me: I have been home for less than 48 hours and i’m already stir-crazy. can we go back on tour next week?Lucida: I know, I feel the same way. I’m trying to go out a lot to make New York feel like just another exciting place we’re visiting. Gemma and I went to dinner last night and have plans tonight. We refuse to accept this “real life” thing in which we won’t have aventures together every day… Our new resolution is to be ACTION FRIENDS instead of eat-and-complain friendsme: that sounds like a superhero groupLucida: SUPER ACTION FRIENDS! We wear capes and go to parties!
Amazingly, the above photo is from a show we did. In April we had the pleasure of providing atmosphere entertainment at Comic Sans’ Titanic Centennial gala in Newport, RI. A century-old Newport mansion was transformed into the Titanic, complete with a recreation of the 10-course meal served in first class on the Titanic’s final night, cooked for 100+ guests by my amazing roommate, Chris. Kinky, Debra, Izebel, Spartacus, and I were ghostly inhabitants of the “ship”, performing a midnight ritual that invoked the sinking of the ship while inspiring a totally awesome dance party. Spartacus set up shop in one of the guest rooms, sketching enthusiastic guests like one of his French girls (complete with necklace), and Izebel played Nearer My God to Thee as part of the ship’s doomed quartet. It was a strange, wonderful night and one of the coolest performances we’ve ever given. Afterwards, we got to sleep in the mansion, which was pretty rad because we’re poor—novelty!
April was also the month we launched our Kickstarter and finalized our tour dates! Throughout the month of April we were continuously astonished by the generosity of our friends and fans, as well as strangers. We also got to make this totally adorable video that we’re still mildly proud of, considering it was made on an iPhone in the 10 minutes between arriving at the old trainyard and getting kicked out of the old trainyard.
And, finally, April was the month when we performed a show on Good Friday AND the first night of Passover, leading to the following:
And then March happened. I began the month by getting shipwrecked off the coast of Paraty (still in Brazil), forcing me to spend four days trekking through the jungle without supplies in order to get to the nearest inhabited beach. I got back to Rio sick, hungry, sun poisoned, and very very emotional to find that everybody I love had presumed me dead. So I did what any normal person would do: I got on a plane to New York and hosted a Rhinestone Gorilla show the following night!
The show was “Rhinestone Gorilla Burlesque presents Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”, an homage to our parents’ careers, real and imaginary. It’s too bad that I had some sort of horrible jungle-induced flop sweat going on—as well as a complete inability to think faster than a pre-Y2K dial-up connection—because other than my lousy hosting, it was a pretty great show!
Gemma debuted her groaningly pun-laden street harassment construction worker act and also revived her supremely unsexy Baywatch act.
Izebel debuted her hazmat act.
Angelique debuted her gloriously silly tribute to Weird Al’s Like a Surgeon.
Debra made us super sad but also weirdly turned on with her unemployment act.
And stage kitten Ophelia Diphthong was cute as hell as official troupe beleagured housewife.
But really, I was the worst.
March was also the month of our friend Lydia Ransom’s betrothal to the handsome Mr. Henry! We were proud to produce their bachelor party at The Triad.
So much the happy.
It was strange to return home just in time to produce two big shows back to back, but it was exciting, rewarding, and normalizing to get back to work with the people I love. And I had a great tan once the sun poisoning wore off…so that’s something.
I struggled to find the right photo to encapsulate our relationship with the month of February. We didn’t really see each other that month. I ran off to Brazil about two weeks after our Animaniacs show and was gone for almost two months. It was our first month without a show in over a year. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know what any of my troupemates were up to this February. If any of you guys want to offer an alternate February post, please do!
For me and my relationship with burlesque, February was the month I experienced Brazilian carnival for the first time. I was inspired by the costumes, music, and choreography, but more than anything I was moved and inspired by the community-centered ritual of performance. That it was a ritual that acknowledges gender and sexuality through a kind of drag and, of course, nudity made it all the more exciting. I only managed to get into the sambadrome for one night. The other nights I just wandered around the tent city that surrounds the sambadrome and scavenged for discarded costumes to send home. I took a cab back from the sambadrome to my friend’s house in the outer borough of Jacarapagua that night with my trash bags full of costumes. The driver took an unfamiliar route through the mountains that allowed me to look down at the entire city of Rio de Janeiro just before drawn. Unbelievable.
A brief (and creepy) survey of my troupemates’ Facebook timeline as of February, 2012 reports that while I was in Brazil, Angelique was in Israel (super cool!!!), Kinky and Avian were in college (ha ha), and Gemma was in coat check. According to her Facebook: “I TOUCHED JEFF GOLDBLUM`S HAND TONIGHT AND I KNOW IT WAS JUST STATIC ELECTRICITY FROM HIS SCARF BUT SPARKS LITERALLY FLEW AND I ALMOST THREW UP.”
So…her month was eventful, too.
PS I just remembered that while I was in Brazil, I took to calling the troupe “Teatro do Macaco Diamante” because it was the closest thing to “Rhinestone Gorilla Burlesque” that I could say in Portuguese. Theatre of the Diamond Monkey is a pretty epic name for a burlesque troupe.
I would love to share a more glamorous image and claim that it encapsulates the month of January for RGB but, frankly, it just wouldn’t be true. January offered probably the greatest emotional whirlwind we’ve experienced as a troupe since May, 2008 when we experienced all of the excitement and anxiety of producing our first show. It was not our most glamorous moment.
In January, we debuted Good Idea/Bad Idea—our Animaniacs burlesque musical and our first ever scripted show, as well as our first show with all live music. By the time January rolled around we had finished scripting, more-or-less finished scoring, had barely started costuming, and hadn’t begun rehearsing. The show was on January 8th.
Our first rehearsal was on New Year’s Day at the Long Island synagogue where my mother teaches/is more or less a rabbi. This far from ideal rehearsal location was chosen at the last minute, upon the realization that every rehearsal studio in New York was closed or booked or didn’t have a piano. The decision may have also been influenced by the promise of free pizza and photo copies (thanks, mom). So we squeezed six to the car—which seemed like a big deal at the time but would become totally not anything at all after tour—and trekked out to Long Island to rehearse. The absurdity of stripping in a shul while my mother paced in anxious regret was lost on no one. Rehearsal was a mess, if I recall correctly—missed cues, flat jokes, Spartacus’ complete inability to sing on pitch, and at least two performers absent, but it gave us a sense of what still needed to be done (hint: everything).
The rest of the week was a bipolar mix of excitement and anxiety. By our second/penultimate rehearsal I had lost my voice entirely, forcing Debra to be my translator as well as stage manager, reading aloud the notes anxiously scribbled in the margins of my script, on cocktail napkins, on my hands. We only managed to get through act one that day, our musical director hadn’t finished the arrangements, we weren’t really off book, most of the show would wind up onstage having never been blocked or rehearsed, but I was optimistic/delirious with anxiety to the point where I seemed giddy with excitement. I remember that I ate a BLT that day because BLTs are always significant events.
That night, Kinky, Avian, Spartacus, Debra and I gathered in my apartment to work on our costumes. Because I kept forgetting to not talk, Debra forced me to wear a Sleep No More mask—because Sleep No More is the only place where I actually manage to remain silent for an extended period of time. Debra and I sat side by side at our laptops, determining sound cues via gchat, while Avian worked on her costume and my roommate, Gianna, glued rhinestones to my unitard. It was the calm before the storm. Later that night we would end our relationship with one of our collaborators in a storm of infinite crazy, leaving us uncertain whether our should would even happen. I think I also had fights with my mom and my boyfriend that night because WHY NOT. I think that Gemma came over at about 3am and then we all sat at my dining room table and stared at each other til morning because we were the opposite of too excited to sleep.
And then the next day we did the thing. And we did it damn well, for a sold out audience that completely appreciated, respected, and adored this thing we had created. We received two mid-show standing ovations. We felt the backstage electricity of a show going well. It wasn’t easy, lord knows. The show before us got out late causing our audience to wait over an hour to get into the theatre, at least one microphone wasn’t on, there was a group number that essentially disintegrated onstage, and there was serious backstage dramerz, but when the thing ended we knew with complete certainty that we had created something truly unique and exciting and that our time with it had only just begun.
And then I almost went to China but then I didn’t and I went to Brazil instead for like a really long time and frankly I have no idea what the rest of the troupe was up to while I was gone.
PS This was supposed to be shorter. I’ll do better next time.
It’s been a big crazy wonderful year for us here at Rhinestone Gorilla. I can’t speak for the others, but for me, 2012 has been my favorite year since we started doing this together five years ago. We did more shows in 2012 than in any year before, we saw each other more often than we have since college, we produced some of our most exciting work, we received more exposure than ever before, and we certainly covered the most miles. For me personally, 2012 was a BIG year for personal growth and I think that my work and play with RGB was a significant contributor to that growth—and, I think, vice versa.
So over the next week or so we’ll be taking a moment to look back on this past year, month by month. Our friend with whom I used to do the oogachaka baby dance, the brilliant poetess Megan Falley, calls this “Retrospective Introspective” on her tumblr and I totally dig it. So here we go.
RGB casts the witches in Hocus Pocus!
Happy Halloween from Rhinstone Gorilla!
Gemma and Cherry did atmosphere go-go tonight at an epic housewarming party in Harlem. The makeshift go-go stages included a rickety little coffee table and a shaftway between apartments that essentially created an outdoor window box peepshow booth. Gemma go-goed as a pun-making construction worker and, later, a sexy Darth Vadar. Cherry ate fire, then taught some very drunk people how to do the same. The point is, we’re available for private parties.