TEN Cast Interview: Leah Principe

Have you been keeping up with our cast interviews? If not, you’ve missed out on a treasure trove of fun facts, embarrassing stories, minor spoilers, and lots more. But don’t worry – there’s more to come. Today, Leah Principe talks about dancing for Weird Al, using an apocalypse hammer on a blood-rigged dummy, bringing a nine-foot, candy cane-striped penis named Amy over the Canadian border, and much more. Keep up with her antics on Facebook, and be sure to “like” the page for her burlesque alter-ego, Honey Pie, as well.

Photos by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

What’s your acting background? I come from a strong dance background. I’ve been dancing since I was a little girl and then just always kept with it in my adult life. I did some plays a little bit in high school, a little bit in college. Not too much. And then over the last three years, I got heavily involved in the burlesque and performance art world. Since I started doing that, it’s just completely changed my life, and I’ve been doing lots of crazy shows, and I’ve had a few speaking roles, including having a fight on the Oberon balcony and throwing a dummy over the balcony. I perform in The Slutcracker, so there’s a lot of pantomime involved in that. I’m a member of Babes in Boinkland and we do lots of crazy shows, probably about once a month, maybe more. In the last two years I don’t think a month has gone by where I didn’t have some sort of performance to go on. But this will be my first on-camera speaking role, so I’m very excited.

How’d you get started in the burlesque scene? I’ve always been a dancer, always loved dance, and as I got older, there was not really much for me to do besides taking adult classes, which was fun and I was glad I kept up with it. Then I met someone who was in The Slutcracker and who was involved with the Babes in Boinkland, and they were putting on a show and needed extra dancers, and now that’s my life. They’re my closest friends, and it’s awesome.

What got you interested in TEN? Well, Sophia and Mike came to me, and we vaguely knew each other from being involved in the performance and music world. They asked me if I wanted to be involved in it, and when I heard about the movie and saw the trailer, I just was like, YES. I need to be in a pig mask. And I’ve always loved horror movies, always been a big fan. I’m very excited to do something like this. And I haven’t been a pig yet in any of my performances. I’ve been a dancing crustacean on occasion, more than once. I’ve been a mermaid, I’ve been a fetish sheep, I’ve been Mouth from The Goonies. I think I’ve been most animals and weird people. First time as a pig, so I’m excited about that.

What’s your favorite horror movie? Probably Carrie. There are so many, but that one just jumps right out at me. And I dressed as her one Halloween. Something about being covered with blood – I don’t know, maybe I have a weird fetish where I need to be covered in blood all the time.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge of this project for you? Definitely having to go back and forth from shooting to having to come back to Somerville for The Slutcracker, because I know once I get out there and we start shooting, I’m just going to want to stay. When I get involved in a project, I really like to be involved with everything, so it’s going to be really hard to leave. Another challenging thing will be learning the lines and the script and also having to go so out of order of it. As a theatre person, you don’t do that – everything’s just performed in full, and that’s it, and what’s done is done. All the multiple shots – that’s going to be really tough.

What are you most looking forward to? Probably the bonding. I’m looking forward to just getting to know everyone. I do know a few people in the cast, but I probably don’t even know them as well as I’d like to, so that’s going to be probably the best part. And of course playing dead. That’ll be the best.

Do you have any qualms about the nudity that your part entails? Well, as a burlesque performer, I’ve never taken my bottom off. I’m always in pasties, for the most part. Sometimes I perform and don’t do any stripping at all. But you know what? I’m actually really looking forward to doing my first full frontal. In a bathtub. I think it’ll be great.

[A brief discussion of merkins ensues.]

Yeah…that’s going to be really tough with that and The Slutcracker. My makeup artist friend told me that there’s this stuff called Crepe Hair, and it’s what you would glue on someone’s face for a beard. She’s like, that will look more realistic so you don’t have to grow out the full-on 70s bush style.

How are you preparing for your role? Watching the recommended movies that Mike and Sophia sent to us – I’ve been having a good time with that. I’ve been trying to read the script, trying to just go through it a couple times a week. For the most part I don’t have too many lines, but I’ve been trying to think of those lines in my head or in front of the mirror.

You’ve mentioned that you have a particularly “weird” performing story to share. I danced for Weird Al – not once, but twice! Mary Widow, who’s a fellow burlesque performer – she and I just got hooked up with this gig of being his “Smells Like Nirvana” cheerleaders. That was definitely an experience, and we just became really friendly with the guitar player and the other musicians. They’ve all been the same band for 30 years, all of them playing since like back when they did that UHF movie, and they’re just really cool guys. Weird Al is kind of not as talkative, he’s a little quiet, but we went back the second time around and I was happy to be able to tell him how much I enjoyed him as Uncle Muscles from the Tim and Eric show, so that was an experience.
What has been your most challenging performance? Just last Sunday, I did a number – a sort of very angry number – when I danced around a dummy. I had a dummy made that was supposed to be a man, and I danced to “Sweetest Kill” by Broken Social Scene, a very slow, seductive song, and at the end of the number I ended up pretending to drug the dummy, and he’s passed out, and then he ended up on the ground, and I took an axe and a hammer, and I just chopped that dummy up. Had the blood rigged where it would get all over me. That was a huge challenge, because that just sort of came from really deep inside of what has kind of been happening the last few months, so, most people got the drift – they’re like, she’s a little angry at men right now. I ended up cutting myself by accident mid-swing. It was with what the techie called an “apocalypse hammer” – it’s basically a hammer that’s used to take apart buildings. I still have a huge bruise and gash on my leg, but it was worth it. Worth the blood, worth the tears. That was a Halloween show. The girls who produced it were like, “We want you to guest star. Think of the darkest number you can come up with. We know you have it in you right now.” Suffering gives us the best art sometimes. It’s been a rough few months. The bad breakup and the moving out and the lying and the scandals. That actually made me just be able to put everything out there.

What’s your favorite performance? There are so many. One that sticks out is with the Babes in Boinkland – we put out a show, Beaver, that was a political satire. That was a very strong piece where we were wrapped up in American flags with American flag tied around our ankles and our wrists, blindfolded, with an apple in our mouth. That was probably one of my favorite moments on stage. But in terms of being silly and happy, we recently did a fairytale show, where I was a dancing crustacean. I was a crab that time. We danced to “Under the Sea,” and it was just like the silliest, stupidest thing that we possibly could have thought of. And at the time I was struggling a little bit with issues and that just made me really really happy, and that will always stick out as how ridiculous we can be. I think I’ve been a dancing crustacean three times in my career. Another one of my favorite moments on stage was also with the Babes in Boinkland; we’ve traveled to Las Vegas and New York. Being at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and dancing there – that’s gotta be one of the happiest moments. That was huge; to be able to be asked to perform out there was awesome. I think when we were done, I wanted to cry. Oh my god, I’m in Las Vegas performing. And another – The Slutcracker did Montreal too.

I heard that there was trouble getting the main Slutcracker prop over the border to Canada? Yes, Amy, as we call her – the nine-foot candy cane-striped penis – yeah, Amy’s a she – she was wrapped up in tarp, and they just didn’t get what it was for, but they had all the paperwork. It happened, but I think it just took almost an hour to get her through. On the way back in, they were like “Go ahead!” That was a blizzard too. That crazy one we got right after Christmas two years ago. And I had the flu. I think like four of us had the flu. That was a bad winter of people getting sick. That’s not going to happen to us!

What’s your favorite pig in history or literature? Babe – he’s the best. And there’s a pig in Charlotte’s Web, right? I like that pig. I always used to think that pig was so pretty and so cute when I was little. But the three little pigs – I used to think they were so creepy.

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