Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

13 Question Marks of Horror With American Mary's Tristan Risk

Photo: David Buzzard Photography . Graphics Manipulation: Sinful Celluloid 

During the American Mary American Tour last October, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Tristan Risk, the Hellion behind the character of Beatrice. Beatrice is a Mod who's desire is to be Betty Boop. Not an easy character to bring to life, but done with skill and empathy. With the UK BD/DVD release on January 21st, we had a little chat about Beatrice, Mary, Burlesque, and the 13 Question Marks of Horror...

1.  You have a powerful presence on and off stage. Is that something you had growing up or did you develop that power since becoming a performer?
I have been an onstage performer since I was a small child. I’m not sure that a ‘power presence’ is something you can really develop as a talent or not, but any of my family will happily tell you that I was always looking to draw attention to myself during childhood (not so much in my teens during that surly and rather  misanthropic stage). Being the kind of child who would somersault across the front of the congregation during a Sunday sermon sans underwear, I would think that there is a degree of these things that come a little TOO naturally...
    2. You have an insane repertoire which includes fire eating (a sideshow staple), Magic (in many ways the polar opposite of sideshow), Baking, Writing, the list goes on. What was your first love?
It’s always been dance and movement and the desire to entertain. Burlesque dancing was my first reintroduction to the stage in adulthood. I was involved in dancing and stage shows from the time I was quite small and then it tapered off to finally stopped during my teens. I was too busy being a painting, pot-stirring, disenfranchised youth dressed in thrift store  goth clothes (we didn’t have the luxury of Hot Topic in my day, rather the Vancouver local Cheap Thrills and Kabbages and Kinx). After a minor break, I discovered burlesque by accident, which brought me back to the stage in my early 20s. As years go by, in order to keep the romance alive, you learn to incorporate different and ambitious ideas into one’s routines in order to keep the spark there, at least for one’s own self. Adding quick-change magic, fire, hair hang and a variety of circus tricks through another troupe I worked with kept it fresh and interesting. But as a small child I would recite Monty Python sketches, T.S. Elliot and Ogden Nash poetry, taking drawing requests from my poor parent’s dinner guests and so on. All my passions (cooking/baking/dancing/singing/acting) all tie in to the single-minded desire to provide entertainment and art to the people around me.

 Photo by: Shimona Henry
3.  You are known for your impressive Burlesque shows. How has your act evolved from the first time to know?
The first burlesque act I ever did was a joke. Truly. I had been asked by a friend of mine to stand up out of a poorly (drunkenly) constructed cardboard cake and do a minor striptease and sing a rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday wishes to the 35th president of the United States. He had a band and after in turn asked me to do a number to open for them and it grew from there. I never had much money to put into costumes when I started, so costumes were cobbled together with the best things I could scavenge together. Today, I tend to put more thought (and money) into costumes and props. Partly out of wisdom of experience, and also since competition in Vancouver has become so fierce among new talents, if one wishes to remain relevant in the scene, you find yourself finding ways to challenge yourself and raise your bar. If I could show my 22 year old self some of my costumes and props I’ve now, I’d probably pee with excitement.
4.    What is a common misconception you deal with as a circus performer/burlesque dancer?
That I put out. No, seriously. It’s kind of flooring to experience the number of attitudes that because of how I choose to express myself that I’m a) available and b) interested. While I’m happy to report that myself and many of my ilk are hardly what you would call conservative or high-buttoned but it’s also rather presumptuous to assume that just because I’m doing a striptease on stage, that I’m going home with you. I’ve sat in front of two gents at a show and heard them ‘pick out’ the dancers on stage before us like it’s some kind open-season singles night. Oblivious to the fact that I was a fellow dancer and both girls they reverenced were married or seeing someone.  It was a sad a moment as when you hear groupies lusting after the guys in the band. I apologize for being a party pooper, but it’s a show, kids. Not a dating game. Trust me, if I were to seduce you, there would be no question about my intentions...

5.   You have a starring role in the new independent film American Mary. How did that come about?
Kismet, fate, call it what you will. The answer to that story begins a few years ago, when Corrine Lea (owner of the Rio Theatre in Vancouver, BC) gave me two free passes to see a film. A friend and I had been trying to get together for a ladies night forever (as one does) and decided that, no matter what; we would go to the Rio that Friday night and see whatever was playing there. What was playing was Dead Hooker In A Trunk. The titled couldn’t be beat and I didn’t realize that it was a special screening. I threw up into a oversized drink cup held betwixt my knees at the moment when Jen’s eyeball popped out during the film. I sent them a message on Facebook after telling them I enjoyed the film and if they did another that I’d love to be involved. Through a mutual friend, whom told them I was local and horror-obsessed, we kept in touch over the years, each party cyberstalking the other. Finally, when Mary was coming about they brought me on board and invited me to do the choreography for some of the dance sequences. They were still looking for a Beatrice though and I flim-flammed an audition for a the role out of them. Thus began our collective spiral into total madness and awesomeness.
 6.   Beatrice is a very complex and sad character. How did you go about fleshing her out on screen?
Beatrice is a funny one. When we alter our appearance on a permanent basis it’s because we are striving for our personal ideal. I can speak about that from the heart given that I practice waist training with corsetry, tend to wear distinct make up and hairstyles, as well as work out to gain a certain musculature for dance and circus performances. I sympathize with Beatrice in that she likely started with just doing her make up and hair one way to leading to the first surgery. But she feels ‘complete’. Her desire to help Ruby be the same can by sympathized by anyone who got a large tattoo started and feels lacking until the last bit of ink is in place, or struggling to lose/gain that last ten pounds. There’s lots going on in her head, but her best quality is seeing strictly the good in people and by embodying the qualities of Betty Boop, finding universal love in the people around her, who might otherwise think her a freak.
  7.  Do you feel she is responsible for Mary?
I think she truly sees Mary as a talent and in a light no one, even Mary was willing to view herself. I don’t know if she feels responsible for Mary, but I know she regrets her own weakness that deals the cards for her friend.

 Photo by: Shimona Henry
8.   Is the world body modification a part of your life or was it a new territory that you explore?
I’ve proudly been a mod for some time. When I was in grade 12, I wanted to study to become a tattoo artist. Instead, I left school after graduation and became a fine art restorer and framer. Not bad for my first job out of school, but it wasn’t the route I wanted to take. I got interested in corsetry through Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace Atelier ( I met her through a fashion show in my early 20s and went on to work with her for years. I’m still a customer (and occasional blogger) for her. I practice waist training, which is wearing a corset daily to reshape your body. While I also tight-lace (the practice of waist training while lacing down to extreme lengths) I don’t do it daily, but I do wear my corsets both over and under my clothes for between 8-12 hours a day, sometimes more. Unique for being one of the older forms of body modification, it can have permanent effects over a course of time, but is not instantly permanent as say, surgery, tongue splitting or ear tipping. Until the genetic mods like what they have available in Shadowrun are something available, I'll stick to cosmetic contacts and false eyelashes and silicone mermaid tails for my more animalistic looks.
 9.   The film is a gorgeous to look at. Was it difficult shoot or did it go pretty smooth?
The film was shot in 15 days. There was a two camera set up each scene so there was no need to reset up and shoot the same thing from another angle. After watching the Mary crew do what they do so professionally and efficiently I cannot fathom how the majority of major budget films can just throw money into black holes and drag out filming. Because of how wonderful the crew was and the fact that there was, in fact, two directors at all times working constantly, the whole thing got pulled off. It was my first time on professional film set, and I will say they’ve set the work ethic bar very high for any other afterwards.

 Photo by David Denofreo
  10.  Can you tell me about your first day of filming?
The first day of filming and my first day on set were two different days; my first day on set I wasn’t working, but I was bored and wanted to see what was going on. I got to set in time to see Paul Anthony (Rat) coming into the make up trailer to get cleaned up. Considering how cold it was for November, he was holding up like a champ. Two of the MFX team were there taking care of him and keeping him going. I never did find out if they left a fake blood smear downstairs in the basement of the building (supposedly there is a gangster embalmed in concrete down there) where the scene was shot, but I didn’t get to confirm it. My first day filming I was doing my dance scenes at the Bourbon A Go Go, so it was two hours in the make up chair to prep, then top off and tits out. So it was suffice to say I was comfortable and at home. They did have a difficult time keeping clothes on me - partly since I’m so at home sans clothes and partly because of my burlesque background I like spending as much time possible in as little clothing as I can decently get away with. It was the opposite of boring that day.
  11.  You are under heavy prosthetic makeup in the film. Did you find it constrictive are was it freeing as an actress?
Not in the least. I found it unsettling to pass by certain reflective surfaces and see someone else’s face. In theatre I have done a lot of mask work and I love creating strange characters in my burlesque, so this was kind of a wet dream for me to play something so extreme. I think at this point it may be more of a challenge to do a film with my own face since there would be so much more to be aware of. On a strangely narcissistic note, while I know everyone will adore Beatrice, it’s a little daunting to wonder if when faced with my own features if I can still win people over in my next project...
 12.   If you have to chance to play Beatrice again in the future, where would you like to take the character?
Paris! Oh, you meant as a character study...
13.    With the release of American Mary, I'm sure your fan base has grown exponentially. With your fans have to look forward to in 2013?
Well, if they are fans of music, I will be appearing in a music video for Crystal Precious alongside the rest of my troupe, Sweet Soul Burlesque for her new single ‘Apple Pie’ and the ladies of Sweet Soul Burlesque will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary! We will also be seen at Bass Coast music festival with a number of other yet-to-be-announced shows but you can check myself and girls out at or follow us on Twitter at @SweetSoulBurlyQ and catch us every Thursday at the Keefer Bar in Vancouver's Chinatown. I’ve also got a few new projects on the go which if you stay tuned on my blog at or follow me at @littlemissrisk on Twitter I’ll keep you abreast of all the developing stories!

American Mary continues to tear up the world. Stay tuned for more interviews with the cast and crew of this groundbreaking film!

Other Horrific Musings:

Tristan Risk and American Mary do it again and ...

13 Question Marks of Horror with American Mary's Antonio Cupo

The Twisted Twins' American Mary - The Sinful Celluloid Review

No comments:

Post a Comment