By Aimee Eckert
Disclaimer: I feel profoundly unqualified to adopt an on-stage persona and also to write this blog. I am not a formally trained performance artist, but I shall do this on the ‘no such thing as permission’ principle as coined by the wonderful Scary Boots (@schrodingerskit). You can read all about this here.
I’m going to tell you a secret: my stage persona has been developing in a positive, symbiotic way long before I first stepped up to the mic. My stage persona is the colourful, optimistic clownfish to the often fretful & tangled tentacles of Aimee’s brain. Most of the time I am Aimee but when I am fronting the UK’s sparkliest, geekiest cabaret show, I am Dr. Jiggs Bowson. Jiggs for short, DJB for the duration of this post, and Dr. Bowson if you’re nasty.
DJB’s confidence, mannerisms and sense of style were borne out of a form of self-defence during a time where I was recovering from a toxic relationship and work environment whilst finding my feet in my new PhD position. Though I don’t want to at all suggest that suffering is necessary to produce art, I found that being creative helped to pull me out of a dark time.
For me, the use of a stage persona has been useful for the following reasons:
- A way to battle pre-show nerves and make it easier to shake off self-doubt. E.g. “I may not be so good at X, but Jiggs is.”
- Getting into the mindset of DJB makes it easier for me to have more energy and makes audience interaction more effective.
- A stage name or persona sets the tone for the event and is more memorable than my real name which is great for marketing and audience engagement
A stage persona can be wildly different from how someone normally behaves but I don’t feel this always has to be the case. You certainly don’t need to be a trained actor (I’m not, though doing a few improv classes doesn’t hurt)
The creation of DJB was purely serendipitous and wasn’t formed with science communication in mind – it was all thanks to the creation of an inclusive, open mic style drag lip-sync competition in Brighton (a big thank you to Crystal Lubrikunt for establishing the night and to both Crystal and Lydia L’Scabies for their unwavering support). I never dreamt anything would come of it, but I felt a compulsion to have a go at incorporating science into a performance just for fun.
It was my extremely funny and successful comedian friend Sam Lake who suggested the stage name Jiggs Boson. I added ‘Dr’ because I am an egomaniac and I also wanted to make the academic link obvious since not everyone will get the Higgs Boson joke and tweaked spelling of Boson to Bowson to reflect my love of midcentury style glamour (Bowson….’with bows on’. Geddit?? Yeah, I know. The pun isn’t great if it has to be explained. But perhaps it can be a private in joke for me and anyone else reading this).
DJB has been quite successful at ‘Lip Sync For Your Life’; winning two heats (in different ‘seasons’) to make it through to two different ‘finals’, in one of which I was the runner up. This gave me confidence to take this DJB idea further. I dreamt of a variety / cabaret show involving different science communicators and/or drag acts. It was the Brighton LGBTQ+ community that welcomed me so gracefully into their space and it’s a community that is full of outrageously talented people who deserve their art to be seen so for me it was essential to create space in return. I was then fortunate enough to be receive mentorship from nerd celebrity and comedian Dr. Steve Cross and he was instrumental in developing my scrambled word salad of an idea into what ‘Dr Jiggs Bowson’s Charming Science Friends’ is today: a bonkers, glittery, queer, cornucopia of talent that shows you can communicate science irreverently and unconventionally. We’ve had musicians, comedians, science demonstrators, science historians and drag acts all tell stories and make jokes using science. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but oh my goodness it really does, as shown by our sell-out shows in Brighton and this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival. If you want to keep abreast, pun intended, of Jigg’s gigs – follow me on Twitter (@aimee_e27) and @ScienceShowoff and come see us at one of the following events shown listed below these beautiful photos – though these won’t be the last (or least) you’ll see of me! *evil laughter*
19th & 20th August – Omni Tent, Green Man Festival
8th September – Horatio’s Bar, Brighton Pier (line-up & tickets tbc)