I woke up feeling insecure about my monetary future as a journalist. I had a white chocolate mocha to drown the bitter taste out of my mouth and dived into my day of Los Angeles event reviews. First stop, the Empowerment Center in West Hollywood for a play called, Killer Queen: The Story of Paco the Pink Pounder.
Arriving at the Empowerment Center on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights, my goal was to check all my preconceived notions at the door. I knew the venue was going to be a nontraditional play space (this may be an understatement). I knew the story was going to be an uplifting and inspirational tale of a gay boxer’s coming of age in a highly homophobic sport (definitely). I knew I was going to learn something (understatement once again).
All it takes is one step inside the Empowerment Center to realize that you are about to experience something unique. Immediately upon entry, you are at the stage. Then you are directed to your seats which are literally on the stage within the makeshift boxing ring. The play begins with loud music and high energy as actor, Peter Griggs, warms up his boxing moves inches from your face. Captivation has set in.
The one-man show opens with Paco’s rendition of his childhood growing up with parents that did not support his homosexuality, a brother that was more or less nonexistent, his battle with the church, and his longing to be a pink dolphin (no, this is not a typo). “Some people just cannot hide who they are. I was naturally flamboyant and colorful,” exclaims Paco. “I thought they were my best attributes.”
The story continues as Paco unintentionally discovers his talent at fighting even though boxing was not originally his passion. Paco’s internal struggle with loving all things pink yet being in such a testosterone infused sport is clearly visible as you can feel his pain through song lyrics such as, “I want to break free… I can see what you want me to be.”
Transitioning between multiple characters such as the boxing coach, the father, the mother, the gay uncle, and the fellow boxing bullies, Peter Griggs does a phenomenal job of portraying the extremes of both masculine and feminine characters. Paco’s boxing coach, Mike, is a masculine character yet is very supportive of Paco and his boxing potential. “Never underestimate your opponent. In doing so, you also underestimate yourself.” Paco’s gay uncle John was also very influential in his life. As a boy Paco asks his uncle, “Why would anyone ever want to hurt you Uncle John?” Uncle John replies, “Sometimes when someone shines a little brighter and feel a little deeper, it scares people.”
This play has deep anti-bullying messages. “The word fag seems to follow me wherever I go, even when I am winning.” It also raises a call to action for the homosexual community to stand together for equality not only outside, but within the gay community as well. “We blame that the problems are coming at us, but is that really the case?”
Throughout the entire play, there was excellent use of lighting, music, props, and audience interaction. Every scene was dynamic and creative and the crowd was very engaged. Killer Queen was a truly amazing production and I am excited to see what other plays the Empowerment Center has coming up. My only tips are, expect to be impressed and bring a bottle of water.