The performer Ramona Slick, wearing a hot pink wig and matching dress, and sitting in the audience chairs at the Music Box Theatre, eating popcorn
Ramona Slick at the Music Box Theatre Credit: Sarah Gaglione

Chicagoan Ramona Slick has curated a monthly meeting place for Chicago’s film nerds and queer community. In December, the erotic performer and queer burlesque dancer debuted a new event series, Rated Q, at the Music Box Theatre. Each event features a brief drag show and screening of a queer film classic. Audience members wear their campy weekday best as, in true cult film fashion, they cheer for both cosplayed and projected characters. I spoke with Ramona Slick about the series and the influence of movies on their queer identity. This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

Dora Segall: What gave you the idea for Rated Q?

Ramona Slick: I grew up in a super-small town and didn’t really have access to any sort of queer life around me, but my dad took a lot of time to introduce me to queer and cult movies. I remember watching The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when I was a kid. I really developed a lot of my queer identity early on through movies. Rated Q is the ultimate merge of my two passions—cult films and being a queer nightlife person who dresses up for dollars. I’m really glad that it’s resonating with other people.

Could you talk about the two screenings you’ve done so far?

Our first one was Heathers, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m pretty sure that anyone who had a rough high school experience also dreamed about killing all of the popular kids. That screening was very successful—we sold over 300 tickets. And for the second one, But I’m a Cheerleader, we almost sold out the house, it was packed. 

For the actual shows, it’s really fun to be able to do drag that is themed around some of my favorite movies. It’s also just nice being able to introduce drag to a new audience that was just coming there for the movies and to be able to introduce a new film to people who are coming just for the drag. Sometimes we get the people who love both, which is what I’m going for. 

One of the elements that I love about Rated Q so much is it really becomes sort of an interactive viewing experience. I found that the audience is very responsive, just able to have a lot of fun with it and kind of relax. It really becomes a community viewing experience.

How do you pick the films and the performers?

I pick both myself. I run everything by the Music Box, but for the most part, I basically get to curate viewings specifically for movies that I really love. It’s a little selfish, but, you know, everyone benefits. We all get to make money. And then I’ve been really careful to try to align performers whose artistry or characteristics match the feel of the movie.

Rated Q
All screenings start at 9:45 PM, and are preceded by performances and an optional cocktail hour starting at 9 PM in the Music Box Lounge, featuring music from DJ Ca$h Era. 

Upcoming screenings include Wed 2/23: Interview With the Vampire (with performances by Miss Toto and Claire Voyant), Wed 3/23: Little Shop of Horrors (with performances by Irregular Girl and Lucy Stoole), and Thu 4/21: Showgirls (with a performance by Chamilla Foxx). Tickets $15, all ages subject to parental discretion. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604, musicboxtheatre.com 

You mentioned the Music Box. How did you end up collaborating with the venue, and how has it been so far?

I’ve been going to the Music Box since I moved here in 2016. I’ve always appreciated the historical aspect of it, given that it was built in 1929, and I have always loved the selection of films that they show. I had this idea, and I actually was talking about it with Bambi Banks-Couleé. She said, “Oh, you should reach out to the Music Box,” and I was like, “I love Music Box, so that is actually a fantastic idea.” I set the meeting, and now here we are a couple months later. Rated Q is my steady, monthly event. It’s really my first big event production series that I’ve completely put on by myself. It’s my own idea, and I’m completely at the helm, so I’m glad that it’s going well. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of production knowledge from A Queer Pride, people like Abhijeet, as well as just the community in general. They’ve really helped me put on my big-girl boots—big “them” boots.

Ramona Slick hanging out at the concessions stand at the Music Box

What’s the future of Rated Q?

I just booked all the spring shows, which I’m very excited for. I really love being able to give performers an environment that is not necessarily the night clubs. It’s a breath of fresh, buttery popcorn air. Another thing that I really love about Rated Q is that it’s one of the rare all-ages shows here in Chicago. If I was a young 16-year-old who loved Chicago drag but never got an opportunity to see it, I could come to Rated Q. I think that’s really important. The kids are crazy, but they deserve to join in on the fun as well. This project combines so many elements that I feel like I owe a lot of my queerness to, just by seeing such grandiose displays of camp at a young age. I would not be the person or the drag queen that I am today without cinema. I would love to continue sharing some of the movies that made me and our community as fabulous as we are now and then also give drag performers a really beautiful venue to perform in.

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