Teatro Zinzanni's Love, Chaos & Dinner is currently playing at the newly opened Cambria Hotel Chicago, 32 W. Randolph St., on the 14th floor in The Spiegeltent ZaZoua Belgian mirror tent created to showcase singers, acrobats, jugglers and comedians. Guests are entertained through live music and spectacle with a coursed out meal in the process.
Amelia Zirin-Brown, also known as Rizo, brings a bawdy cabaret act to the table with astounding vocals and humor that will delight audiences during the Zinzanni experience. The New York based artist is a Grammy winner for her collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma. She has also won the Time Out London and Soho Theatre awards as well as the 2013 London Cabaret Award. Rizo has performed for my years as Lady Rizo, but is currently dropping the name and explains why with this exclusive interview.
Windy City Times: You are based in New York now, but have you always been there?
Rizo: No. I was born in Oregon in an intentional artist community, or some say hippies. My mom was a Brooklyn Jew and my second mother was a New York Jew also. I say second mother because it was more than my primary parents that raised me.
It was a community based around theater, dance and music. It wasn't a stage mom situation with a lot of pressure, but it was always creative and based around performance.
WCT: You went to school for performing?
R: Yes. This school in Seattle called Cornish College of Arts gave me a full ride[a] merit-based scholarship. I studied playwriting, directing and produced my own shows. That helped me have my own one-woman shows, which I did in New York and Edinburgh[, Scotland].
WCT: Talk about your experience with Lady Gaga.
R: So, Our Lady J, who is an incredible piano player and a trans woman, played for me in New York early on. When "Poker Face" came out, Our Lady J recognized her from our shows at The Cutting Room when Gaga would be in the audience and J used to teach her at NYU. We had a joke about how this NYU student created an alter ego…
WCT: So you called yourself Lady Rizo from Our Lady J?
R: No; I was doing it before her, but Lady Chatterley was doing it before me!
WCT: There's also Lady Fairchild, on Mister Rogers.
R: We can't forget Lady Bunny. The important thing is that I am not doing a tribute to Lady Gaga. We happen to look alike. I'm Jewish and she's Italian. We both have big voices and personalities.
After my shows, people ask me if I am trying to be her, so I am dropping the Lady. Rizo is what I am going forward as.
WCT: Is your character in Teatro Zinzanni based on someone?
R: No. It's an amalgamation of so many strong women. It's an offshoot of a character I've been developing since 2003.
Rizo is the version of myself that has no humility and is an echo of the feminine divine that's within everyone. She embraces this imagery that we have had forever. She's a chanteuse in a gown with full glamor and full power.
WCT: How is Rizo different than the Zinzanni character?
R: She's the madam that's in charge of a lot of people. She's in a strange place where momma meets seductress.
WCT: I saw at the show that you interacted with women and men.
R: I'm an out bisexual. We are the unicorns of the world!
WCT: What do you think about [pansexuality[?
R: Pansexuality is the true nature of everyone, but since we can't say we are all on the Kinsey scale, to protect ourselves we have to make boxes.
The new revolution of our time is about gender. That's the true freedom of our future. It's hard for people that were raised in a gendered world to even see that.
WCT: How was it working with Moby?
R: He was a fan of my show Lady Rizo and the Assettes, which was a burlesque show with amazing dancers. He came to the show and asked to record with me. We became friends and this was before he became sober, so it was a little debaucherous
WCT: How did you get involved with Teatro Zinzanni in the first place?
R: I was doing shows at Joe's Pub and Reenie Duff, who is the artistic director, came to the show. Reenie stood in the merch line and asked me to be in the show. I then asked, "Do you want to buy a T-shirt?" [Laughs]
WCT: What do you like about being in the show?
R: I love working in one place for a while, because I was getting road weary before this. The regular schedule lets me know what nights I will have off. It's the closest version to a nine to five job that I will have. I get to have coworkers and clowns that I watch and admire. These people do amazing things with their bodies.
WCT: With all the improv you have with the audience, has there been a particular moment that stood out?
R: Last night was hilarious. I asked a man his name and he said, "boob" while he was looking at my chest. He meant Bob!
I get to have a sensual moment with a women in the audience every night. The director thought it was too long and that I should move on to the man, but I said no because I wanted it to be a moment that is not salacious or made for male gaze. I wanted to connect with a woman and I always try to pick one that I feel attracted to. They might not be my age or type, but I find something that I respond to or have a connection with in them.
That is my philosophy in life, to expand flirtation towards every person that you see. Flirtation is not about sex, but instead is about what the other person resonates with me. If you look at everyone like that, you will have a much better time in the world.
WCT: What would you tell people about Teatro Zinzanni that haven't seen it yet?
R: It's a smorgasbord of food and delights. It's an alternate universe. I feel like we are bombarded with so much negativity in the news. This show is an actual escape and audiences enter another world, a world where the freaks are kings and queens.
It's a place where priorities are flipped and music, love, dinner and chaos reign.
Tickets for Love, Chaos & Dinner are currently available through Sept. 29 at Zinzanni.com/Chicago. Rizo sings for Boystown at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., on Monday, Aug. 26, at 10:30 p.m. See more about Rizo at LadyRizo.com .