Underdweller Interview #1 - Natalie Ristovski

We all know the Burlesque Underground and the Seven Families, but who are the people behind the notorious characters we love to hate and hate to love?

Blacklight brings you a series of exclusive one-on-one interviews with the cast and crew of the Adult Playground.

Let the Games Begin!

Name: Natalie Ristovska

Which character/s do you play in the Underground? Jasper Baelian Black (Cookie/Baelian/Nikolai/Belladonna) & sometimes Natalia ‘Mama’ Luciana Bellamantis-Katorga.

What other jobs/responsibilities do you have during a Funday? I direct, produce, plan and create the shows, hire the cast, rehearse, make the playlists, liase with performers and crew re: all things Underground, write blogs, edit other people’s blogs, manage all creative and storyline decisions, manage all marketing, design all posters and online media, manage and assist with groupie and dweller character developments, plan show and social events, MC/host the live shows and engage in planned and improvised performance on show night. Then I sit back and become everyone else’s problem 😉

How did creation of this character come about? Jasper had been germinating in my mind since 2009 when I started MCing at Burlesque Bar in Fitzroy. I wanted a male character to counterbalance the over-exaggerated femme fatale that I had been playing in one way or another since I first got onstage in 2005. It became increasingly important to me to explore the facets of my personality that I had shunted away in order to ‘fit in’ with the Glitterati…the longer it went on, the more it stopped being a desire and became a need…then a necessity for survival. His birth was painful, sobering and in some ways utterly destroying. In other ways it was the most cathartic and life-changing thing I’ve ever done. The multiple personalities developed one-by-one as a result of storyline, outside influences and those lightning-bolt moments that just kind of happen on their own.

What’s your favourite Underground memory involving your character?Haha most of my favourites I can’t talk about because they involve other performers and/or patrons and they’re…ahem…rather physical in nature. From my more ‘internet friendly’ memories I’d say that the first appearance of Reuben Kaye as Jasper’s ex-lover Raoul was a personal highlight for me. Going up against Reuben onstage and improvising is terrifying, he’s such a brilliant performer and way more intelligent than I am. I like to think I held my own…I drank a lot and got the hell out of his way, basically 😉

What do you do to help you get ‘in the vibe’ on a Funday? I’m already a nervous anxious wreck by the time it comes for me to get into character. I lock myself in the bathroom with all of Jasper’s things, then put on some emo ‘cut-yourself-your-life-is-over’ music and start doing my makeup, and spray myself with his cologne early so the scent memory helps me calm down. I drink a glass of bourbon while I’m getting ready, then once I’m dressed and all pretty I go into the kitchen and have a shot of vodka.

If you could play one other character, which one would it be? Bethany Black. No competition. She’d be amazing to play, though I doubt I could out-Bethy Pippy Scream!

What’s your funniest Underground moment? So this one time Jasper reads out an anonymous audience sexual fantasy that says ‘I want to have sex with someone other than my husband so I can feel something for once’ and he’s all “Ohhhhh that’s actually really cunty.” A few seconds later a REALLY drunk woman stands up in the front row, protesting “Nooo, it’s because he has a really small penis!” Everyone freezes, she turns white and then red and clamps her hands over her mouth in horror. She,  Jasper and everyone in the room looks at her husband sitting next to her. He looks ashen. Jasper buys the poor fucker a drink.

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can say to make it better.

What moment in the Underground has upset/disturbed you most? The night that Baelian tried to kill Asinoe with the letter opener, after she was gone there was an argument with Uncle Joel whereby Baelian was demanding to know why his Uncle had left him at the Fundays when he was a child. Joel responded with ‘it was just something that you had to go through’ and I remember having the most intense in-character physical and emotional reaction I’ve ever experienced. My entire body started shaking and I was hyperventilating and laughing and crying (actual tears), and screaming at him something about throwing a baby to the wolves. No jokes, I completely fell apart and almost passed out. I think at one stage someone tried to reason with Baelian and he attacked them and like two or three people had to hold him back. Then he kind of calmed down, and I eventually went to the bathroom and threw up.

What’s your favourite onstage act? Bella Jade Black (Bella De Jac) doing ‘Todliche Haute’ with black lace fans is always a highlight. And I love Betty and Bethany’s ‘Mommy Dearest.’ For myself, nothing beats ‘Bourbon and Valium’ and ‘Delilah’ with Pippy Scream – though they’re both really traumatic to perform so they’re a sometimes food.

Go-to song for your character? Frozen by Within Temptation

Favourite quote from your character? “Love is all grand in the beginning, then eventually it all falls apart and goes down…down…like a plane…on Malaysian airlines.” That was said on stage three days after the tragedy. Never have absinthe shots during a show.

What is the hardest thing or something odd about physically portraying your character? Being a girl and playing a boy is not something that’s easy – especially a girl who has built her career thus far on boobies. Big ones. It’s always fun trying to change tampons on a Funday in the men’s bathrooms when you’re drunk too….you want a head-fuck, there it is right there. Aaaaaaaaand way TMI.

What’s been the most difficult thing for you to do/overcome with your character and how did you over come it? The fear of looking like an idiot onstage or not being believable. You get assholes who for one reason or another insist on pointing out that ‘I know you’re a girl’ or calling me by my actual name or ‘Mama’ during an Underground (I dunno, maybe to connect with me as a person, Jasper can be very confronting) and it’s very difficult to stay focused and give it your all when you feel like a fraud or that people don’t care about what you’re doing enough to play along. I overcame this by putting the fear of God into them. It’s tough love and I feel horrible doing it, but if people aren’t going to understand the nice way then Cunty Mc-Cuntface comes out and we’ll learn through negative reinforcement. If you ever feel that Jasper is being overly cruel or biting to you, 9 times out of 10 it’s because you’ve done or said something really stupid and given me no other option. Do not throw off my groove.

What can we expect from your character over the next 6 months? A very messy and destructive downwards spiral sprinkled with small moments of beauty and sweetness, betrayal and unforgivable decisions leading to utter chaos and rock bottom.

The Burlesque Underground plays bi-monthly in Melbourne. For event info visit: https://www.facebook.com/burlesqueunderground/

All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2015. Natalie Ristovski.

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