Storytelling is one of man's oldest art forms. In its simplest form, it involves a parent telling a story to a child who might be sitting on the adult's lap or lying in bed, about to go to sleep. However, when storytelling takes place among adults strange things happen.
As the art form has progressed from primitive tribal communications to more complicated tales involving history and legend, the mechanics of transmitting a story have become much more complex. Special effects involving everything from magic tricks to stagecraft and film have helped to broaden the story's landscape and deepen its impact.
Whether one experiences a gifted monologist like Mike Daisey in performance or sits through 19 hours of Richard Wagner's famous tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelung, how a story is told has a lot to do with how well its audience remains attentive. The narrative needs careful shaping and editing. Its presentation often needs good lighting and strong visuals.
A beloved performer and gay activist well known in New York's cabaret scene since the early 1990s, Miss Coco Peru (a/k/a Clinton Leupp) had a small role in 1995's To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. When Trick premiered in 1999, Jim Fall's popular gay romance provided Miss Coco with an unforgettable scene.
When Leupp brought his one-woman show, Ugly Coco, to San Francisco, most people in the audience were laughing so hard they could barely stay upright. Miss Coco returned to town for a double header at the Victoria Theatre on April Fool's Day with a new wig and good reason to celebrate. This year marks Leupp's 20th anniversary as Coco Peru, bringing truth and sarcasm to people everywhere -- especially those who don't know how much they need it!
Miss Coco's new show, There Comes A Time, covered a surprising amount of ground, from worrying that she might have killed a friend who was an AIDS patient at St. Vincent's Hospital by fulfilling his request for a meatball parmigiana sandwich to her recollection of what it was like to speak at a memorial service for Bea Arthur held at Broadway's Majestic Theatre. Miss Coco also shared plenty of her unique collection of social-anthropological wisdom, ranging from how baboons have dealt with bullies to why young drag queens who think they've become major celebrities just because they were given an opportunity to lip synch on television really need to get over themselves.
Unlike previous shows, Miss Coco did a fair amount of singing on Sunday night, revealing a healthy baritone. She also shared some extremely poignant insights about how bullying often leads to self hatred. As a young actor who had just posed for head shots, Leupp was so upset at what he saw in the mirror that he threw all but one of the photographs in the garbage.
When that picture (of a very handsome young man) was projected on a giant screen, you could almost hear a collective gasp from the audience.
Another story that hit home involved her friendship with her former college friend, composer Jonathan Larson (who wanted Leupp to take on the role of Angel in the original production of Rent). Although Miss Coco's new show has quite a few hilarious moments, one should never forget that she is a real "giver." Here's her advice to young drag queens (in a scene from The Fairy Dragmother).
To read more of George Heymont go to My Cultural Landscape