Boleadoras, Fire and Soul: An Interview with Performer Peter Suarez

Boleadoras, Fire and Soul: An Interview with Performer Peter Suarez

(Cheryl Weiss, Oct. 3, 2017)

Gray’s Opera House in Romeo is the place to be this weekend, as Chameleon will be performed Friday and Saturday evening.  Peter Suarez’s one-man show features five unique characters that “hopefully express some kind of hopefulness for the human condition.  Satirical, ridiculous, poignant…it’s all these different things, but hopefully it’s that word – hopeful,” he stated.

Suarez not only created, composed, wrote, choreographed, and performs in the show; he also runs all the technical aspects of the show from his phone.   There are no costume changes, no lighting changes, just him and the five characters he brings to life.  According to Suarez, Chameleon is the finest thing he has created in his years of performing.  The show begins as soon as you arrive, audience members are encouraged to arrive early, and it does not end when the last line is delivered. He hosts “Talk Back” at the end of the show, when he sits on a stool and encourages the audience to comment and ask questions.  It is also their chance to meet Suarez as himself, not one of the characters.  He stated that approximately 20-30% of the audience usually stays for Talk Back, and no one has ever left at the session until it was over.

Suarez has been a performer since he was six years old, and won the role of “Hansel” in Hansel and Gretel in Albany, New York.  “It was the first time I was paid for being on stage,” he shared.  However, he actually started performing at age 3, when he created his own shows.  He knew that he was meant to spend his life on stage.  He has since spent decades entertaining audiences because, “I believed it, and I have never believed otherwise.”

Indeed, Suarez is accomplished in many areas.  He has danced with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for years, performed at Radio City Music Hall, choreographed for Cirque de Soleil, and for Olympic ice dancers including Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.  As a musician, he has opened for artists such as Arlo Guthrie and Shawn Colvin.  Suarez has written and produced five albums of his own original material, and plans to begin his sixth album when he returns home to Florida.   Over the years, he has performed in many theaters around the country.  In Michigan, his performances at the Michigan Renaissance Festival as fire performer Manolete are a fan favorite.

When asked about his most memorable moments in his career, Suarez thought for a moment, and shared, “My stagehand in my show talks about how he got to sit backsgage with Pavorotti the night of his last performance.  It was Aida, and it was teIevised…I asked and got permission to sit with him.”  He does not share the entire story, but it is clear that being able to spend time with Luciano Pavorotti, especially at his last performance, was an unforgettable experience.

As memories begin tumbling around in his mind, he shares a very different story.  “The show that I do here at the Renaissance Festival, after one of my shows…” he paused for a moment with emotion, said, “I’m sorry,” then continued. “A very old man walked up to me in the line and just said to me that he had been seeing my show for many years. And he handed me a ring, and closed my hand around it…and said… “I don’t think I’ll see you next year, so I’d like you to have this.”  Suarez paused again for a moment, remembering.  He added, “Maybe for now, this was the most memorable.”

When asked if he has ever gotten hurt at one of his performances, Suarez said, “Not with fire.  Fire is big and it’s spectacular, and it’s fire, so it’s scary.  If you know what you’re doing, that’s really pretty controllable.”  However, he has been injured from the boleadoras, “the crazy implements I use from Argentina,” he said.  Suarez went on to explain, “The argentine gaucho, or cowboy, uses them as an alternative to a lasso. You strike the ground with these things, you hit another surface at 150 mph.  Yes, I came very close to losing my left eye at one time!”  He went on to say that when he got medical attention for his eye injury, the doctor was “very surprised I had not exploded my eye onstage.”  He also broke his foot dancing in The Nutcracker once.  But Suarez said, “If you are a physical performer, that risk will always be there.”

What advice would Suarez give to young people who aspire to become performers?  “There’s no one way of doing this; I am proof of that…if it happens on stage, I can probably do it…the more you can draw into your milieu of potential accomplishments, the better.  The more you can do: musician, dancer, choreographer, the more specialty skills you can get, the better. The more you can do, the more you can work.  I use items no one else does,” such as the boleadoras.

When asked what advice he would give to parents of children who are interested in performing, Suarez said, “If your Johnny or Susie can do anything else and be happy, then nudge them in that direction.  If this is who they are…then give them all the support you can and wish them the best because it is a very difficult, very demanding way of life.  It is also very rewarding.”   Suarez discussed how some people have a lot of time, but little money.  Others have a lot of money, but little time.  “The ability to find that balance of having enough time and enough money…those are the truly wealthy people, and I consider myself one of those.”

Suarez has many more plans and goals he intends to accomplish.  Romeo and Bay City are interested in having him return with Chameleon in 2018, and by then he hopes to have a second show.  Eventually, he would love to have a Broadway house of his own.  “The only thing I enjoy more than performing is creating.  I have been blessed to spend my life creating things and performing them.  I get to get up every single day and do what I love doing. To me, you know, there is no measure, there’s no equivalent for that.  “If you are following your bliss, then what more is there to life?” 

For now, however, there are two fabulous performances of Chameleon to enjoy this weekend at Gray’s Opera House in Romeo.  There s no fire, but lots of soul. Bring a hanky, because you will cry, but you will also spend a lot of time laughing.  Both performances begin at 8:00 p.m., but arrive early, because “It starts happening when you get there,” Suarez suggests.  He adds, “What I seek to accomplish is at the end of the night….they truly believe, I hope…that for the hour before that, there were actually five different, distinct people on stage.”

“Chameleon: Maybe the only thing better than a good show, is a good show when it’s falling apart.

October 6th and October 7th 8:00p.m.

Gray’s Opera House

231 N. Main St.

Romeo, Michigan.

Admission: $20 cash at the door.

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Oakland County Times has written 8061 articles for The Oakland County Times

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