Miss Mina's Blog

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Going to Canada 

Dear Constant Reader,

As the title says, I’m going to Canada. Not permanently. I’ve been accepted to perform at the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival on August 17-18.

Honestly, I applied on a whim without any expectations. I don’t have a very high festival acceptance rate and this year I scaled back my applications. But the application was free and I had just received video of my act (thanks to Scratch), so I said what the heck. I was stunned to get an acceptance letter that very night!

I’m very excited to be returning to Canada and particularly to a province I’ve not visited before (I previously performed in Montreal and Toronto). I’m also exciting to be presenting the act I worked on at Stripper’s Holiday. Hopefully I’ll also get to teach.

However, it’s not cheap to fly from Boston to Winnipeg. Well, that’s technically not true. It was perfectly affordable to fly TO Winnpieg; it’s the return flight that was spendier than I liked.

So, help a traveling showgirl out! Buy a book! Book me to perform or teach! Become a Patron! I’m going to come up with a Special Something for everyone who supports me on Patreon between now and August 17th. Stay tuned to learn what it is…

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Before I get to your tip I just want to mention that The Boston BeauTease are performing on June 29th at Down the Road Beer Co. in Everett, MA.
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It’s the first time they’ve had burlesque at this venue and we’d like to make a good impression. We’re bringing all our favorite booze-themed acts and some brand-new ones. You can get your tickets here.

And now, here’s your tip!

Listen, really listen.

Too often we hear what someone else is saying without actually listening to them. Someone once said that to have a good argument you need to speak like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong. I rather like that. I think there would be less strife and misunderstandings if we just listened to one another.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I usually try to phrase my tips so that they are positive advice (“do”) rather than negative (“don’t”), but I just couldn’t figure out how to do so with this one. Here’s it is!

Don’t change your clothes in the bathroom.

This simple statement actually covers two situations.

Often at studios, gyms, and the like, where a locker room or changing area is provided, some women will choose to lock themselves in the bathroom to change their clothes. It’s selfish, rude, and annoys those waiting to use the bathroom for its designated purpose. Just don’t.

If a performance venue expects you to use a public bathroom as your dressing room, reconsider working there. As a performer, you need a clean, private, secure space. A public restroom is none of those things. Just don’t.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

In the Kitchen: Ailes de Poulet a la Diable 

Dear Constant Reader,

I’d like to share this old* family recipe with you. Ailes de poulet a la diable is French for “deviled chicken wings”, basically chicken baked with a delicious coating of mustard and breadcrumbs.

Recently I made Angie Pontani’s chicken tenders (you should too; they’re so good) and they reminded me of this dish. Think of these wings as a more sophisticated, yet messier, take on Angie’s tenders. It’s going to keep you in the kitchen for an hour, since you need to do something to the wings every 15 minutes or so

You’ll need chicken wings, bread crumbs, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper, butter.

I’ve made this with both whole wings and the cut-up sort. If they’re whole, tuck the wing tip behind the other wing end, to make sort of a heart shape. It’s tidier and you can fit more in your baking pan, if you alternate which end is up. I actually prefer the whole wings, but the cut up ones are less messy.

Fresh bread crumbs are great for this, but I often use the kind that come in the canister. I’ve never tried it with panko. Let me know how it is, if you do!

I’ve used home-made chicken broth, canned chicken broth, and even mix-it-with-hot-water bullion. I really like Penzy’s Chicken Soup Base for the latter. It’s not as salty as the little cubes and has much more flavor.

Grey Pupon used to be my favorite Dijon, but I discovered it has added sugar, so now I use Maille.

Preheat the oven. Salt & pepper the wings while melting the butter in your baking dish. I just put the butter in the baking dish, pop it on a stove burner, and let the butter melt. Roll the wings around in the butter before cramming them into the baking pan skin side down.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Blend together some chicken broth, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. I just mix them all in the measuring cup and pour over the wings. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Turn the wings and bake another 15 minutes.

Turn the wings again and bake another 15 minutes.

Add the last of the chicken broth and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs
and bake for 10 minutes more.

Have lots of napkins ready. I suppose there might be a neat and elegant way to eat these wings, but I’ve never found one (and you know if I can’t eat it elegantly, it just can’t be done).

Here’s the recipe:

Ailes de poulet a la diable
3 lb. chicken wings
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup chicken broth, divided
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup bread crumbs, divided
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Season chicken with salt & pepper. Melt butter in a large baking dish. Add wings and turn to coat. Place wings skin side down and bake 15 minutes.

Blend mustard and Worcestershire sauce with 1/3 cup chicken broth. Pour over chicken and sprinkle with 1/3 cup bread crumbs. Turn wings. Bake 15 minutes.

Turn wings again. Bake 15 minutes.

Add remaining chicken broth. Sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Bake 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

*and by “old”, I mean I’m the second generation to cook it. My family does not have a long-standing culinary tradition.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Much of the burlesque world is in Las Vegas at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend. I, myself, am at home, as usual. I will probably, also as usual, watch Exotic Word and the Burlesque Revival (and probably get weepy). By the way, the persistent rumor that I have never been to BHoF is completely untrue, as you can see from the photographic evidence.

If you are at BHoF, enjoy! If you are competing, best of luck! Big congratulations to the Legend of the Year, Kitten Natividad!

Here is your tip:
Look at festivals and similar events as marathons, not sprints.

Conserve your energy. You’re going to be busy and “on” all weekend. And don’t forget to drink lots of water and to alternate alcohol with water. Also, wear sunscreen. And, of course, make a little time for yourself.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Stripper’s Holiday: The Work 

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday. It was such an inspiring and humbling experience and it’s been taking me a long time to find the right words. You can read about it here and here.

This is why we were all here: the work. For three days we spent four hours a day in the studio. We started two of the sessions with a killer warm up. I was grateful for my personal workout ethic so it didn’t actually kill me, because that was just the start of the session. We also worked on technique and choreography. On the last day we were treated to Michelle’s Pussy Confidence and Sensual Movement classes.

One of the things we talked about in the Pussy Confidence class was vulnerability and how vulnerability is strength. So, here’s some vulnerability. This stuff was really hard for me. I don’t pick up choreography quickly. I just don’t have a 5-6-7-8 brain and it’s hard for me to hear the beats of the music sometimes. I learn choreography by incessant drilling and really burning it into muscle memory. But like I kept telling myself, if this was easy, I wouldn’t need to be there. It was good for me to move *way* outside my comfort zone, but it certainly was frustrating. I wanted to work on refining details, but I needed to absorb the foundations first.

Here we all are after the first day:

Photo by One Chance Fancy.

Before I get to the centerpiece of the studio work, I want to mention a couple of related things we did at the house. One night after dinner we had “Idea Day” (I guess really “Idea Night”) where everyone went around the table and would share an idea they had for an act, usually just one element, like a song or a concept, and would get thoughts and feedback for a direction to go in. I was a complete blank and then I remembered my Hedy Jo Star peacock costume, which deserves to be back on stage. I’ve got some good ideas now; we shall see if they come to fruition. Also, if Scratch is willing to build some set pieces…

Also, before we went into the studio on the last day, Franky ran a meditation on beauty, which was also about imperfection. It was lovely and very pertinent to our work. We were supposed to consider a work of art and the first one that popped into my head was a Hellenistic statuette dancer, which I’ve loved for a long time. Kind of appropriate in many ways.

Back to the studio now…

Everyone brought an act on which they wanted to work. During the first two days we each presented our act and got feedback. On the last day we all presented again, showing how we incorporated the suggestions (a couple showed different acts instead). I was in the first group to present. I was nervous, but glad to get it over with early. I brought my newest act, which had just debuted in December (photo by George Ross of me performing it at The Expo). I thought it was pretty solid, but needed some oomph. After I showed it, Michelle made some very good suggestions, but I felt like I had to burn the whole thing down and start all over. The element I was using as a hook to hang the whole act on had to go.

When I got back to the house, I made an alteration to one of my costume pieces and played with it a little. After studio time the next day, I brought the whole act down into the home theatre room and ran it again and again, trying out Michelle’s suggestions and working on some stuff for the weaker parts. I realized I didn’t have to burn it down after all. A lot of the structure could stay as it was; it was the details that needed to change.

I filmed my last run, as best I could with my tablet, and sent it off to Scratch, because I was filled with self-doubt. He didn’t give me any feedback, just told me to be true to myself, since I was the one who was going to have to perform it. And reminded me that I was good at this and to have faith in myself. That bolstered my confidence a bit (and maybe made me cry a little). Still, I was up early the next morning, working on it again.

On the last day we all presented our acts again. I know this was more nerve-wracking for some than the first time, because there were a couple of camera people there for a project of Michelle’s (no, you’re not going to see the footage). Once I started performing I just tuned them out — I was nervous for all sorts of other reasons! Michelle had lots of praise and more suggestions. I felt a lot better, but knew it wasn’t there yet. Parts were stronger, but I still had holes to fill. I’m still working on it, in fact.

On our very last morning, Michelle gave everyone handwritten cards. It was a sweet touch and made the whole time even more special. This is a treasure I’ll return to when I need encouragement.

On the whole, this was an incredibly challenging time, but challenge is a good thing. I learned a lot on many levels. I got to see a dozen other performers with very different styles (which was an amazing experience) and see them also be vulnerable and put their work out there to be critiqued. Hearing the feedback they received also gave me new ideas and insights. I know that other people were nervous and insecure, which gave me comfort that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve admired Michelle for such a long time and working with her on such a personal level was intimidating to be sure, but also kind of liberating. She’s a very honest person, which I think encouraged honesty in others. The experience was very intense, with a lot crammed into 3-plus days, physically and emotionally. I’m still fumbling for words, but I promised myself I’d send this out today no matter what, so these words will have to do.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Stripper’s Holiday: The House 

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m writing about my time at Stripper’s Holiday in Los Angeles. It’s been taking me longer than I expected! You can read the first part here.

We all stayed in a big house in Studio City which was kind of incredible. It had an amazing view, a pool and hot tub, a pool table, and a home theatre. We were up in the hills and the landscaping was lovely. We even saw a deer one morning! My Patrons got to see a short video tour of some of the house.

However, it was decorated in a manner that was supposed to be lavish and stylish but was more like set dressing than a place people lived. All the surfaces were hard — tile, wood, brick, marble — I don’t think there was a single rug or carpet and none of the furniture was really comfortable (even the couches were so over-stuffed and piled with cushions that one couldn’t really lounge). Nor did the layout lend itself to socialization. Really, the only place we could all sit was around the dining table, as long as we also grabbed all the chairs from around the kitchen island. This is probably why most people spent their free time in and around the hot tub.

The View

My favorite spot

Artsy shot through the window

Visiting deer

Franky, Michelle’s husband, handled all the cooking and kitchen clean up. Despite numerous offers to help, we were all told to just relax and be taken care of. Michelle has very strict food requirements because of her auto-immune disorder, so we ate like she did — lots of protein and vegetables, no sugar, dairy, grains, or legumes. The food was terrific and plentiful. I was perfectly happy to eat that way the whole time (although I did have a bar of Russian dark chocolate in my bag, from which I rationed out a couple of squares each evening). I’m definitely going to try making the kale with kalamata olives and the chicken-apple-bacon burgers, not to mention experimenting with almond meal for pancakes.

I tend to wake up early and this trip was no exception. Michelle had asked that everyone try not to go on-line first thing in the morning, so instead of noodling around on my phone, I would get up and work out before anyone else was awake. I liked the quiet, but, as I mentioned, the house was full of hard surfaces. My options were the bricks around the pool or the tiles in the theatre. Ouch, floor exercises were right out.

Our schedule was very relaxed. People could sleep in and then have a leisurely breakfast. We were in the studio in the afternoon to work for four hours. Since ever minute was precious, we didn’t take any formal breaks. Thinking of everything, the kitchen at the house was well stocked with nuts, fruit, and protein bars and we would assemble snack bags before we left and munch during our down time. We returned to the house to have dinner and spend the evening, usually drinking in the hot tub.

One of the thing we talked about in the studio was vulnerability and there was a lot of it during these days. It’s hard, but here is some more vulnerability and honesty.

The social aspect of being with a dozen people was very hard for me. Despite my outgoing behavior with students and audience members, I’m really a very quiet person and rather shy when I’m not “on”. I’m okay with small groups of people, but I find it very difficult to join in the chaos of conversation with a big group. Partially I think this is because I have a little hearing loss in one ear, so sometimes it takes me a bit longer to parse what people are saying, especially when there’s a lot of background noise and when it’s dark so I can’t see people’s faces well. Add to this that I don’t often drink and I felt a bit on the outside in the evenings. I did get a lot of crocheting done because I feel more comfortable when I’m doing something creative with my hands and I can crochet on autopilot.

That’s not to say I kept completely to myself. Like I said, small groups are fine. One day after the studio I joined Lana MilknHoney, Elle Diablo, and Jacquelyn Hyde for In-And-Out Burgers and had a ridiculously fun time. We weren’t forbidden to have food that Michelle can’t eat (there was a constant nibbling on cheese in the evenings), but it felt kinda naughty to have a burger and fries. Someone might have gotten drunk on the sugar in her milkshake (spoiler: it wasn’t me).

We never had to be showgirls while we were in the house. Michelle specifically said don’t bring lashes or gowns and absolutely no glitter. I didn’t put on makeup or do my hair once and spent as much time as possible in my Catherine D’Lish caftan and bare feet. And that was a gift, to be around fellow burlesque performers with no pressure to glam it up.

Next up, the whole reason I was there, the work!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Sometimes the show does not go on.

Yes, this is a topical tip. We just learned that our venue for The Boston BeauTease Go Bananaz!, the wonderful Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab, was informed by the city of Salem that their entertainment license didn’t cover “live theatrical” entertainment, that is, us.

They’re working on remedying the license situation, but in the mean time we absolutely can’t perform tomorrow. It’s incredibly disappointing for everyone — us, the venue, our audience. However, the show is not canceled, merely postponed until everything is in compliance. Brigitte has been waiting 6 years to put on this show — we won’t give up now!

So, usually one should do absolutely everything you can to make sure the show goes on (despite illness, weather, technical issues, &c.) but licences, local ordinances, and other legalities are not to be trifled with.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Test out a new pastie adhesive well before a show.

You don’t want any nasty surprises!

First do a patch test to see if you have any negative reaction to it. Just dab or stick a little bit at the inside of your elbow and leave it on for a little while to see if your skin is okay with it.

If it passes that test, try it on your actual pasties. Do a serious stress test — shimmy, twirl, bounce, bend over, roll around, &c.

If there are any issues, toss it and start over with something new. If not, congratulations! You can go on stage feeling confident that your pasties will stay on and you’ll have no skin issues.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.