22 December 2008

I'm doing some housecleaning around here. I have a bunch of saved drafts that I never posted. Well, brace yourself. I'm wrapping up my thoughts and posting them all today.

A Draft from 10/22/08:

Pin-Up Girls

About the Title

One of the great mysteries of the ages: Why did I title a play about burlesque dancers "Pin-Up Girls?"

To fully answer this question, we have to hop in the way-back machine and drop in on an acting class I stage managed back in 2005. (My God, has it been that long?)

Back in 2005, I knew practically nothing about burlesque, which is to say what I had studied in my college theatre history class. (insert rimshot.) I was dimly aware of this artform that involved women taking off their clothes to jazzy music. Burlesque -- that's like "Cabaret," right? One night, two of my classmates brought in a scene from "In the Boom Boom Room" by Larry Silverberg. Although the play is set in a 1960s go-go club, the actresses brought a much earlier flair to the piece. Also, I was watching a lot of Jimmy Stewart movies at the time. (did I mention that I was actually a student in the acting class? Oh well. My secret is out.)

Everything sort of congealed, and I scribbled down "The Secret Lives of Pin-Up Girls" on my notepad. Thus was born the play.

The idea was simple: What if Frank Capra or Howard Hawks made a movie about the backstage antics of 1930s or 1940s strippers? Simple and coarse. I had much to learn.

Pamela soon after discovered the art of pole-dancing and belly dance. Pole dancing led to an interest in theatrical striptease, and belly dance led to Princess Farhana (formerly of the Velvet Hammer, the westcoast spearhead of the neo-burlesque revival). As Pamela threw herself into her studies, I went along for the ride. Her success as a burlesque dancer is pretty well known to readers of this blog. (I like to kid that we're becoming the Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn of burlesque, but Hume looked better in his underwear.)

And so we come to the crux of the matter: pin-up models and burlesque dancers are not the same thing. There is certainly some overlap, as my friend Chris Beyond can attest, but for the most part we're talking two entirely different camps.

As I have worked on this play for the past three years, the title has been whittled down to "Pin-Up Girls." I should have changed the title to something more burlesque-centric, but once the first press release went out, I was stuck. Stuck like a pastie.

The meaning of the title has evolved since those first few scratches on a legal pad.

"Pin-Up Girls" refers in part to the subplots involving pin-up photos. But more than that, it is a statement of the play's philosophy. One of the striking things about those old pin-up cards is how much personality comes through the photo or illustration. They're not Photoshopped, plastic sex objects. The "Pin-Up Girls" of our play are likewise flesh-and-blood people with hopes and aspirations, heartache and private tragedy, i.e. "Real People."