DFW’s Vivienne Vermuth talks production, cross-dressing, heavy metal, making a spectacle of herself, and the sweaty side of burlesque.
Since going solo in spring of 2009, you have developed a performance arsenal that’s anything but predictable. From a classic piece like singing in the rain, to Rush in an Octopus belt, to cross-dressing numbers- you are anything but predictable. How do you describe your performance style? Do you strive to bring a little Coney Island to Texas?
Every time I want to come up with a new concept, I think back to when I first started in burlesque – I looked up the definition, and a sentence stood out to me. “Burlesque is to make a spectacle of oneself.” I see that as making a HUGE deal out of the piece, whether it is a larger-than-life costume, way-out-there props or hamming it up! I don’t really have a description; I guess for lack of a better word I’m “weird”. I can literally think up a routine to almost any song (thank your stars I don’t, because some of these ideas are better off in my head). Ever since I was little and in dance classes, I loved to make people laugh and to be in the spotlight, so burlesque just seemed to be a great way to intertwine my passion for the odd and sparkly and making people laugh! (Oh, and getting nekkid. Can’t forget that!)
What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing you on stage?
I want the audience to be laughing, feeling silly/awed, and maybe even a little bewildered. After debuting my Vincent routine (where I dress as my alter ego twin “brother”) I got a lot of mixed comments, but overall Vincent was met with giggles, questions and a lot of emails telling me how much fun it was to see something so crazy and different. If I can make you think, laugh, even question previous ideas you may have had about burlesque, then I’ve done my job right! Burlesque can be so much fun, and I want all of you to see how many different sides there are of it!
In addition to being a performer, you are also a producer. You have two distinct show series with different approaches- Sunset Strip and Broads and Panties. What did you feel DFW was missing, and what do you strive to bring audiences and performers with your shows?
Who doesn’t love a party? So many DFW shows are about the glamour, the sparkles, the “pretty” side of burlesque – but what about the sweaty side? The raunchy side? The girl you’d see behind the alley in the leather jacket and heavy eyeliner, smoking a joint and wanting you to skip class? That’s the idea behind Broads and Panties. I love the term “broad” – it can invoke a very specific image! B and P shows are full of raw, kinetic energy – it’s not a theatrical burlesque show! Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE pretty burlesque, my house is practically COVERED in rhinestones! But it’s nice to stray from the equation, and see something different! The Heavy Metal show we presented at Trees in July was definitely something Dallas had never seen – and I still get emails asking about when we are going to do that show again! It tapped DFW’s desire to add another kind of show to the budding burlesque scene here!
You speak of not looking to book “the popular girls”- what do you mean by this?
I follow the audience first approach to creating a show, and when I say this I mean I look at the show from the ticket holders’ point of view. I always strive to want to bring the newest talents and mix them with talent that may not be so known to DFW, even in our own backyard there are a LOT of entertainers not utilized! I’ve brought dancers from Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Austin, etc., and so many of them Dallas hasn’t seen or heard of, but when they were seen, they were loved and wanted back!
For example, Kira von Sutra was our neighbor to the North (Tulsa) for almost 8 years as a burlesque talent, and was never brought to Texas! I am so happy that I was able to introduce her to Dallas at our Metal show in July, she was perfect as our headlining act and we can’t wait to have her back! The “popular girls” are wonderfully talented and became popular for that reason, and I do utilize them, but I also look to showing my audiences that there are LOTS of amazing entertainers that they should also love!
What are three most important qualities that a producer must have in order to be successful? What are three tips you would give to fellow performers looking to book with new production teams?
Honestly, to be a great producer I think you need to be tenacious, open-minded and creative. You have to be passionate about what you are showcasing, or your show will suffer and your audience will notice! Creativity comes into play when choosing a theme, location and your performers! The audience is paying hard-earned money, they want a good show! Tenacity I find plays a major part in the whole process, from negotiating with venues to simply putting up with obstacles along the way! I put my heart and soul into every show, and I know that my crowds love the Broads for that reason!
On working with new producers, I say get OUT there to clubs and talk to people! Find bands that you dig, and ask ’em if they’d like go-go dancers, or an act to open for them! Get to know your local art community and see if they’d like themed acts at their openings! Burlesque is a beautiful and fun addition to any event, so put your name in the pot! And of course, if you work with a team new to the concept of burlesque, don’t forget to tell them about your needs (stage kitten, prop setup, music/lighting, announcing, etc). Your new producer may not know, and so it will be on your shoulders as a professional to give them some insight. They will love and appreciate you, and the performance will go super smoothly!
You also have a pretty heavy arsenal of costuming experience as
well as beginning work as a make-up artist. Are you self taught in both?
I actually have a long history in makeup artistry, almost 9 years! It’s just recently that I have delved into the pinup/commercial shoot world. I am self taught in both, and also have been fortunate to learn bits and pieces from amazing costumers and MUA’s along the way! I really have to credit local ladies Ruby Redlocks and LaDonna Hearne to my success in the past year, both ladies have been so amazing to me, teaching me and working with me, and just being so sweet to me! They have inspired me in my creative process and given me a lot of confidence in my abilities. I also credit my burlesque friends, dancers and photographers, for collaborating with me on so many projects and trusting my crazy side!
What are some of your proudest costuming moments?
Honestly, getting THE email from Perle Noire asking me to create a hat for her for the Burlesque Undressed show. She wanted a custom creation to go with a gown she had, and she told me she loved the hats that I had outfitted the greeting gals at the Amour show. I about died, and set out to make a hat fit for a Queen. 2 failed attempts, 3 trips for pearls and ostrich plumes and almost 1000 Swavroski’s later, I had created a masterpiece. When I lifted it out of the box to show Perle, she gasped, told me she was in love, and that she wanted me to make her costume for Miss Exotic World in June. I am currently designing a vintage inspired gold outfit for her, and we have plans for more. I am also commissioned to create a costume for a dancer in San Antonio, we are doing to black widow outfit!
What does the future hold for Vivienne Vermuth?
I hope everything! My main goals are to grow my burlesque brand, my artistry and my overall creative career. There are so many things I hope to accomplish and do, and am so very thankful to everyone who has been instrumental in bringing me to where I am now. I haven’t slept a full night in almost 3 years, why start now?