“would smell as sweet; So, Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title….”
Yeah, that just happened. I just got all Iambic Pentameter on your asses!
I’m sure all Theatre students, performance and tech alike, have at least one Shakespeare monologue memorized and glued in their brains for the rest of their lives. I will never NOT know Juliet’s lament. That and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. Curse you, Robert!
Anyway, to the point!
I’ve recently been dealing with the problem of names. In burlesque, your name is your calling card and identifier. The pressure to pick a good one is high! And, yeah, maybe if Romeo wasn’t named “Romeo” but instead….Bueford Bumfinger or something, Juliet still would have loved him….but would have come up with a clever nick-name as well.
I’m working on a super-secret burlesque project that only 5 or so people know about. My partner in crime is an old-school DJ, and when I say “old-school” I mean 1970’s. I’ve seen pictures of the powerful mustache and big collars to prove it. And while burlesque might not be his forte, his enthusiasm is awesome. And, when shooting ideas my way, he has no problem with me saying,”No, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Try again.” My kind of man.
A few things to consider in naming your burlesque persona/troupe:
1. I’m sorry, if you’re using a “Burlesque Name Generator” online then YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. It can be a nice way to get cookin’ and get ideas flowing, but I think to take a name from one of those things is discrediting yourself. You’re name should be uniquely “you”, not some word-salad pooped out by an app. I give your imaginations and creativity more credit than that 🙂
2. Just like naming a child, “overly-creative” spellings are really just going to bite you in the ass and have you correcting people for ever.
2a. Ask yourself: “Is this easy to pronounce and/or read? If I was an MC or an audience member, would I get it?” Example: A dancer I met years ago and who has left the scene went by the name “Dia Bolique”. Phonetically “Dee-ya Bo-leek”. I’m a word nerd, so I get it! Dia Bolique! Diabolic! Haha, you so clever! Except that more often than not, the MC would stumble over it. You have to decide whether that will drive you crazy or not. Even Dita Von Teese started as “Dita Von Tease” and an MC botched it somewhere down the line and it just stuck.
My stage name is in that same group. I’m a total bibliophile geek, it’s a play on words that makes more sense when you see it written out. “If-N’-Whendy”. Get it? And it’s always been true of Whendy….never a matter of “If”, simply a matter of “When”. I get “Effin’ Wendy” a lot. Which I don’t really mind and it kind of works. I have the mouth of a trucker and I’m sure my mother feels ashamed somewhere and isn’t sure why….I always thought it was cute, clever and definitely different. Google “If-N’-Whendy” and I’m the first thing that comes up! POW!
3. There are about 1 trillion Kittens, Kitties, Cats, Devilles, Lulus, Lolas, Pistols, Switchblades, Jezebels and cocktail-themed namesakes. I’m not saying NEVER, EVER use these. But tread lightly. And do it differently. Some of your personality should really shine through your name.
3a. Also, ALWAYS GOOGLE THE NAME YOU WANT. It’s a big world, odds are someone, somewhere either has that name or something like it. Be respectful and do your homework. If you become really serious, you can copyright your name and register on burlesque sites.
For instance, the first name I ever wanted to use was “Hellena Handbasket”. I googled it and there’s some lady back East by that name who literally weaves baskets. And one Hellena Handbasket who teaches tassel-twirling or something in Boston. Boo, no-go for Hellena.
After that, I toyed with “Lucky DeVille”. Lucky Devil, get it? I am a lucky, devilish little kitten, and I liked the way it sounded. Well, consider this: burlesque has been around for a long time, and there are a lot of established performers out there. You don’t want to piggy-back on them or seem like you’re lumping yourself in with them. Kitten Deville is a former Miss Viva Las Vegas and has won awards all over and is internationally famed. She is the damn “Queen of the Quake”, cherubs. So, I wasn’t going near that with a 10-foot pole.
4. Topical concepts. My business partner was trying to get the hang of naming and naming groups. He threw “Can You See Me Now?” in my direction. NO. When you align yourself with a topical reference, you’re kind of branding and dating yourself. You might be “so 5 years ago” a few months from now. Are you planning on performing for the forseeable future? A few years from now, when you gain some younger audience members, will they get the reference? And, in my particular case, we’re a kind of underground, guerilla venture. I don’t want to reference some stupid corporate phone commercial. That’s not who we are.
Some of my favorite names in Burlesque, in no particular order:
(and these are all taken kids, so you can’t have ’em!)
Charley Gauxdown (of the New York Gauxdowns’, I presume?)
Your Little Chernobyl
The Wam Bam Troupe
The Swedish Housewife
La Chica Boom
Note: I pulled all these names from memory, and didn’t spell check anything. So, before you correct ol’ Whendy here, that’s called making a point my friends! Easy to remember? Easy to spell? Easy to read? Consider all these things….
What is your persona? What is he/she like? Glamorous? Dangerous? Silly? Raunchy? I literally scribbled names down on paper for weeks, trying to find the right one until Bombshell Betty named me. It just sort of came out and that’s been me ever since 🙂
Having an alter-ego or persona is a powerful thing. I remember being backstage at a show, when someone addressed me as “Whendy” for the first time. I felt like a super hero! Whendy had permission to be all the things my real-life persona hadn’t wrangled yet.
Names are a powerful thing, poppets, choose wisely 🙂