In this special, two-part series, James Ulness, Brown Paper Tickets Client Services Representative and an avid, enthusiastic member of the Seattle burlesque community, prepares to make his début as a boylesque performer. James has been a regular presence backstage at local burlesque shows for years but last Saturday was his first foray onto the stage. In the first part of the series, James talked about his decision to perform and his process in preparing for his act. In this, the second part of the series, James shares his thoughts and feelings on the actual night of his boylesque debut and announces his NEXT performance! Enjoy.
My boylesque début has come and gone. Just a short while ago I was surrounded by the chaos of the show. The cold air backstage, thick with glitter and the sounds of performers rushing about. My small corner of the world enveloped in a cloud of noise and excitement. But, now life is still, quiet and average. I can already feel the itch to get back on stage. To dive into another maelstrom and be tossed about like a ship cursed by an angry Poseidon. However, now it’s time to do reflect back onto the past couple of days and review what I did and what I learned.
How did it feel being on stage for the first time?
Amazing! A mix of fear and excitement. I hardly remember the act itself, only that it went off almost exactly the way I rehearsed it and the euphoria of coming off the stage after. It’s hard to come up with specific details, everything is a bit of a blur but, judging from the audience’s applause, I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself. Or maybe I did. Either way, they seemed to enjoy my performance. One thing that surprised me was my lack of nervousness before going on stage. I was not expecting to be relaxed backstage but as I stood in the wings, waiting for the MC to announce me, there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in my body. I had rehearsed the act until I knew every beat of the song. I new every mark I needed to hit. Nothing was left to chance. I was on auto pilot as soon as I stepped onto the stage and it felt like home.
What about the rest of the show?
Everyone else was fantastic! I wish that I was as talented as the other performers. The show began with Mongrel Annie (the shows benefactor) performing a cover of Macklemore’s “And We Danced”. The evening contained everything that you could ever want in a show. There was stripping, (stuffed) dogs, vampires, live music, raffle prizes and belly dancing! The Mongrel Jews’ played an amazing set, money was raised, the audience was entertained and a few people went home with prizes. All in all it was a monumentally successful show.
It was not an incredibly large show however. The venue (the Jewelbox at Rendezvous) can only hold around 65 people. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A smaller venue can allow a a performer and an audience to make a connection that can’t be done in a larger space. I don’t think I would have been as good in front of a larger audience. Being so close to the people helped me a lot with my energy and I could feel the audience’s energy filling the small space. In the past, I’ve done theatre in venues of various sizes and I’ve found that I’ve always preferred the coziness of small spaces. A large theatre just feels cavernous and, even with a sold out house, somehow empty. I guess what I’m trying to say is that small theatres are swell.
What did you learn from performing?
I don’t know that I learned anything new but being in front of any audience reminded me of something that I nearly forgot over the years. You really can do almost anything if you put your mind to it and don’t let failure be an option. The hardest part of doing anything is getting the idea into your head that you can. There are things that can stand in your way of accomplishing your goals. Physics, practicality and the legal system are always going to be a challenge (I will probably never fulfil my lifelong dream of surfing the hydrocarbon seas of Titan with Mr. Rodgers) but, within the confines of practical reality, there are no limits!
Will you do burlesque again?
Absolutely! I can’t wait to get back on a stage. I learned a long time ago that once the performing bug gets into you, it’s impossible to get it out. This is the first time in years that I’ve been on a stage and, although I was doing something that was quite different than what I used to do, it still felt familiar and comfortable. The lights, the audience, the thrill and the fear. The rush of adrenalin as you go on stage knowing that there is no turning back. There’s not way I can turn my back on that. In fact, I will be onstage again on Thursday, April 10 for Morgue Anne’s Birthday Boylesque Spectacular! I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to perform but my brain is swelling with ideas!