BurlyQ Organization 101: Act Checklists

We BurlyQ types may have a knack for finding creative ways to organize our hair flowers and pasties, but there’s more to being organized than a few rows of IKEA shelves and elaborately decorated shoeboxes. In my first year of being a burlesque performer I came to rely on an organizational tool that I was surprised to learn is not as common as it should be: Act Checklists. When it comes to organization you can never underestimate the power of lists. Lists help us go shopping, stay on top of projects, and keep track of inventory. And, most importantly, they can ensure that you can spend your performance prep time properly primping (say that 5 times fast!) rather than figuring out how to beg, borrow, and steal yourself a complete costume. How often have you reached a performance venue, only to realize you’ve forgotten your red glitter or brought the wrong pair of shoes? Act Checklists can prevent a lot of stress and anxiety on performance nights. Just imagine the state of zen you’d reach if every time you performed an act you had a well-organized checklist to ensure that every last costume piece and prop has been packed and every preparation point has been hit.

Creating your first Act Checklist
Grab a pen and paper and let’s create your first Act Checklist. Write the title of the act at the top. Don’t have an act title? Just use the song name or a short description so that you’ll be able to easily identify which act this checklist is for. List each costume piece, and then each prop. And don’t forget to list any other special items or tasks related to the act. Is there special makeup you need for the act, such as zombie or bruise makeup? Do you need to remember to bring plastic wrap for that messy food act, or some baby wipes and a towel to clean up afterward? Make a note. Be as detailed as possible and don’t leave anything out. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to forget something as basic as your nude underthong when you’re all frazzled with performance night nerves.

And, speaking of performance nights, I find it incredibly helpful to have a generic performance night checklist, as well. There are certain things that are not specific to one act, but are extremely helpful in any performance situation. Makeup mirror? Check. Bottle of water? Check. Item for the raffle bag? Check. Some performers even have a makeup checklist so that they aren’t surprised at the last minute to find that their foundation has run out or they haven’t gotten that borrowed tube of lipstick back.

Once you’ve created a few checklists you’ll start to get the hang of what information is useful and how you’ll use the list on performance night. You could stop right there and rely on your spiral notebook full of scribbled lists, but now it’s time to really get organized. It’s time to get digital. Whether it’s a laptop, an iPad, or even just your smartphone, you’ve got a virtual assistant just waiting to do your bidding and once you put it to use you won’t know how you got along without it.

While there are thousands of personal assistant, time management, and task management apps out there that could be of great use to a burlesque performer, in this article we’re going to focus on checklists. In my research I came across several checklist apps, some packed with features and others keeping it very simple, and one app stood out among the rest for its ease of use, relevance to our needs, and pleasant interface. uPackingList (http://nixsolutions.com/products/iphone/upackinglist/) is an app designed to help with packing for vacations and business trips. It not only allows you to create lists of items to bring with you, but also of tasks to be completed before you leave. The design is cute and simple. When you open the app you’re presented with a sandy beach, a blue sky, a couple of suitcases piled in the corner, and the option to create a new list, open your existing lists, or start packing from a list. When you click the button to create a new list you are first prompted to enter a list name (or, in our case, an act name) and then you’re presented with a list of categories and items to add to your list. The database of items and categories is extensive enough to cover a lot of the things you’ll want to add (panties, shoes, bra) but it’s likely that you’ll want to fine tune the list to be more specific and to include things that probably aren’t already included such as pasties and shimmy belts. As a matter of fact, if you spend just half an hour adding and deleting items you could end up with a database of only categories, items, and show preparation tasks that actually apply to you, each with its own cute icon. When it’s time to pack, simply go to the home screen and click the open link to expand your list of acts. Select the act you’ll be performing and then click the Pack icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. On the next screen you’ll be able to touch each item as you check it off your list. Some other useful features of this program include the ability to email your list (helpful if you need to share your list with someone else or send it to your computer to print out) and import or export your lists (helpful if you use the app on more than one device). And, at the end of the night you can use the “uncheck all” button to reset your list so that it’s ready to be used again the next time. Or do what I do and uncheck each item as you pack up to leave the venue. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing you’ve left your apple-shaped pasties in a dressing room across town.

There are a few things the program lacks. I’d like to see a backup feature or syncing with an online site that could be accessed from any device or computer. It would be nice to be able to enter notes about a list, where you might want to include a short description of the act or the length of the act. I also wish that checking off an item in one list checked off that same item in all of your other lists. This would make packing for multiple acts that share costume pieces a more logical process. But none of these are dealbreakers, especially for a free app. You can purchase a more full-featured version of the app for about $1.99, which includes the ability to customize the icon for your custom categories, set different quantities for your list items, and use different background themes. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones.

Even if you’re technologically challenged, I urge you to download this app and play around with it. Sure, you can handle your Act Checklists with pen and paper, but the electronic method is more environmentally friendly, fits in the palm of your hand (on your phone), and has features you just can’t get any other way. The program I’ve recommended is easy and intuitive and I’d be happy to try to answer any questions you may have about any of the uses or methods I’ve described here.

What methods and apps do you use to organize your burlesque life? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

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