Events Insider Interviews Anastasia Barnes, Creator of ‘Ruby Besler, 40’s Sex Expert’
Anastasia Barnes brings her 1940’s international sex expert, Ruby Besler, from her web series “The Ruby Besler Show” to Oberon this week for a multimedia cabaret show featuring music, jazz dancers and multi-media segments. The show, “Naughty Lessons” will give audiences a rare peek inside Ruby Besler’s life and loves as she heats up the stage with a little strut and shimmy through her life told in song, dance and video. Her web series is “A show dedicated to real women who appreciate real men” that teaches women “proper” sexual behavior, and following each segment she signs off with “I’m Ruby Besler – reminding you to keep your panties on and your heels on the ground!”
Events INSIDER caught up with Barnes as she was preparing for her upcoming show, which will run Wednesday March 4-6 at Oberon. I’m giving away a pair of tickets to two shows! Email email@example.com to win!
Events INSIDER: Just who is Ruby Besler and how did she come about?
Barnes: Ruby is composed of two of my favorite things – sex and comedy. I was kidding a friend one day that I could properly instruct her in how to perform oral sex brilliantly, and I adopted this (high status) voice which I developed as a child in Cincinnati when I used to watch old black and white films from the 30’s and 40’s with my grandmother and great aunt. It’s called a Trans-Atlantic accent. It doesn’t really exist, it’s just something that Hollywood made up so that the actors could seem more sophisticated. One day my friend suggested that I develop a character based on the voice, and when I sat down to write, all I knew was that I wanted this character to give lessons on sex.
Events INSIDER: Is Ruby drawn from any specific actress or personality? Because she reminds me a bit of a sexier version of Katherine Hepburn in “Philadelphia Story”.
Barnes: When I started writing for her, I still hadn’t come up with how she looked. So I did a lot of research on the 40’s and she is based loosely on a couple of women. I tried to re-create the beauty of a Constance Bennett and combine her with this 1940’s matronly Amy Vanderbilt-esque teacher type. I wanted the seriousness of the teacher with the beauty and elegance of Constance Bennett. But what makes Ruby Ruby is that she’s very naive. For instance, she’s completely unaware that it’s not okay to date a 16-year old boy or to tell people (in the 1940’s) that I enjoy kissing women.
Events INSIDER: It’s hilarious to watch this high status, elegant 1940’s woman give tips on the proper way for cultured women to masturbate or how to perform oral sex. But she also gives some less over-the-top advice, essentially how to get a man interested or to how to manipulate men sexually. I especially liked the “Frumpy to Fancy!” video where Ruby’s friend gets a makeover to increase her sex appeal. Do you think she’s still making some valid points about how women behave or feel about themselves 70 years later?
Barnes: It’s all based on real life. I obviously don’t go to a party and cross my legs in a short skirt (to entice men), but a lot of Ruby is still based on the theme of ‘How to Manipulate a Fella’. If you want to kiss a girl, it’s not that big of a deal, like in ‘Give It A Whirl’. Some of them are obviously a little sillier, but I try to base it in reality.
Events INSIDER: So it’s like this character has been transported from WWII into 2015, because these are themes you would absolutely never discuss in the 40’s, and that’s what makes it so funny.
Barnes: Right, and that’s the paradox. It’s a stylized character that’s talking very properly about improper subjects.
Events INSIDER: The videos are hilarious. What made you want to bring her to the stage?
Barnes: If you watch the web series, the production values are so high that it’s really difficult to (keep that up). I filmed three, then I filmed six more, then someone suggested that I start performing with burlesque artists.
Events INSIDER: So how do you go from a high society sexual advisor to a cabaret setting?
Barnes: The burlesque community opened their arms to me and gave me a stage, and I fit right in, because a lot burlesque is focused on 30’s and 40’s and 50’s stuff, and I behave as my proper self, as if I’m doing nothing wrong. And I don’t act like my audience is living in 2015, I just act as if I’m teaching in 1947.
The biggest challenge for me was, ‘How do I find the comedy in a stage show?’ I know the comedy in the web series comes from the cutaways and music and the animation, and the way I do it live is that all of the comedy is in the musical cues, and that’s where (the punch lines come from). So I either have a pianist or just use audio cues, and the people loved it. I’ve performed all over the West Coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The San Francisco audiences embraced me and that was the most fun.
Events INSIDER: Has the reception always been this good? It’s a really different kind of act.
Barnes: Last fall, I opened for a band called the Vaud and the Villains, an 18-20 piece 1930s New Orleans themed band. They ae a fun, energetic band, with a huge fan base. That particular crowd had no idea I was doing an opening act, and they definitely were not expecting “Beaver” or “Tap Tap Tap” (two of Ruby’s racier videos). Lucky for me, most of the crowds I perform for now know what they’re getting and they really love me. It’s no fun when people don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re up there.
Events INSIDER: Do you think the burlesque community is a good fit? Because burlesque is pretty popular in Boston. The Slutcracker is a huge hit every year, plus there’s a lot of other troupes…
Barnes: The Boston Babydolls are a fun troupe to work with, and I know they’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t know much about the burlesque scene here, but Mr. Scratch (Babydolls producer) says it’s much different from Hollywood or the West Coast in general, and it feels different.
But I absolutely think it’s a good fit. I don’t know if it’s where I necessarily belong, but it’s certainly an avenue to have Ruby shine. People that don’t know burlesque think it’s about disrobing, but the number one thing to know about burlesque is that most of the girls make their own costumes and put a lot of focus and attention into it. And if you know burlesque, it’s not all about big boobs and tight tummies. You have to be okay with having what some would consider a ‘fat girl’ on stage. Burlesque is more of a celebration of a woman’s body, and having fun with it.
Events INSIDER: So how does Ruby fit into all of this?
Barnes: Ruby Besler is just making light of sex, because sex is universal, whether it’s with a man or a woman. Because we all want it and we all need it. And Ruby is just a wonderful, loving character that likes to celebrate sex and talk about it. In real life, I still default to talking about sex. I don’t even know why, it’s just my go-to. I know I can always talk about sex and make people laugh. I don’t (care) if I’m the prettiest or the smartest, I just want to be the funniest.
For more info go to: http://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/ruby-besler-naughty-lessons