SEVEN FEET OF FABULOUS AT ‘TEATRO ZINZANNI’
~by lisa Lipsey
Teatro ZinZanni is coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts with their new show—Love, Chaos & Dinner. Teatro ZinZanni, described as a “Kit Kat Club on acid,” is spectacular theatricality that begins as you enter their century-old Belgian Spiegeltent, the Palais Nostalgique.
This international experience—which has only played at two locations in the United States—Seattle and San Francisco—is a three-hour show of international cirque, comedy and cabaret paired with a five-course feast and libations from Chef Joachim Splichal’s Patina Catering.
I have to say if the entertainment and food is anything like this wild romp of an interview with Manuela Horn, it is sure to delight all the senses.
Manuela is a six-foot, two-inch stiletto-wearing Austrian yodeler, dancer and comedian. She was imported from Berlin’s Pomp Duck & Circumstance in 2002 and Teatro Zinzanni has given her the performing home she always wanted—this is her 15th production with ZinZanni.
Tell me about this new show.
Whoot! Whoot! I am having so much fun, Teatro ZinZanni, can it possibly get any better and sexier? We have a new home, which they are building right now and I can’t wait for this gorgeous theatre to be done. We can’t wait to get into the heads of the people of Southern California, to share this unique theatre experience. Come down and see us—it is very special entertainment. Trust me, if you are having trouble with your partner, or if you did something bad, bring them to us. If you want to be sure you get laid, come to the show, we have dinner, wine, comedy and cirque—it’s a done deal.
How did you become the “Yodeling Dominatrix?”
Well, first I have to say, I love America, all of you are as nuts as I am! The Yodeling Dominatrix is one of my favorite characters, she is so naughty and people who aren’t into that world get a chance to play with her. It’s a fun factor, she doesn’t do any of the hardcore spanking stuff, just comedic and playful. You would be surprised; all the women over 60 really love her. They come up to me and say, “I’ve been really naughty” and they ask for a spanking… One came to me for her 90th Birthday.
How did you get your start in performing?
I started to perform quite late, I look at back at the kid videos of me and I could slap my parents. They should have put me in theatre when I was five, but my Mom is very old school, she was concerned that I wouldn’t make enough money—that I would always have to wipe tables and chase a dream. I moved out at 23 and I was an industrial clerk, a very boring job. One day I just threw it on the floor and started doing promotional jobs—modeling for advertisers selling cigarettes and vodka. I put myself through a private four year theatre school, but then it was really hard finding work. I am 6’2, I swear all the directors would think, “Where would I find a Romeo for you… and forget about the rest of the cast!” So I started billing myself as a party host.
I had an agent who told me about a local dinner theatre that was looking for a sexy, tall, comedic actress—a sexy waitress. I went to this casting call and all of the women had double-G boobs. In the final casting, I was sitting with eight women with ginormous breasts. I have a nice rack, but nothing like that, I didn’t think I stood a chance. Then I got the call, it was a tough decision to accept the job—I got hooked because as a performer you live for the laughs, you want to get that smile, that grin out of a person. I love to improvise with the audience, you don’t know whom you’ll meet or what they will say back to you or what is going to happen.
Who is your favorite Teatro ZinZanni Character?
Kevin—the one and only, he is such a marvelous performer, the first guy I worked with here in the states. He introduced me to my husband, he’s the Queen of My Heart—I love Kevin—I guess you could call him a drag king. Hummm, how to describe him, he is so entertaining, this burst of super funny energy.
You learned Yodeling as a child, forgive my ignorance, but is that something everyone is taught in Austria or is it a more of your family’s tradition?
It is much more of a family tradition, yodeling is unique, even in my country. I can’t say every fifth person knows how to yodel, maybe every 250th person. I learned from my dad, he owns, as he calls it, a Gas, Water and Shit Company, it was his hobby. He’s a plumber and his schtick is that he yodels while he changes toilets, he’s always taken pleasure in yodeling. One time we were driving home, up the mountains and down the mountains, it was like 14 hours, I was 12 and bored like hell.
He said, “I’ll teach you how to yodel,” we practiced for hours and I was hooked right away. The funny part, I had never been a cool girl in school, but I became a cool nerd. I had this special status because kids would come up and say, “Can you yodel for us?” Yodeling opened doors for me. It’s funny, people have this vision that yodeling only happens in retirement homes with an accordion player. It is actually more like opera—when people see it live and hear the sounds they are swept away by it.
“The Yodeling Dominatrix is one of my favorite characters, she is so naughty and people who aren’t into that world get a chance to play with her. It’s a fun factor, she doesn’t do any of the hardcore spanking stuff, just comedic and playful.”– Manuela Horn
On that note, you have a CD coming out?
Yes, it’s called There’s Always Oktoberfest Somewhere. I have a band called Octoburlesque, when we do 21+ shows we strip off our lederhosen—they’re rip-aways—the whole concert is very interactive.
A kid’s party for adults, I do Birthday spankings and yodel-grams. On the CD we do AC/DC’s “Highway to Yodel-le-he-who,” also “Tainted Love,” I rewrote the lyrics. Oh and “Like A Virgin”—yodeling for the first time, it’s really fun—it will be on sale at the show.
What are some of your favorite moments from your performances?
I remember I played Catholic Teacher Bitch (disciplinarian) in one show, someone who you do not touch, she is all buttoned up tight. Then another cast member helps to loosen her up and she rips off the teacher clothes, lets down her hair and becomes this gorgeous sexy woman. The bartender told me, one timed during the show, a woman in her mid-60’s, ran over to the bar screaming, “They fixed the Bitch!” That cracked me up.
There was one touching moment—a woman came up to me in tears and said, “My husband just died a week ago, I didn’t want to come, but I am really glad I did. For three hours I haven’t thought about it once.” Bringing her out of her misery, that was the best compliment ever.
I also love audience participation, I choose the shorter guys, just for fun because I am 7 feet tall. We’ll leave it at that right? Sometimes they get totally into it and start kissing my shoes, others try to run away and they are dragged back.
How fun! Sounds like a great time!
Yea, who knew so many people needed a seven foot tall woman! Men are thrown off and often think I’m a guy—they start looking for’ things’. A guy came up and said, “You can’t be a woman, you are too beautiful.” Whatever makes you happy! People say I’m a man, if you want me to be packing that’s no problem—I can leave you with the fantasy. And women think because my name is Manuela— they think too much and develop a man-in-drag theory—it’s hilarious.
Tell me about being on America’s Got Talent.
I went on as the Yodeling Dominatrix and David Hasselhoff could not close his mouth, he was just drooling all over and Sharon Osborn loved me. In round two, they said, “Yea you are in!” and I went to Los Angeles. When I got there I changed my game, I listened to all these haters who made comments like, “she probably goes grocery shopping in pleather” and that I am sick and should not have kids.
Come on, I am an actress and this is a character, not who I am. So I changed my act and did a bit as a sexy housewife singing “Don’t you wish your momma was hot like me?” It had some funny parts, but I got voted off fast. The judges asked me, “Where’s the pleather? We want the Yodeling Dominatrix back, that was so unique—this is too Saturday Night Live. That was dumb of you—goodbye.”
Boo! I’m sorry to hear that, you can’t listen to the haters.
I know, it was really strange, backstage people were telling me I had this in my pocket and on stage they nailed me to the wall and killed me. It was like the Twilight Zone, a parallel universe. I am still surprised by how many people saw the show, people came up to me—it was immediate stardom—quite funny.
One thing I didn’t like, was the way they portray the contestants—as if you suddenly decided to become a singer to go on the show and become famous. All of the people on that show have been working many years and hours. They portrayed me as a housewife who suddenly decided to become Yodeling Dominatrix, just for fun—I guess that makes good television, but I am passionate, I sing every day.
People write to me on facebook, “I was thinking about becoming a singer.” I tell them to work on it every day and take vocal lessons, go the full 100 yards. Singers who win on shows, if they are not in it with a full heart, they disappear. I still take voice lessons… I am always a work in progress.
Thank you Manuela. It was such a pleasure to chat with you. Congrats on your new adventures with Teatro ZinZanni and the show Love, Choas and Dinner. I can’t wait to see it.
I’m looking forward to Costa Mesa and L.A., I’m hoping people will take me out to have some fun. I love the gay community here in Seattle. I do lots of things like singing Broadway reviews to raise funds for centers and services. The Lesbian Community loves me like a Xena. I’m bringing all of my costumes and I am all by myself, so I’ll have lots of time on my hands to go and have fun.
Teatro ZinZanni’s Love, Chaos & Dinner runs October 24 – December 31 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
For tickets and more information call 714.556.2787.