Dia De Los Muertos - Undead Burlesque Ball
Dia De Los Muertos -Undead Burlesque Ball bring you a nail bitting, hair curling, spooky, deadly good time this upcoming October 25th at The Beachland Ballroom. They bring you the one and only Queen of the Undead is coming all the way from Chicago, Burlesquer Red Rum bring her unique style of burlesque back to the city of rock and roll. You may remember her from The 3rd Annual Ohio Burlesque Festival 2013 this year on The Saturday Night Main Show, She brought the house down with her detailed high energy Egyptian inspired costume... and really did show us the dead can dance!
We had the pleasure of catching up with her and this is what we found out about the queen of the dead!
OBF-How did you get started?
RR-:Making art has always been a huge part of my life but the word burlesque never entered my vocabulary until 2007 when I received a message from a Chicago DJ named the Coffin Banger. He saw some gory pictures of me at a horror con and reached out to see if I did any performing or knew anyone in the burlesque sideshow/horror community. The Coffin Banger was looking for horror themed talent for a big Halloween stage show he was producing in Chicago. Although I was not a solo performer at the time I was interested in helping out in any way possible. The Coffin Banger’s Monster Mash Party was the first burlesque/sideshow event I ever witnessed. I saw “horror” burlesque for the first time and was totally inspired. Performers in the show included Maya Sinstress, Angela Eve, Krysten Korruption, The Amazing Tomas and more.
I never had any dance experience but a foundation of makeup/costume making and improvisation definitely prepared me well for an entrée into the burlesque community. My formal background is in painting and drawing, I graduated from the School of the Art Institute and my MFA thesis project was a horror movie. The movie was absolutely terrible but I was interested in all the objects that resulted through the process of making the movie; the makeup, the props, the costumes, the challenge of improvising and the characters. Through the process of making the movie I thought it was curious that everyone wanted to be the person who died - that is what people remember and talk about. For a couple years after school my colleague Teena McClelland and I launched a company called Death By Design. We would turn an art gallery into a film set, clients would choose a “death” off our menu and we would film them “dying” as a star in their own horror film. From there a continued to seek out ways to get involved in the Chicago horror/independent film scene.
The second year of the Coffin Banger’s Monster Mash Party I met my now husband Sanjula Vamana for the first time! Nothing like seeing someone push bicycle spokes through their face to equal love at first sight! I was married at the time I met Sanjula and was definitely not prepared for how much my life was about to change. Thanks to Sanjula I got to know Maya Sinstress better and she gave me my first chance to perform at the Anti-Valentine Show at Cobra Lounge in 2010. A number of months later I auditioned for Hot & Heavy Burlesque’s Tribute to Spinal Tap at the Viaduct Theater. I am incredibly thankful to these ladies for giving me my first chance.
RR-: When I was working out my burlesque character the devastating earthquake in Haiti happened, I had friends and colleagues that were trapped there…for weeks so many friends and co-workers were rallying to figure out what to do so it was at the front of my mind every minute. I had always been an ancestor worshiper and dabbled in the religion but when the earthquake hit I knew Vodou needed to be a central part of my character. When working out my burlesque name I made a list of words that came to mind when I thought of Haiti….when I added ‘Rum’ to the list I immediately thought of Kubrick’s “The Shining” and I couldn’t get REDRUM out of my head.
OBF-: How would you describe your self?
RR-: Often I feel like a bundle of forces at war with each other. Having the chance to create and play out a character is an amazing outlet for trying to make sense of it all.
OBF-: What do you do in the day?
RR-: I work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago as the Administrative Director for the Department of Fashion Design. I completed my MFA in Painting & Drawing at SAIC in 2005 and loved the place so much I stayed. It is so wonderful to work in an environment where people are incredibly supportive of my burlesque practice. The department has even invited me to lecture a few times and I am working on a proposal for a costume/makeup class to teach.
OBF-: Tell us a bit about your family ?
RR-: Seriously watch one episode of the Addams Family and you got it!...My husband and I are passionately in love, we are super supportive parents to our little toddler Dexter, friendly and hospitable to visitors, generous with our friends and fans…but often forgetful of how the rest of the world may find our macabre hobbies bizarre and frightening! Our household is full of curiosities…our dining room alone has three real coffins, one of our son’s first words was ‘skull’, and because of the artistic industry we work in we have so many interesting and talented characters passing in and out of our door. Sometimes it feels like a mystery to me how I ended up with the interests I do…but with a mother as a nurse and a father as a police officer we were raised with a tremendous value for life and an awareness of how fragile our time is. Filling our lives with different forms of momento mori helps me to appreciate the time we have and in some ways offers protection against my fears of death and the unknown.
RR-: Themes of sex, death and humor are important to me because they are social levelers---we all make the same dumb faces when we have sex, no one can escape death, and no one is above ridicule. They are reminders to be to be humble, to remember where you came from and know that the hard work is never over. I love burlesque as a vehicle for critique and transformation. My husband Sanjula gave me the best advice ever, he said “if you can’t do something better, do it different”. There are so many performers out there that approach burlesque in amazing ways; if I feel like I can’t contribute anything new to a particular perspective I work really hard to give people something they didn’t expect to see.
The choice to become undead was an easy one, fear is the most powerful emotion we experience and horror is a genre rich with mythology and characters. I didn’t see it as a dead end but a realm of infinite possibility, a chance to explore the fine line between attraction and repulsion.
RR-: I found the Chicago scene to be very welcoming and thankful for the chance they took on me. There was a time when I first started that people would ask me to perform - but without the skeleton face – that was a real nightmare for me, I never felt comfortable on stage in my own ‘skin’. It took a little time but eventually people tuned in to my Halloween year round style…so much of that was thanks to venues like the 1901 Gallery Theater. The 1901 Gallery Theater was an independent theater – basically a three car garage professionally set up with a stage, lighting board and sound booth. Known for the most innovative and underground neo-burlesque in the city, the venue was home to so many of us. The venue was shut down a couple of months back by the City of Chicago for not having the proper entertainment license….it was a devastating loss to our community and a real loss for new performers needing a place to earn their pasties. I’m very dedicated to doing shows with Cirque De La Femme, SS Triple X and the Glitter Guild, I’ll never miss a chance to work with Angela Eve, Viva La Muerte and Maya Sinstress. I perform at least once every other month with Vaudezilla, Ties & Tassles as much as I can and Kiss Kiss Cabaret whenever they are in the mood for something spooky. I think we have a thriving scene here in Chicago with a little something for everyone.
OBF-:What do you think of Cleveland?
RR-: I’ve only ever been passing through Cleveland so I’m looking forward to spending more time there getting to know the local performers and the scene. The Beachland Ballroom is a jewel of a venue!
OBF-;You were in the Ohio Burlesque Festival, how was your time there?
RR-:Sadly my time in Cleveland for the festival was so short. We drove up the morning of the day I was performing. We were a little late hitting the road and then I forgot about the time change…we got pulled over for speeding…then we got lost finding the hotel! We GPS’ed the address of the hotel but kept ending up at some aerospace field…I felt like we were in the Twilight Zone…each time we ran the directions it brought us back to the same vast and vacant field! Eventually found the hotel and got to the venue less then an hour before the show was to start. I was lucky #13 in the lineup. With all that stressed energy I was so happy to get out on stage! The roar from the Cleveland audience was the best thing I’ve ever heard...even at that moment I couldn’t wait to come back!
RR-: My tastes vary often. Lately I vacillate between 50s pop and 80s hits…I’m always looking for a popular song that I can twist the sentiment on for a piece or manipulate the meaning.
OBF-: What do you like to eat?
RR:-If it weren’t for my husband I would probably eat cereal for every meal! If I cook for my self it’s pretty straight out of the box – eating is sadly always my last priority, I have no patience for it. Favorite home cooked meal when it does happen is bratwurst, sauerkraut and spaetzle
OBF-: Is there something about Cleveland you cant live with out?
RR-: Lake Erie!!! Every year since I was born my family would all pile into a car for a summer road trip from St. Paul, MN to Erie, PA to see the grandparents. Cleveland always offered the first sight of Lake Erie and a real feeling of home. Now Sanjula and I carry on the tradition and take little Dexter out there at least four times a year.
OBF-:Favorite spooky movie..?
RR-: There are so many spooky movies I love for so many different reasons! All my favorites eventually become performances; John Carpenter’s “The Thing” inspires the next big piece I’ve been working on. What are my favorite aspects of the movie…could it be the fear of complete isolation in the face of disaster? Or the invisible enemy in sub-zero temperatures? How about the terrifying feeling of not knowing which of your supposed friends and colleagues are who they say they are, and not a shape-shifting alien?!?! Can’t wait to show you how I pack that entire story into one burlesque performance! Muah-hahahaha!
Ghouls and Goblins That was Red Rum!
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