to help cover expenses and guidance from experienced organizers might elevate burlesque production standards and give nascent producers new role models. We pitched the idea to Scratch and he loved it. Just like that the Brassy was born.

The name is a play on brassiere, since the award “supports” burlesque arts. Scratch assembled a rock star Brassy committee: Lili VonSchtupp from Los Angeles, Red Hot Annie out of Chicago, Sailor St. Claire from Seattle and of course, himself.

After sifting through dozens of applications from around the country, the committee selected the winner—a producer I was already familiar with from her excellent work in New Orleans.


About Storyville Rising

Burlesque-Award-Winning-ConceptStoryville Rising is an immersive cabaret aimed at recreating the feeling and multi-layered experience of Crescent City’s (in)famous red light district. Audience members are invited into an evocation of one of The District’s sporting houses and treated to a spectacle of burlesque, sideshow, cirque and song. Throughout the evening, they will interact with the area’s various denizens: prostitutes, johns, doctors and midwives, and, of course, madams. Through the acts performed by some of the most lauded names in the burlesque and vaudeville revival, Storyville Rising explores issues of race, gender, power, sex and more. It is a truly unique experience, meant to remain with you long after you’ve left its embrace.

Early bird tickets are on sale now so if you’re from the Big Easy or are headed down there in May, be sure to check out the show. Also, be sure to follow our blog for updates on how the show is coming along.

Keep your eye on Kali because we predict great things from her in the future. 

Apply to the Next Brassy

If you organize, perform in or produce burlesque events and think you have a great idea for a show, apply for the 2016 Brassy Award. There’s a $20.00 application fee that goes toward the cash grant. Applicants will submit detailed information about the show they wish to produce, including a pro-forma budget, production schedule, marketing plan and other relevant materials and will be judged on originality and professionalism. Hopefully, I’ll have the honor of handing you next year’s Brassy Award. Go for it.

Photo of dancer Angie Z  by Jon Gunnar Gylfasson

Arts >

Q + A: Vivienne Fuego on The Golden Poppy Revue

Vivienne Fuego-1 We interviewed Vivienne Fuego, founder of Sacramento’s newest revue, The Golden Poppy Revue to find out how she got involved in burlesque, the challenges with her new endeavor and what audiences can expect to see at the Golden Poppy’s upcoming debut production. See “L’Amour—An Evening of Valentease,” Saturday, February 28 at the Colonial Theater in Sacramento. Tickets available here.

Before The Golden Poppy Revue, Vivienne (then called Raven LaRoux) founded the Bodacious Bombshells, a burlesque troupe with a “rock and roll edge” in 2012. The Bombshells dissolved in 2014 and Vivienne vowed to retire from producing and performing. After only a month into her retirement, she founded The Golden Poppy Revue, a bi-monthly production at Sacramento’s historic Colonial Theatre, featuring six former Bombshells as her core cast: Jenna Jezebel, Sugar Cheeks, Violet Ruthless, Dahlia D’Vine, Bella Blue-Eyes and Lady Grey.

Tell me about your burlesque history. How did you initially get involved and who were some of your early inspirations?

I replied to a notification in November of 2012 to a Meetup event that the founder of the Darling Clementines set up. I went to the Meetup and met with a great group of gals. ChaCha Burnadette led a discussion of all things burlesque to gauge our interest levels. She then organized Meetups that had us venturing out to a few of the shows of the Sizzling Sirens (Sacramento’s longest running troupe). I was mesmerized. Absolutely hooked. I knew right then that this was what I had to do with the rest of my life. Being that I have a background in dance and theater, it seemed like a natural fit. I auditioned for the troupe in early December and was happy to have been accepted as a member.

My first burlesque inspirations were definitely Ginger Valentine and LouLou D’Vil. Their classical style resonates with me.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced starting this new endeavor, “The Golden Poppy Revue?”

Some of the challenges I’ve faced in starting up the new endeavor were securing a venue (a big one for any producer), setting dates for the 2015 season (there always seems to be conflicting events on the weekends where we risk splitting the fan base numbers), and helping my core cast get up to speed on expectations and production style. Even though there have been a few growing pains, this has been the most easy and natural fit for us all. We gel so well and are very loving and supportive of one another.

What can audiences expect at your upcoming show “L’Amour – An Evening of Valentease?”

Our audiences can expect, simply to be wowed. This is the revue’s debut show and all of our cast members and special guests are abuzz with anticipation. We have both a VIP Experience and The Main Event as ticketing options. Main Event ticket holders arrive for the main show at 9:00. However, those that purchase the VIP Experience tickets will be privy to an exclusive pre-show earlier in the evening from 8:00 – 8:30. They also get to sit in the best seats in the house: the first three center and front rows. And they get to take home a keepsake from the event.

With a lineup consisting of local favorites Sugar Cheeks and Jenna Jezebel, our resident belly dancer Tisha Leigh, our boylesque dynamo Darren Kiss, a sideshow performance by Ryan Dile, comedienne extraordinaire Steph Garcia, and Isis Starr, a Legend of burlesque … well, they’re in for one amazing night.

Thank you for opting to take part in Brown Paper Tickets’ Burlesque Hall of Fame donation program. Why do you think it’s important for burlesque producers to support BHoF?

It’s important to honor our founding mothers and fathers. Without those ladies and gents who blazed trails for us, we wouldn’t have this beautiful, titillating, inspiring art form. It’s also such an easy way to help raise funds to support the museum in Vegas$0.35 gets added to each Brown Paper Tickets order. I’d say it’s a small price to pay to support something so critical.

Have you been to the BHoF Weekender? Any good stories?

I attended the Weekender back in 2013 and am happy to say that I will be going back this year. I served as an Escort to one of the Legends in ’13 and it was the most wonderful way to volunteer and network … I’m hoping to serve in that same role this year as well.

Do you have advice for burlesque artists thinking of producing their own revue?

I never produced until I was in my early 40s; I only performed. However, I grew up in the dance and theater worlds, so being immersed in those throughout my younger years has been a huge plus. Producing was a very natural next step for me. I would tell anyone thinking of producing their own revue to go to shows. See what’s out there and make an assessment of the types of productions. Brainstorm and figure out how you can create a show that is uniquely yours and different from all other local productions. Take as many burlesque business classes as you can at BurlyCon, The Great Burlesque Expo, etc. Get yourself a few producer mentors (mine are Bunny Pistol and Fever Blister). And as always, network, network, network.

Arts >

New Burlesque Hall of Fame Fund

PERSEPHONE BurlesqueBrown Paper Tickets has long supported the sassy, sultry, outrageous-in-the-best-way burlesque community. We want to ensure that the burlesque story (your story) is told with care and that legends live on to inspire its future.

We’re excited to announce our new Burlesque Hall of Fame Fund.

Established from a friendly acquisition of GlitterTix, this new program allows event producers the option to add $0.35 or $1.00 donation amounts to their ticket prices—100% of which goes directly to the Burlesque Hall of Fame (BHoF), a nonprofit museum on a mission to “preserve, celebrate and inspire the art of burlesque.”

The Burlesque Hall of Fame Fund carries on the good work of GlitterTix—a ticketing portal for burlesque and variety art shows. In the wake of GlitterTix dissolving, its co-founder Will Longfellow approached Brown Paper Tickets and asked that we continue its fundraising efforts, since we have such close ties to the burlesque community.

“GlitterTix service fees were among the lowest in the ticketing industry, but with Brown Paper Tickets, attendees of burlesque events will see ticketing fees go down, while donations to the Burlesque Hall of Fame increase,” said Longfellow on why he chose us.

It all comes down to Brown Paper Tickets and GlitterTix sharing the same goals to grow the burlesque community and pay tribute to its legends.

Speaking of legends…

The Ladies, the Dream, the Museum

Jennie Lee Vintage BurlesqueLegendary tassel-twirler, Jennie Lee dreamed of a “Burlesque Hall of Fame” back in the early 1950s. Lee wanted to honor burlesque’s memory and its future. She envisioned a world-class museum, affordable housing for retired dancers and a school for aspiring performers.

Lee passed away before she was able to see her dream come to fruition. Dixie Evans, Lee’s friend and the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” took up her efforts, opening a museum in California in 1990, 15 years after Lee’s death. In 2006, the Burlesque Hall of Fame moved to Las Vegas.

Today, it occupies a space in the Emergency Arts building in Downtown Vegas. A small part of the several-thousand-piece collection of costumes, stage props, photographs and personal effects is on display to the public. The museum continues to foster awareness and understanding of burlesque as an art form. Visit our donation page to donate directly to the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

The Burlesque Hall of Fame, GlitterTix and Brown Paper Tickets hope to continue what Dixie started and realize Lee’s vision for a supportive and educational infrastructure for burlesque artists.

Jennie Lee photo courtesy of Burlesque Hall of Fame

Arts >

11 Hot, Nerdy, New Burlesque Trends

game-of-thrones-burlesqueBurlesque isn’t all feathers, tassels and pin-ups. Brown Paper Tickets tickets thousands of burlesque events each year and we love to see all the creative tributes and trends.

Since it’s the season for costumes and creative dress, we tallied the outrageous, salacious, the downright funny and the serious, too.


1. Game of Thrones: Burlesque is Coming

We love the tagline for this event: “For the night is dark and full of rhinestones.” Who isn’t watching/reading/talking about Game of Thrones? Game of Thrones burlesque blends fantasy with the farcical. It’s produced by Moxie LaBouche who also put together another nerdy hit: “The Princess Bride: A Burlesque Tribute of Unusual Size.”

2. Comic Book Burlesque
Burlesque performers and superheroes have a lot in common. Both are confident, costume-clad, total bad-arses. Comic-book burlesque takes superheroes right from the page and brings them alive on stage. Get ’em, Bat Girl.

3. Burlesque and Board Games
Nerd Girl Burlesque gives the audience a tease and then steps down from the stage to play …board games. Sultry Scrabble. Daring Dice. Guests even get to bring in their own games.

Teases and Tributes

4. Tributes to the Late Great ’90s

This 90’s burlesque tribute wins just for the name: Ain’t Nuthin’ but a G-String.

5.  Heavy Metal Burlesque
Big, crazy hair. Sky-high leather boots. Makeup to the max. Metal and burlesque go together like skulls and crossbones.

6. Queen

Get all gussied up and see burly meets the rock ballad with this burlesque tribute to Queen. Mustaches are the only must, real, fake or painted on.

7. Club Fiend: A Misfits Burlesque Tribute

If Queen doesn’t do it for you, maybe a little London Dungeon will. Yes, there is a burlesque tribute to the hey-day of the horror-punk band.

8. Burl-eoke
We know you never get tired of belting out Joan Jett covers at the local dive, but when it’s time to switch up your karaoke night, Burl-eoke is the thing to do.

9. The Pink Room: David Lynch Burlesque

Cast off the rules of linear narrative and into the Lynchian – that is the bizarre, dream-like and hypnotic. Twin Peaks. Blue Velvet. Need we say more?


10. Zombie Burlesque
rAAaAA RrAaaAaaA uuHHHH Orr. Fluent in zombie speak? See classic burlesque with an undead twist in Vegas.

11. John Carpenter

‘Tis the season to be out-of-your-mind terrified. Liberty Rose brings acts inspired by the films of John Carpenter. Carpenter was the guy who directed a certain slasher film named after a certain holiday. This is the burlesque show of your nightmares. In a good way, of course.

What’s your favorite themed burly show? Comment away.

Arts >

Burlesque PR: Attract Media in 5 Easy Steps

Burlesque-Media-TipsFirst-time burlesque event coordinator? Or maybe you already sell out shows and want to nab the attention of a few media outlets. Media builds fans and boosts revenue. Here are five steps to attracting it:

1. Identify 5 Target Media Outlets

Ask your fans what media outlet they read or watch regularly. The answer is more and more likely to be a blog, a newsletter, a social media outlet, or other non-traditional media. This is good news, as it may be easier to get your story included in non-traditional media.

Tally responses. Then take out media outlets that do not influence your local market because it’s unlikely anyone but locals will buy tickets to your event. The top 5 on this list are your targets.

2. Identify Your Objective Value Propositions

To find your unique value proposition, ask yourself two questions:

What is it about your show that makes new ticket buyers want to spend their hard-earned dollars?

What makes your event worth the price? Ticket at any price, but the higher the price, the more you will need to justify value.

The answers to these questions are what will attract press to cover your event and ticket buyers to your show. Add your unique value propositions to the event title, description and headline of your press release.

Now it’s time to brainstorm, research and highlight your event’s objective (not subjective) superlatives. Journalists rely on facts, not opinions, so your event superlatives must be provable.

Find Your Superlatives

Award-winning performers (specify award and date received)

Largest or only event by any measure? Any metric can be used to make the superlative accurate, but you have to be able to back up your claim in one sentence. (Biggest burlesque festival in _____.)

The event had either more performers, more performances, or more square footage than any other burlesque event in ____.

First burlesque festival in ___ .  Because no one had ever done ____ before.

The press won’t be able to use the following superlatives because they aren’t provable by objective measures:

Most fun
_____ -est of its kind

3. Localize to the Largest Community Possible

Localize your event to create an attractive angle for the press to cover. Readers and viewers have more interest in what happens to people and places they know.

Add a location name to the title of your event and choose the largest community possible (i.e., the Florida Burlesque Festival would attract more news value than the Ft. Lauderdale Burlesque Festival).

However, if the smaller place of localization generates greater interest, use that. For instance, a Hollywood burlesque festival could sell more than a Los Angeles burlesque festival because of Hollywood’s caché.

How to do it

Get the hometown, neighborhood and professional high-resolution headshot for every performer in the event, and write an email to the appropriate reporter at his/her neighborhood blog (if it’s in your possible attendee coverage area) to alert them about the “hometown girl/boy done good story” with your event as the hook.

BPT_Icons_Bull_Horn4. Make Your Pitch Picture Perfect

Media outlets need good visuals to get clicks, likes and shares. Burlesque has an advantage: sequins, feathers and starlets make stunning visuals. Keep in mind that media outlets won’t normally publish a photo or video unless it’s G-rated.

How to do it

Amp the glamour, tone down the flesh. Invest in professional headshots and at least one full body and one performance photo, with high resolution.

If you are producing a show with other performers, ask them for headshots as soon as you book them for your show. You don’t want to lose a story because you don’t have photography ready.

Make sure your videos are G-rated. Also, television stations aren’t likely to use promotional videos with music, graphics, credits or logos embedded over the video. Hire a videographer to get natural sound, close-up footage and then edit out the more risqué parts to maximize your media coverage.

5. Submit Free Calendar Listings

You have a great localized value proposition. You have an enticing event description and pitch subject line. You included at least one dazzling visual. Time to get the word out.

Calendar listings are the low-hanging fruit of the publicity world. They are easy to get and almost always generate ticket sales (as long as you have successfully done steps 1-4).

Submitting a free calendar listing for your event is simple. Newsletter, blog or The New York Times, every one has an event listing. And you can be part of it if you complete the first four steps and closely follow event submission instructions.

How to do it

Take your new top 5 list. Go to the online events section for every special interest group, blog or media outlet. Search for “how to submit an event” and follow the directions. If you can’t find it, send the press contact a short email that describes your event. Ask the publication if they would write about it or include it in the topics they share with their community.

Poof. You just got press attention in every single one of your top 5 media targets.

Yes, it is that simple. And guess what? Editorial teams look at calendar listings when assigning stories. Therefore, this effort increases the likelihood of an additional story. There are many ways to amp the press for your event. But these basics ensure that the press you get goes further to help you achieve your goals and reach new levels of success.

Photo credit: “The Secret Taboo” Elena Gatti

Arts >

19 Pearls of Wisdom from the Burlesque World


For years Brown Paper Tickets has worked with and learned from burlesque industry professionals. We’ve interviewed numerous burly pros to uncover words of advice, tips or pearls for those just starting burlesque.

From novice performers to stars like Michelle L’amour, many have been featured on our blog in the past. Enjoy a compilation of their top tips for event organizers, burly performers or burlesque-curious. Find suggestions for putting on a burlesque festival, wisdom for new performers, touring ideas, guidance for starting your own troupe and even pointers for emcees.

Take your shows from so-so to superb courtesy of 19 wise pearls from the wild, saucy world of burlesque.


1. Take time to learn. Treat burlesque as the art that it is. It takes time to grow and develop into the burlesque star you want to be. Patience, my dear.” ~ Michelle L’amour (Chicago, IL)

2. “[Take] inventory of what you like to see in shows. Determine what really does it for you. It could be pinup, 90’s music videos, politics, food…it could really be anything. If you have a message you’d like to convey, come up with a creative way to show it. Think about what you’d like to share with your audience or who/what you’d like to be when you grow up. Base your personal style on what is really you. Also, watch a million burlesque videos, go to as many shows as you can. Watch burlesque with an open heart and an open mind.” ~ Coco Lectric (Austin, TX)

3. “Go to burlesque shows. Watch lots of different performers with different styles. Take some dance classes, or burlesque workshops, learn some basic moves and have some poses. Volunteer to be stage kitten at burlesque shows, watch burlesque legends on YouTube. Find a mentor, learn how to use a sewing machine, a hot glue gun and a staple gun. Start stock piling crystals, sequins and glitter, get on stage with a veteran performer and join a group. Get a support network.” ~ Lola Rose (Washington DC)

4. “It’s important to remind people that come from a dance background that burlesque isn’t only about dance talent.  Burlesque is about the tease, the story, about entertaining and leaving a little something to the imagination. Of course, it always helps to ‘have a gimmick’ – if you can bring your talent in dance, theater, comedy, magic or costuming with you to the burlesque stage, you’re already one step ahead. To me, it’s about being unique, about being you… but of course, the most glittery version of you.” ~ St. Stella (Toronto, ON)

5. “Make your costume bangin’ from the dress to the undies to the pasties. Whatever you wear needs to scream burlesque. Don’t underestimate the power of face. Tell your story with your face. Bring that attitude. There’s nothing worse than watching a performer who is just going through the motions. You gotta be sexy all the time even when you ain’t.” ~ Ben Wisdom (New Orleans, LA)

6. “Know yourself. Be yourself. Practice one more time.” ~ Mama Dixie (Tuscaloosa, AB)

Event Planners/Producers

7. “Your first show is going to be a success. All of your friends and all of your performers are going to help out for free or pay to come and see it. You can get away with banking on that goodwill once, maybe twice if you’re very, very lucky. Don’t be crushed when your third show crashes and burns. It gets better.” ~ Scratch (Boston, MA)

8. “Put a good, hard-working and motivated team to work on the event with you. This will help support you. Learn from your mistakes and don’t get frustrated. This will keep you sane. Be clear with yourself about what your intention and goals are for the event you are planning. This will help guide you.” ~ Cha Cha Velour (Las Vegas, NV)

9. “While I don’t produce shows or perform as my primary source of income, I still give it the same level of care and professionalism. It isn’t unusual for me to spend 20-30 hours a week working on show stuff; it really is an around-the-clock process. And you have to have the ability to anticipate and plan for as many bad turns as you can and be able to roll with the punches when one comes along that you didn’t anticipate. That’s the mark of a real professional – when something bad unexpectedly happens, you don’t dwell on it. You just put your thinking cap on and say, “Okay, what are we gonna do now?” ~ Mistress Kali (New Orleans, LA)

10. “There are a lot of great venues in [Seattle] and a ton of shows. Find a way to distinguish your show from the others. Use Brown Paper Tickets and G&H Printing; they are both awesome and helpful, and make marketing affordable. Don’t be afraid to join the community. We want to perform in and come to your shows — we just need to know they are happening. Social media is your friend. Think outside the box, be sensitive and caring. And in the words of two of my favorite TV personalities ‘Make it Work’ and ‘Don’t F*ck it Up.’ ~ Whisper De Corvo (Seattle, WA)

Festival Organizers

11. “Producing a show is a skill set that should be mastered before even attempting a large-scale festival. If you can’t turn a profit on a small show, you won’t make it up in volume. You have multiple shows, classes and workshops, vending, volunteers to manage and much more to balance. Make sure you have a great sales team in place, a real plan for the weekend with goals and targets, a good marketing strategy and support from an awesome ticketing company. But mostly, produce because you love it. When the passion is there, the audience finds you.” ~ Lili Von Schtupp (Los Angeles, CA)

12. “It makes me so happy to see more and more cities hosting burlesque festivals. Establishing the San Antonio Burlesque Festival helped make our local burlesque community become a lot stronger. There was a big sense of unity and pride after the festival. As far as advice goes, if you are a performer taking the role of a producer, remember to keep your personal preferences in mind when producing but don’t let it rule your decision making. Really focus on the overall picture and try to give your audience the best show possible.” ~ Jasper St. James (San Antonio, TX)

13. “It’s a lot of work. Seriously. Make sure you have a solid team you are working with, and get a good promoter. You will have many obstacles that fall in your lap, so it’s important to stay calm and breathe. Just remember that. Oh, and have fun.” ~ Valencia Starling (Detroit, MI)


14. “Being in a troupe takes more work than most people realize. We work hard to put out five different and unique shows each year that include new solos, duets, and group acts. As a soloist or hobbyist, it’s a easier to create numbers and then figure out what shows you may fit in, as opposed to tailoring acts for a show. It has taken a long time to get to this place, but we now have a great group of committed performers willing to work together toward a common goal and put in all the work needed for booking, producing, advertising, etc.” ~Ginger Snaps (Austin, TX)

15. “Make sure to make it clear who is making a final call. If you want a good troupe, you need good leadership and the ability to make tough decisions. This can mean saying no to a friend or disagreeing with a dance move or costume choice. In my opinion, one of the biggest differences in making a themed show with a bunch of independent performers and a troupe show has to do with content. It must be cohesive and feel like everything is planned and intertwined. Having a clear leader helps from getting the group stuck since everyone is always very different. Have fun with it and make sure you like who you are with.” ~Holly Dai (Portland, OR)


16. “The best advice I can give producers taking their show on the road is to give themselves enough time. Plan in advance, and plenty early! There is a LOT to consider when taking a professional show out on the road for several weeks. Lots of different factors come into play. Each venue books differently, each burlesque community performs and works differently, and there are a heck of a lot of logistics to figure out. Luckily, I am OCD when it comes to business preparedness and I’ve got a form, document or contract for everything. Definitely dot your I’s and cross your T’s as the more concrete you can get everything in advance, the less surprises and unaccounted for factors will arise later. You are always on the go, so if you don’t have the organization and infrastructure to back it up, you’re setting yourself up for failure.” ~ Deanna Danger (Richmond, VA)

17. “The most valuable piece of advice I can give to a burlesque troupe that wants to go on the road is taking the time to understand the dynamics of the city you are considering and getting to know the local pool of performers is really important. Building those great relationships before is really key to having a full venue when you arrive.” ~ Donna Touch (Chicago, IL)

Applying to Festivals

18. “I can’t stress how important a good quality video is to us in our application process. We get close to 400 applications each year. Many performers send us video that we simply can’t see or hear, or send us a studio version where there is no audience reaction. Even though these videos tend to be higher quality, it is ideal for us to hear and see the audience reaction as well as view a high quality video.” ~ Jen Gapay (New York, NY)


19. “For burlesque emcees: shut up. I had to learn that the hard way. Be concise, funny, and charming. Then get that next act out there ASAP. The audience will love you a whole lot more for it.” ~ Ben Wisdom (New Orleans, LA)

Photo credit: Audrey Penven

Arts >

Burlesque Ticketing 101

BPT_Burly_Ticketing_Front-01Brown Paper Tickets supports event organizers, producers and performers with free advice, services and ticketing tools. We ticket thousands of burlesque events every year. In fact, more burlesque events than any other ticketing platform. We’re crazy about burlesque.

As Burlesque Representative, I assist performers and producers in setting up and promoting their shows. Here are seven pieces of advice I commonly give when I talk about burlesque ticketing:

1. Use Your Own Credit Card Processor

Budgeting for your show can be a challenge. Often, burlesque producers operate on a shoestring budget and desperately need the money from ticket sales to pay out-of-town performers, venue fees, promotional costs, etc. If having cash in hand the night of your show is an issue, I stress that with Brown Paper Tickets, you can use a third-party processor, like PayPal (probably the most popular) and we’ll give you 2.5% of our 3.5% processing fee paid by the ticket buyer back to you, the producer. This means you get the full face value of your tickets as they’re sold. Plus, you get a little bit extra to help offset the fees your third-party processor charges.

2. Use Brown Paper Tickets’ Promotion Help

With all you’ve got going on around show time, promotions is one of those things that might slip. Don’t let it. We take a close look at your promotional plan and suggest ways you can improve it. We’ll help you build curated media lists for your area. We’ll send out tweets for you. We’ll edit and refine your press releases so that they are more effective in getting media placements, even coach you on TV or radio appearances. It all depends on your needs. And we won’t insult you by offering placement in mass e-mails, which most people delete immediately. With us, you’ll have a dedicated team of event specialists to get the most out of your promotional campaign. I suggest that you contact us at least six to eight weeks prior to your event to get the best results from your campaign.

3.  Offer Limited-Time Price Reductions

Many producers don’t like offering discounted tickets as they feel it will cut into their total take. But I’ve found that limited-time price reductions create a sense of urgency and you’ll pull in folks who may not have considered attending otherwise. It’s the whole “It’s on sale! I HAVE to buy it.” philosophy. The best times to offer discounts are either right when you announce ticket sales (early bird discounts) or on a significant day. For example: “It’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s birthday and we’re offering a special discount to all burlesque fans in honor of her memory.” Something along those lines. Trust me, you’ll see a spike in sales.

4. Offer Special Discounts to Your Mailing List

Show your devotees a little extra love by offering the first opportunity to purchase tickets to your shows. While you’re at it, give them a special perk like a glass of champagne, discounted VIP seating, maybe some merch. Whatever you can do to show your fans how much you appreciate their support will only endear you to them more and ensure their loyalty over time. Loyal fans are the best advertisement a burlesque performer could have, so throw a little money their way. Trust me, next time they’ll bring their friends.

5. Bundle Tickets with Merchandise

Speaking of bundling merchandise, it’s easy to offer a special price that includes some form of merchandise with their tickets. This will help you move merch and expand exposure to your brand while also saving you from having to sling merch after the show. Some merch ideas: branded drink tokens, signed posters, branded panties, t-shirts or even flasks. Merch is a great way to get your brand out in the world and if done well, can become an extra revenue stream. Just inform your door person that ticket buyers will receive something extra at the door, based on price points.

6. Offer Group Packages

Over the years, burlesque events have become increasingly popular with bachelorette parties. Consider the bachelorette angle when marketing your event. One way to encourage bachelorettes or other groups to come to your shows is to offer a group package. Think birthdays, tourist groups or bachelorette parties. Even better, develop a relationship with local wedding planners or concierges. Consider offering a percentage of the packages they sell so that they have incentive to encourage their clients to attend your events. These relationships can become super valuable and get you high-paying gigs outside the burlesque circuit, like corporate events or private parties.

7. Customize Your Producer Profiles

If you organize multiple events, let your fans see all your shows on your producer profile. Customize the page to match your branding or even better, have our tech team create a skin for your profile page that matches the look and feel of your website. Then your producer page can basically replace the calendar on your website and folks never have to leave your site to see all your shows and get tickets. If you want more information on how to create a customized producer profile, contact our Client Services department and they can get that started for you.

Any burlesque questions or need help? Please contact me directly at jimmy[at]

Arts >

12th Annual New York Burlesque Festival

NYBF_2014Jen Gapay and Angie Pontani are no slouches. Not only have they created the biggest and grandest burlesque festival of its kind in the New York Burlesque Festival, now celebrating its 12th year, but they both have very impressive resumes outside of the festival.

As a performer, burlesque extraordinaire, Angie Pontani, “The Italian Stallionette,” was a key player in establishing NYC’s burlesque scene. She won burlesque’s most prestigious award, “Queen of Burlesque, Miss Exotic World” in 2008 and has toured multiple runs in the United States, Italy, Australia, Spain and Hong Kong, earning the title of “Best International Touring Artist of 2009,” by The Naked City/Alternative Media Group of Australia. As a producer she has produced the 2010 Burlesque Hall of Fame’s The Titans of Tease, the 53rd Annual Striptease Reunion Showcase and the Saturday Night Competition. She was co-creator of the off-Broadway hit, This is Burlesque as well the on-going U.S. tour, Burlesque-A-Pades, starring the “#1 Burlesque Attraction in the Nation”(, The World Famous Pontani Sisters. Angie will also be featured in the PBS series Great Performances, performing live at Lincoln Center with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. This is scheduled to air on PBS on October, 24, 2014.

Jen Gapay is the founder of Thirsty Girl Productions, which debuted in 1997 in Seattle with Capitol Hill Block Party, now one of the largest annual urban music festivals in the country. From 2000 to 2002, she was the Promotions Director at the Village Voice, where she created and produced the Siren Music Festival at Coney Island. Other notable accomplishments include the New York Boylesque Festival, which she co-produces with famed NYC producer Daniel Nardicio, and the Coney Island Talent Show, now in its fourth year. She was also the artistic director for the Dresden Dolls’ F**k the Back Row tour in 2006 and talent coordinator for several of their tours in the USA, Europe and Australia. This is just a smattering of what she’s done.

From Thursday, September 25th to Sunday, September 28th, they’ll host the 12th annual New York Burlesque Festival. You can pick up full festival passes from Brown Paper Tickets HERE, and we advise you grab some ’cause they’re going quick.

We were able to chat with Angie and Jen about the festival and burlesque in New York. Jen shared some advice to event organizers and producers considering having a festival.

Wow. 12 years is quite an accomplishment. What do you feel is the secret behind the festival’s success and longevity?

Jen Gapay: Thank you. I feel that having the festival in NYC has helped the festival grow.  Everyone wants to come to New York to visit and everyone wants to come to New York to perform and that has been extremely helpful. Also Angie and I work together well as producers, run a tight ship and know how to put on a good show, so our festival has a good reputation from performers and patrons and you can’t buy that.

What performers are you especially excited for this year and why?

Jen Gapay: I am particularly excited to see Imogen Kelly from Australia perform this year. She is an amazing performer who is known as Australia’s Queen of Burlesque and also took the title of Queen of Burlesque in 2012 at The Burlesque Festival Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas. She has a variety of styles and is a very visual performer, and one not to miss.

It seems that the line-up of performers is more focused on performers from NYC.  Do you feel that the pool of talent is growing in New York as burlesque becomes more popular?

Angie Pontani:
Our line-up is definitely chock-full of NYC performers, but how could it not be? New York City is home to the biggest and fastest growing burlesque community in the world, we have an insane wealth of talent here. I think that is in part to burlesque becoming more popular and also because this is New York, a thriving hot bed for the performing arts as well as one of the birthplaces of the new-burlesque resurgence. But the festival also brings in performers from around the globe. This year we have folks from Australia, Helsinki, London, Canada, New Zealand and more, not to mention representation from just about every state in the union.

Do you feel that your audiences are made of predominantly New Yorkers or do folks travel to come to the festival every year? 

Angie Pontani: We get a good amount of New Yorkers, but there are a lot of people who come to town for the weekend, some make it an annual tradition. If you’re a burlesque fan,  what better vacation can you have then catching your favorite performers from around the globe right here in the Big Apple?

How has the New York burlesque scene changed since you started the festival 12 years ago? What makes the New York scene unique?

Angie Pontani: The scene has changed and evolved over the years. When we started 12 years ago it was much smaller. We didn’t have as much of an application process, we just invited everyone we knew in burlesque and that was about 60 people mostly from NYC, LA or New Orleans. Now we are sifting through over 300 applications from all over the world.  Burlesque has grown exponentially and one of the coolest things about seeing all these performers is you get a feel for the burlesque scene where they come from. Every city has its own vibe: Chicago is really theatrical, Texas is big and showy, LA has an ultra-glam spirit, New Orleans has the blues and New York has everything.

Tell us a little about the all-new Burlesque Bazaar.

Jen Gapay:  The Burlesque Bazaar is a new event we just added to the festival last year.  It’s taking place on Sunday, September 28th at Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn and will feature over a dozen vendors showcasing costumes, vintage clothing, corsets, feather accessories, pasties, Burly-Q’s Nell’s pop up burlesque museum and even Fredini’s 3-D Scan-A-Rama that can scan your image right on site. We will also have a Q&A with burlesque legend Val Valentine and feature a live pinup shoot on stage with Don Spiro and stars of the festival. Plus, this event is free.

Brown Paper Tickets is seeing burlesque festivals pop up all over the country. Now every state seems to have its own festival. What is the number one piece of advice you would give to a burlesque producer who’s thinking of starting a festival in his/her town?

Jen Gapay: I think in order to produce a successful burlesque festival, it really helps to have  a thriving burlesque scene already built into the community, so make sure you have that before doing it.

Thanks to Jen and Angie for taking the time to chat. If you’re in the New York area next weekend, be sure to check out this world-class showcase of the best that burlesque has to offer.

Arts >