The ABC Guide to Producing a Burlesque Show: Part 1

Many burlesque performers in the modern day also produce their own shows and events. However, producing your own event for the first time can be quite daunting and it brings many other responsibilities that you won’t have had to deal with when working purely in a performance capacity.

As a performer, your job is to show up on time, make yourself presentable for the stage and do your routines; fairly simple. But if you decide to dabble in producing, you’ll find yourself dealing with many more tasks and responsibilities on a much larger scale.

Illicit Thrill 2015Here at the ABC, we have been producing our own shows and events for many years (our next upcoming event is Gypsy Charms’ show ‘The Illicit Thrill’ appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month – not to be missed!)

So, we decided to use our experiences in show production to come up with some starting points for those of you considering stepping into the world of producing.

Why do you want to put on a show?
This is the first question and an important one. What is the nature of your show? Is it a showcase for new performers? Is it a high calibre event of established performers? Is it a private or public event? The answers to these questions will determine some of the answers to the next questions.

Who is your target audience?
If you’re hosting an end of term show for burlesque newcomers for example, your target audience will likely be friends and family. You might decide to make it an invite-only event, as your performers might feel more comfortable and confident if they’re not faced with a sea of strange faces in the audience.
However, if you’re hosting a high-end theatre show and bringing in performers from further afield, you’ll obviously be going for a public, ticketed event targeting a large audience of local burlesque fans.

ABC students performing at one of our showcase events.
ABC students performing at one of our showcase events.

How does your show fit it with existing events in your area?
Do some research before you launch your own event. What shows are already on in your area? Newcomer? Established? Pub shows? Theatre shows? Cabaret bar shows? Themed events? Rockabilly? Gorelesque? Classic? If your show idea is similar to an existing show in your town, you might want to rethink; there’s no point in duplicating an idea or stepping on anyone’s toes. Ask yourself, what is it that’s new / special / unique that your show can bring to your local burlesque scene?

What is your budget?
Another crucial question to ask yourself and deal with properly before you even consider booking your performers or venue. How are you going to pay your artistes? Is it a door split or set fees? Are you relying on ticket sales alone to cover your expenses? If so, do you have a back-up fund if ticket sales don’t generate as much as you expected? Don’t forget you’ll also have to budget for other costs, including venue hire, sound and lighting technicians, a stage manager, PRS licence, a rider for performers, advertising costs etc. It all adds up so make sure you do your maths properly and don’t get caught short.

That’s brings us to the end of this week’s blog, join us again next week for part 2 of our guide to producing your own show.