We often get asked about what makes a “good” application for our show. A great question! Especially because in many cases, folks are creating/thinking up new acts, as our show is a unique space to share deep, personal stories that one might not have had an opportunity to explore on other stages. Generally, we ask folks to err on the side of being overly descriptive. The more clear and thought-out your act description, the easier it is for us to imagine what it will look like, and how it will fit in with other acts we select for a particular show. Of course, if you have video of your act (even an unfinished rehearsal video), it helps us even more!
Read on for some examples of good and not-so-great act description examples.
“This reverse strip routine focuses on the universal experiences of love that bind us all together. The goal is to capture how it feels when you’re with a partner (maybe for a weekend) and the two of you have gotten completely lost in each other. The rest of the world has disappeared, you’re in your own little cocoon, but you know it has to end soon. You know the bubble will burst, the cold air rushes in, and someone will have to go do something responsible. So, you try to hold on tighter and tighter, but it just seems to speed up, and then it’s over.
It begins with what appears to be two female performers, but as it continues, it is revealed that the one getting ready to leave is trans. Unlike nearly every story one encounters about trans characters, the plot of this performance does not focus on or make issue of the transness – it is incidental. It focuses on the universal experiences we all share instead of what makes us different, thereby transcending bringing awareness to an issue and moving on to normalization.
Never breaking physical contact, the two go through their morning routine together, almost in synchronization. There is such an intensity that builds up through the song, the actions of the performers, and the knowledge that as soon as all of the clothes are on, it is time for your partner to leave you. Though the separation may be momentarily difficult, the routine never loses it’s happy feeling. The two characters are joyfully in love and can’t wait to see each other again, regardless of what society may say of it.”
This example is good because it really demonstrates the emotion of the act, how it will resonate with the audience. We are also given a sense of the identities of the performers.
“This is an act about body positivity” (what’s your personal experience of feeling body positive? what does it look like? how do you communicate that to the audience?)
“Stand up comedy” (what is your material about? does it address experiences related to your body or identity? Is your material funny? poignant? both?)
“Circus-themed hula hoop dance with LED hula hoops” (what is the plot/story of your act? does it address experiences related to your body or identity?)
“This is an act about street harassment, and how it makes me feel. In this act I overcome my fear and stand up for myself.” (what is the plot/story of this act? how do you overcome fear? what does that process look like?)
A Few More Tips
We look for acts that tells a story related to the performer’s personal experience in their body. When reviewing the acts we look for stories that take us, and the audience, on a journey.
We also consider the following (for example, not an exhaustive list):
- Story: Is there an beginning, middle, climax, and end to the act? What is the timing/pacing of the act in terms of action/transformation?
- Intersectionality: How do you explore the complexity of your identities? Are you speaking from a personal experience or making generalizations about a group?
- Costuming: Is the costume solidly constructed?
- Reveals: Are the reveals smooth? Does the performer understand basic tenants of the strip tease?
- Musicality: Is the performer performing to the music or the lyrics of the act? Would the act make sense without the lyrics?
- For circus performers: Is the performer in control of what they’re doing? Are they safe?
- For spoken word: Is the performer reading off a piece of paper or performing the piece?
- Mentorship: Can we help people tweak the act to be more readable?
While we consider the factors above, we recognize that impactful art does not come from a checklist. The items above are guidelines, not rules. A successful act could meet any combination of the above criteria.