Summer 2009 Fellow
Red Tremmel is a historian, filmmaker, and curator of live-performances. He recently earned a doctorate in American History from the University of Chicago and specializes in the history of working-class culture, gender and sexuality, and leisure spaces. Tremmel has taught gender and sexuality studies at The Evergreen State College and Portland State University, and recently began a visiting position at Tulane University this Fall. Tremmel is currently working on a manuscript, From the City on the Hill to Sin City, which examines the rise of Las Vegas in the context of nationwide conflicts over working-class leisure cultures, gender, sex, and race in urban areas. Tremmel’s research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the James Hormel Sexuality Fellowship, and the University of Chicago’s Center for Gender Studies and Lesbian and Gay Studies Project. Tremmel is also co-creator of the Sissy Butch Brothers, a grassroots team that initiated Chicago’s burlesque revival in 2001. The Sissy Butch Brothers introduced local performers to work being done in other cities. Synthesizing their own work with the sensibility of the emerging burlesque revival, Chicago performers focused on such issues as presidential politics, beauty myths, gender norms, war, lynchings, gay marriage, heteronormativity, Orientalism, as well as queer joys and desires. Since January of 2007, the Sissy Butch Brothers has created one of the country’s most original and thriving neo-burlesque scenes.
During his Fellowship, Red Tremmel will further develop the documentary film, Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival. Recent politics over sexuality whether concerning abortion, abstinence, birth control, HIV, homosexuality, or marriage are highly charged and fiercely divisive. In these debates, the complexity of gender and sexuality practices is often oversimplified in mass produced representations and restrained by stale ideological positions. Filmed in the era of George Bush abstinence-only “sex” education, Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival seeks to offer innovative conceptualizations of gender and sexuality by focusing on an influential set of dancers, literal “movers and shakers,” who have been honing a grassroots sexual and gender discourse (both commercial and artistic) for more than a century: burlesque performers. The film documents a vibrant and visually stunning archive of dancers’ histories from the postwar era through the sexual revolution, go-go and disco, and into the 21st century. Part nostalgia, part beauty, part comedy, and part 21st century politics, the film offers a rare glimpse into an intergenerational do-it-yourself grassroots dance culture busily refashioning ideas about feminine sexuality, and depicting a core sensibility of burlesque—sexual optimism in the face of homogenization and decay.
Tremmel's film is in the final stage of editing and was recently previewed at the Decibelle Music and Culture Festival (October 2010).
Visit the film's website: www.exoticworldthemovie.com