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Liberating laughs

Former D.C. resident and author returns to speak at TransPride

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Everett Marroon (Photo courtesy the author)

By MALI KRANTZ

Everett Maroon, keynote speaker for Saturday’s Capital TransPride event, feels he has lived a colorful existence so far.

After an appearance on “Geraldo” in 1993, Maroon landed a radio gig in Upstate New York where he talked about “funny gay stuff on the radio,” once a month for five years.

“My life has always been a little unorthodox,” he says.

Now he has written a comedic memoir titled, “Bumbling Into Body Hair: A Transsexual’s Memoir,” which chronicles his transition through a series of humorous anecdotes.

Maroon is in town this weekend — look for him at Capital TransPride at Westminster Presbyterian Church (400 I Street, SW) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will have workshops, presentations and one-on-one opportunities to discuss safety and legal issues. Several non-profits and government groups will be on hand to answer questions. Admission is a suggested $10 donation. Capital TransPride is an official Capital Pride event so more information is at capitalpride.org. He’s also scheduled to give a reading and book signing at the MLK Library (901 G Street, NW) Friday at 4 p.m.

“My understanding is people’s eyes will glaze over around minute 45, so I’ll keep it to 44 minutes, something like that.”

Maroon is returning to D.C., his home for 11 years, after four years in Walla Walla, Wash.

“I actually lived [in D.C.] from Halloween 1997 until Aug. 13, 2008, and I can’t even explain why I know those dates, but I do.”

He went on his first date with his wife at Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza and lived near Eastern Market where he was a regular on Saturday mornings.

“So there are little pieces here and there that I’m sure will spark fond memories and heart pangs and all that,” he says.

Since the book came out in mid-March, Maroon has added touring and interviews to his already busy schedule as executive director of Blue Mountain Heart To Heart, an HIV advocacy and prevention non-profit. He is also working on a second book.

“And I have a 7-month-old,” he says. “So that’s also a job.”

When writing his book, he took a comedic approach to a subject that is often written about in a heavier tone.

“I like to laugh my way through my anxiety,” he says. “I had some trouble for a while finding a publisher … the publishing industry folks were expecting it to be angsty, or depressing … I wrote it as a humor book because I kept seeing so many ludicrous things happening as I was thinking about, and then as I was transitioning. The way they market products to trans people, the way that people would come up with names for body parts because they weren’t comfortable with their own bodies.”

Maroon says the best experience he’s had since publishing the book was a reading he did for a high school gay-straight alliance in Washington State.

“That was really an amazing experience, because viscerally I had those kids in mind when I was writing,” he says.

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Theater

An exciting revival of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre

Out actor Caesar Samayoa on portraying iconic role of President Perón

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Caesar Samayoa (center) and the cast of ‘Evita’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Photo by DJ Corey Photography) 

‘Evita’
Through Oct. 15
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.
$35–$134
Shakespearetheatre.org

When Eva Perón died of cancer at 33 in 1952, the people’s reaction was so intense that Argentina literally ran out of cut flowers. Mourners were forced to fly in stems from neighboring countries, explains out actor Caesar Samayoa. 

For Samayoa, playing President Perón to Shireen Pimental’s First Lady Eva in director Sammi Cannold’s exciting revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” at Shakespeare Theatre Company is a dream fulfilled. 

As a Guatemalan-American kid, he had a foot in two worlds. Samayoa lived and went to school in suburban Emerson, N.J. But he spent evenings working at his parents’ botanica in Spanish Harlem. 

During the drives back and forth in the family station wagon, he remembers listening to “Evita” on his cassette player: “It’s the first cast album I remember really hearing and understanding. I longed to be in the show.”

As an undergrad, he transferred from Bucknell University where he studied Japanese international relations to a drama major at Ithica College. His first professional gig was in 1997 playing Juliet in Joe Calarco’s off-Broadway “Shakespeare’s R&J.” Lots of Broadway work followed including “Sister Act,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” and most significantly, Samayoa says, “Come From Away,” a musical telling of the true story of airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. He played Kevin J. (one half of a gay couple) and Ali, a Muslim chef.  

He adds “Evita” has proved a powerful experience too: “We’re portraying a populist power couple that changed the trajectory of a country in a way most Americans can’t fully understand. And doing it in Washington surrounded by government and politics is extra exciting.” 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How do you tap into a real-life character like Perón?

CAESAR SAMAYOA: Fortunately, Sammi [Connald] and I work similarly. With real persons and situations, I immerse myself into history, almost to a ridiculous extent. 

First day in the rehearsal room, we were inundated with artifacts. Sammi has been to Argentina several times and interviewed heavily with people involved in Eva and Peron’s lives. Throughout the process we’d sit and talk about the real history that happened. We went down the rabbit hole.

Sammi’s interviews included time with Eva’s nurse who was at her bedside when she died. We watched videos of those interviews. They’ve been an integral part of our production. 

BLADE: Were you surprised by anything you learned?

SAMAYOA: Usually, Eva and Perón’s relationship is portrayed as purely transactional.  They wrote love letters and I had access to those. At their country home, they’d be in pajamas and walk on the beach; that part of their life was playful and informal. They were a political couple but they were deeply in love too. I latched on to that. 

BLADE: And anything about the man specifically? 

SAMAYOA:  Perón’s charisma was brought to the forefront. In shows I’ve done, some big names have attended. Obama. Clinton. Justin Trudeau came to “Come From Away.” Within seconds, the charisma makes you give into that person. I’ve tried to use that.  

BLADE: And the part? 

SAMAYOA: Perón is said to be underwritten. But I love his power and the songs he sings [“The Art of the Possible,” “She is a Diamond,” etc.]. I’m fully a baritone and to find that kind of role in a modern musical is nearly impossible. And in this rock opera, I can use it to the full extent and feel great about it.

BLADE: “Evita” is a co-production with A.R.T. Has it changed since premiering in Boston? 

SAMAYOA: Yes, it has. In fact, 48 hours before opening night in Washington, we made some changes and they’ve really landed. Without giving too much away, we gave it more gravity in reality of time as well as Eva’s sickness and the rapid deterioration. It’s given our second act a huge kind of engine that it didn’t have. 

BLADE: You’re married to talent agent Christopher Freer and you’re very open. Was it always that way for you?

SAMAYOA: When I started acting professionally, it was a very different industry. We were encouraged to stay in the closet or it will cast only in a certain part. There was truth in that. There still is some truth in that, but I refuse to go down that road. I can’t reach what I need to reach unless I’m my most honest self. I can’t do it any other way.

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Out & About

HRC’s National Dinner is back

LGBTQ rights organization’s annual gala features Rhimes, Waithe, Bomer

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Actor Matt Bomer will be honored at the HRC National Dinner.

The Human Rights Campaign will host its annual National Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The dinner’s honorees include world-famous producers, actors and entertainers whose work spotlights the fight for civil rights and social justice, including Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Matt Bomer.

A new event, as part of the weekend, — the Equality Convention — will take place the night before the dinner on Friday, Oct. 13. The convention will showcase the power of the LGBTQ equality movement, feature influential political and cultural voices, and bring together volunteer and movement leaders from across the country to talk about the path ahead.
For more details about the weekend, visit HRC’s website.

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Out & About

MLK Library to spotlight queer Asian writer

Trung Nguyen’s ‘The Magic Fish’ explored

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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will host “A Conversation with Trung Nguyen, Novelist” on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

Nguyen’s book, “The Magic Fish” explores the LGBTQ experience and dives deep into Asian heritage and culture. United States Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius will attend the event and introduce Nguyen.

Admission is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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