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Performance anxiety

Hyperactive raconteur John Leguizamo continues his onstage self-exorcism, this time with tales of making it in Hollywood

Photo: Austin James, License: N/A

Austin James

Ghetto Klown

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 6
Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
401 W. Livingston St.

John Leguizamo gained mainstream attention as a character actor in a wide range of eccentric screen roles, from a killer in Carlito’s Way to a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar to the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. But he first found notoriety (along with Tony nominations and Drama Desk awards) on Broadway with his one-man monologues Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, Freak and Sexaholix … a Love Story. Leguizamo spoke to OW from Houston in advance of his March 6 appearance at Orlando’s Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, where he will perform his latest work of verbal virtuosity, Ghetto Klown.

Orlando Weekly: It’s an honor to talk to you. Like your earlier one-man shows, Ghetto Klown is largely autobiographical. You can be merciless in your observations and impressions of family and friends. Is there anyone left in the old neighborhood in Queens who will still talk to you?

John Leguizamo: Luckily, Queens is an incredibly transitory kind of world because everyone just comes in to get out. The people that I knew already got moved out; nobody’s left where I came from. That’s why this show is basically talking about all the people I’ve worked with in movies and theater – all my reps, handlers, whatever people call them.

Your plays’ titles have always been provocative. What are you saying with the title Ghetto Klown?

A “ghetto klown” to me is a person that, back in the day when we had nothing, was that guy that cracked you up, cracked you up and made you laugh, and made you forget you had nothing. Nothing to do, or nowhere to go. You just talked and goofed and made fun of things. And you didn’t want for anything, because all you needed was that togetherness and the laughter.

How do you keep up your famously hyperactive stage persona at age 47? Has your offstage routine changed over time to compensate?

My prep is so much longer now than it used to be, and my cool-down is even longer. That’s what I really notice, it takes twice as long for me to get ready, and then twice as long to cool down after. To maintain this energy level I’ve got to work. It’s not as easy as it used to be. I’ve got to do a lot of PT [physical training]; the rollers, the bands. You’ve got to do so much stuff to get that body animated.

Do you have to adapt your Broadway shows to suit a touring audience?

In America I don’t have to do anything. I thought I would have had to, but I guess with television and radio, we’re just really monolithic. When I did it in Latin America I had to do a lot more changes, because culturally I realized we’re really far apart. There’s so many things that they don’t understand. Affirmative action, the pejoratives they call Latin people here – they don’t understand any of that. Also, all my kid references are cartoons that they didn’t watch, or they were translated so they didn’t hear the real original voices, so Foghorn Leghorn doesn’t play the same. They don’t know when I’m making fun of a New Yorker or [someone from] the West Coast; they don’t have those audio references. So I had to come up with totally different things.

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