A Derby Diva

Meet Rae Kyritsi, the lass putting the sass into her Mad Rollin’ Dolls alter ego, Sassafrass.

Meet Rae Kyritsi*, the lass putting the sass into her Mad Rollin’ Dolls alter ego, Sassafrass.
What is roller derby?
This is always the hardest question. First of all, it’s a full-contact sport. Anyone who’s ever been to a bout can attest to the fact that roller derby is a spectacle. It’s a social network, a local business, DIY, community support system. It’s an opportunity for women with strong athletic backgrounds and women with no athletic history to play an alternative sport. Most importantly, roller derby is a hell of a lot of fun.
Why does everyone have a clever nickname, and where did yours come from?
Why? Well, to start, it’s wonderfully expressive. For some skaters their name is a part of them already, for others it’s a persona. For others, it affords some anonymity.
My home team dubbed me “Sassafrass.” It turns out I’ve got a bit of a mouth and an attitude problem. This year, the league voted me “Most True to Her Derby Name.” I must admit I’m pretty proud of that.
What role do you think roller derby plays in the LGBT community?
Derby brings folks together who might never otherwise know each other. It provides a fantastic opportunity for people of all kinds to get involved in local community and national networking. The leagues and fan bases all over the country don’t fit into any simple definition.
Is your experience as a derby skater related to your experience as a queer woman?
One of my favorite things about roller derby is the incredible social-stigma-bending demands it puts on the audience. Not only do I want to be taken seriously as an athlete and a woman, I want to be taken seriously while wearing a short
skirt. It can be a difficult thing, demanding to be perceived a certain way. I liken this to my experience of being queer because I think I have the same relationship with the world around me. Not only do I want to be taken seriously as a person and a woman, but as a queer woman at that.
When can someone see roller derby?
Our home season is from January-May. June-November is the travel season when our two travel teams play all over the country. Tryouts are every summer. And derby events are happening all the time: after parties, fundraisers, charity events, the Owwies awards picnic, and themed parties. You can check us out at www.madrollindolls.com.
*Editor’s Note: Kyritsi is not living in Chicago working at the Center for Conflict Resolution Chicago.