Saturday, April 14, 2007

Profile: Elizabeth Marrero
This Drag King is Sinfully Delicious
By Robert Waddell

Actress and comedian Elizabeth Marrero was once described by the New York Times as delicious. They got it wrong: she is sinfully delicious.

In her various performances as the Bronx premiere Drag King, Marrero tackles issues of religion, sexuality, personal growth and personal responsibility. And she is hilarious on her takes on people from the hood trying to make it. Marrero makes her one-person show fresh with hilarity and frivolity to spare every time she brings back and breathes life into characters like Petronelia, who enjoys getting tipping the bottle and who has a heart of gold.

“I keep coming back to these characters because I want to see them grow,” Marrero said. “They're real in my heart and part of my soul, part of the fabric of who I am.”

With great material, Marrero's characters include Petronelia, a woman who is experienced in the ways of the world and like a drink once and a while; the B-boy, named MC DJ Guilly-Guiso-Jugo, with a cell phone fetish; Wakateema Shaquasha de la Rodriguez, a young woman who can be a heartless gold digger who wants much and gives very little.

And finally there's Macha, the super Latino stud who loves women. Marrero always ends each one of her shows with this smooth papi chulo Drag King who dances in a shiny white vanilla ice cream suit.

Marrero bases all of these characters on members of her family. In her shows, she said, the characters have grown and become more than who they started out to be. They have shown wisdom, experience and ambition. In a show, “Santa Macha,” Pertronelia started her own religion.

“I love them all so very much,” Marrero said. “They still exist in me. These people grow and progress. They're getting smarter each time around.”

Directed on many occasions by Arthur Aviles at the Bronx Academy of Art and Dance, Marrero is a wonder woman of heart and soul making her characters come alive without apology or phony pathos. In between costume changes, there’s video of Marrero bringing her characters to the streets of Hunts Point, on the avenue and in the subway.

The idea of being a Drag King shows a character based on her father. The character is based on a love of women giving Marrero an opportunity to explore how she feels about women.

“The most basic is that Macha is a male impersonator,” she said. “Being a Latin lover is just extra.”

Marrero’s characters are dysfunctional but not distant; they are real and never stereotypes. Her words are bullet blazes of comedic talent.

Marrero said her intention is always to get her audiences to laugh. If they are encouraged to think after seeing her perform, then that is an added bonus, she said.

“I don't consciously go in there with a theme or statement,” said Marrero. “I don't make fun of these working class people. This is my experience...Latinos are behind in education and sometimes very loving families can stop us from growth.”

Now, Marrero wants to spread her wings professionally and move up to the next level. She has found a manager, is building a website, and working in Manhattan comedy clubs to gain more exposure.

She joked, “J-Lo left the Bronx so somebody has to take over.”

BAAD, where Marrero has presented many of her shows, is dedicated to free expression and art and is a gay friendly arts space in film, theatre, dance and art. It is a theater that brings quality shows to a community otherwise starving for art and culture. And Marrero learned a long time ago that as soon as you hook an audience with humor, they can be given, not force fed, a message or an idea.

“Now I'm in spread my wings mode,” Marrero said. “I want to go to a theater to present my shows, get discovered and become a star. BAAD will always be with me, but I was feeling a little too comfortable. I need to branch out. Spread it out some more.”

Robert Waddell is a freelance journalist based in the Bronx who contributes his writings to the Puerto Rico Sun.
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