Actress Dawn DuVurger landed her first film role in the 2001 indie horror, Cremains, after director Steve Sessions saw her erotic vampire stage performance at a Biloxi club and knew she was right for the part of Lisa. Since that role, Dawn has gone on to appear in over a dozen indie horror films, thus earning the title of Scream Queen. One of Dawn’s most recent films is the upcoming thriller Loose Luck, alongside the likes of Deborah Dutch, Helene Udy, and Donna Hamblin. Dawn currently works mostly behind, but occasionally in front of the camera for the late night TV horror host show After Hours Cinema on WGUD TV in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Besides acting, modeling, and dancing, Dawn has performed in historical reenactments and she also has considerable experience in several behind-the-scenes aspects of the entertainment industry. Her resume includes communications director, promoter, site locator, consultant, and logistics. Also of note; Dawn is experienced at oil wrestling, which is something she may be getting back into in the near future. Read about that and more in this recent and exclusive interview. All photos, some of which are from Dawn’s private collection and never been published before, and photographer credits are courtesy of Dawn herself. Above photo by Luc Bernier.
CHRIS CHARLES: You were born in Hungary and immigrated to the US when you were seven. Do you still have family in Hungary?
DAWN DuVURGER: Yes, I still have quite a bit of family in Hungry on my mother’s side. I used to go back every seven years for three months to maintain my duel citizenship. Since I have been married to my husband, I have not left America, so it has been around 20 years since I saw them. When I can afford to, I plan to take my kids with me to see the old country and meet more of the family.
CHRIS: What brought you to Mississippi?
DAWN: My grandfather decided to retire to Mississippi and refused to move anywhere when he became ill. I decided to stay with him. He was the best of people and I had to make sure he was alright. My husband and I bought a house here in Gulfport so that he could live with us. Since his passing we have been trying to sell the house so that we can move.
CHRIS: I understand it was your vampire stage performance that landed you your first film role?
DAWN: Yes it was. Steve Sessions had heard about my feature performance as a vampire and he needed a vampire that was alright with nudity. He came to one of my shows at the Old El Morocco in Biloxi and asked if I would be willing to play Lisa the Vampire in Cremains.
CHRIS: Besides the vampire persona, did you do any other characters or specialty acts when you worked as a dancer?
DAWN: When I was a house performer I was very limited to what was expected. When I became what is called a feature performer, I was able to infuse much more imagination. Feature performers travel to different club to do specialty acts and are expected to perform a more cohesive show with a theme like burlesque with characters. I did the creatures of the night and comic book characters most often, though I also has some popular historical-based characters like roaring 20s and 40s wartime. A few sci-fi themes crept in as well as some classics. In that job, you have to be inventive.
CHRIS: Your resume also includes you have experience as an oil wrestler. Was that also during your time as a dancer at Old El Morocco in Biloxi and will you tell me more about that?
DAWN: I was a wrestler off and on during the same time I was a dancer. It started when I was a house dancer at Gentlman’s Paradise in Biloxi, but I toured some doing it when I was a feature as well, and sometime incorporated it into my shows. That was over a period of almost 20 years. Because of that coming out in another interview recently, I was contacted by a local wrestling group that wanted to know if I was interested in becoming involved with their show. I’m looking into that now.
CHRIS: Have you been a horror film fan since you were a child?
DAWN: I have loved horror since I was a child. One of the things that my mother and I did to bond was watch creature feature on weekends together. She was a serious fan of the macabre. Hammer horror movies were our favorites. Now my daughter and I watch them together carrying on the tradition.
DAWN: I have known the host, Lee Turner, for years now. He kept saying that he really wanted to do a horror host show that would give some dignity to these classics and to bring new B-films to a medium where they could be discovered. He is a serious movie lover and pop culture fiend. I encouraged him to pursue his dream and offered to help where I could. He met the guys at WGUD and between them they made it possible. After he made all the arrangements, he called me up to meet some new friends of his and they told me the good news. I mainly just help with some brainstorming and quality control, making sure nothing is shiny or clashing, some continuity policing. I love the trivia and behind the scenes info he offers with each show. I will help as long as they will have me. It’s not often that someone actually goes after their dream.
DAWN: I have only been in front of the camera once so far, when they had a spray paint makeup artist as a guest, and I was voluntold to be the effects model for her. So I was turned into a Frankenstein zombie to demonstrate what she did. I have done some professional special FX modeling before in Florida, so it was understandable that I was the person in the hot seat.
CHRIS: I’ll mention a few of the films you’ve been in and ask you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you recall them: Cremains (2001).
DAWN: Way too much fun feeding from my victim.
CHRIS: Malefic (2003).
DAWN: My character was not the sharpest tool in the drawer.
CHRIS: Aberrations (2012).
DAWN: A spider in the web!
CHRIS: Zombie Pirates (2014).
DAWN: The poor wooden parrot…
CHRIS: Loose Luck (2020).
DAWN: Wow, my character was such a slut.
CHRIS: What would you say has been your most physically challenging role so far?
DAWN: If any role counts, I would have to say that Message in the Blood would be it. I was a serial killer who had rock climb and do a lot of my own stunts to get to my victims. Unfortunately, the producer/director passed away before he was finished editing it, so it was never released. Similarly, I was a paranormal investigator in Ringmaster where they had us running through abandoned buildings, through forests, and all kinds of fun. Sadly, again it was not released because all the footage was stolen from the producer/director’s house along with all his equipment. He didn’t have the budget to start over again. He did make a documentary about the experience and the hazards of B-filmmaking called Ringmaster: A Fallen Dream.
DAWN: Only one so far. When we were filming Ringmaster with Twisted Carnival Productions, we filmed some scenes in an abandoned mental hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi. One of the scenes was an aggressive escape scene that required my character to throw another character into the wall to get around him. What we didn’t know was that there was a lot of contaminates in the wall including asbestos. When the cloud went up we were at ground zero and breathed a bit too much of it. As a result, I had respiratory issues for several months after and lost my voice for over a month which made being a guest speaker at a convention that month quite a experience. No permanent damage though.
CHRIS: Who have been some of your favorite actresses to work with?
DAWN: Here recently I was in three films in Oregon by Producer Jeff Schnieder. Thanks to Luc Bernier, who did the casting, I was able to work with a fun click of actresses who treated each other more as family than anything else. They were Helene Udy, Donna Hamblin, and Deborah Dutch. I can honestly say that was one of the better experiences on set that I have had with female co-stars. Most of the movies I have been in, I was only really interacting with the male actors, so I didn’t get to know the female performers. Though I will say that Kimberly Cole who played my victim in Cremains did handle me crawling all over her quite well and with a good sense of humor.
CHRIS: Ah, Helene, Donna, and Deborah are all ladies I have also done interviews with. So, as this goes to press, what film are you working on or will be soon?
CHRIS: Is there anyone in indie horror, on either side of the camera, you haven’t worked with, but would really love to work with?
DAWN: I would love a chance to work on a movie with Lynn Lowery because she is a true class act, Bai Ling and Ron Pearlman because they are amazing performers, and Jack Stauffer because I know I would learn a lot from him plus he is really fun to be around. As far a director I would like the chance to work with Joe Sherlock and Richard Gale because I am a fan of their work.
CHRIS: What have been some of your favorite horror events to attend?
DAWN: I can honestly say that I have never attended a purely horror themed event, unless you count the Vampire Ball that Anne Rice puts on every year. I have had the honor of being a guest at that event a few years ago and loved it. There were several I was interested in, but they were cancelled before I could even get a ticket. I would love the chance to attend some in the future.
CHRIS: Do you have any interests, skills, or hobbies most fans don’t know about?
CHRIS: As we conduct this interview, the coronavirus has caused us to change the way we normally live our lives, so I assume you, like all of us, are spending more time at home than usual. What are you doing these days to keep yourself occupied?
DAWN: As a homeschooling mom, I spend most of the time at home anyway so not a lot has changed for me except not having as much occasional work, and not taking the kids to events or educational trips. I suspect I’m doing a lot of the same things as most other people by cleaning, and organizing, and little things like that. We have been having more family bonding time with my husband since as a chef he is out of work until the pandemic has passed. I am finally catching up on some TV watching and when the kids go to sleep, I have started writing again, so we will see where that leads. One fun thing has been figuring out new ways to work out since my gym is closed and they don’t want anyone on the beach.
CHRIS: With that, I thank you again for doing this, Dawn. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
DAWN: A special thank you to Steve Sessions for getting me started and Lee Turner from After Hours Cinema for keeping me relevant. A thank you to Jeff Schneider and Able Martinez for challenging me with their movie making tactics and John Armijo for proving to me that a drama-free set does exist.
Trailer for the 2001 vampire horror film, Cremains
Promo shots taken during Dawn’s days as a house dancer and later featured stage performer.
Black and white photos by Adrien Lamarre, Color photos by Eli Militich.
(Click on any image for slideshow.)