Rami Margron: Actor, Mover, Dancer

Rami Margron in Hurricane DianeRami Margron in Hurricane Diane
Rami Margron as Diane in ‘Hurricane Diane.’ (Photo: T Charles Erickson)

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

If Uncle Milty is right, then I just went on a little mini vacay last week. I had the opportunity to head out to the beautiful People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, PA to catch “Hurricane Diane,” playing now through May 19. People’s Light always puts on first-rate productions and this one didn’t disappoint. The show is billed as “A comedic romp with a mythological twist from Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeleine George.” Think “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” meet the ancient gods — in the form of Dionysus/Diane, a butch permaculture gardener with an environmental (and bacchanalian) mission. The show is a little mysticism, a little magic and a lot of laughs. 

The action is provided by four hilarious and seasoned actors headed by Rami Margon in the title role. Margron is an actor, dancer, movement specialist and physical comedian. Once called, “The love child of Anna Deavere Smith and Harpo Marx,” their resume boasts of “Circus skills, improv and various forms of physical theater, including Clown, Buffon, Commedia, Stage combat, Suzuki and Viewpoints and roughly twenty styles of dance.”  

Where did you make your first entrance onto the stage of life?
I’m originally from Oakland, California — the Bay area. 

Tell me about growing up there.
That’s one of my favorite subjects! I lived in a lot of different houses in the San Francisco area — Oakland and Berkeley and the culture there was the counterculture. So I grew up in a very progressive, hippie culture with a lot of queers and artists and activists around me.

I read that you went to circus camp. That certainly seems to fit.
Yes, Camp Winnarainbow. I started there when I was 10. It was run by Wavy Gravy who was a famous counterculture clown. He had a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavor named for him but his early claim to fame was that he MC’d Woodstock. It was a circus and performing arts camp, but also it was a place to train future leaders who would help create a better world. It was wonderful and taught me everything that’s important to me. 

Did you learn any circus skills?
I mostly did acting and dancing but I did dabble with some basic skills. I mean I can juggle a little — three balls, no tricks. I can do a few things on a trapeze and the Spanish web and the cloud swing and I used to teach basic tightrope walking. I can do a little bit of acrobatics and some clowning, etc., etc, etc. I’m not a circus performer. I’d say I’m circus adjacent. 

Me too, but from co-hosting Bozo the Clown show. [Laughing] I have no skills. But I was a guest ringmaster for Barnum and Bailey one time! So tell me about your family.
Single mom, only child. My dad was around, and I was very close to him, but I was raised by my mother. They were both older and had had full lives before I came along. I grew up in a lot of group house/communal situations, because, you know, it was the Bay area and that’s part of the culture. So I have a lot of chosen family, also a Bay area thing. I didn’t have much family by blood around, though in my adult life, I’ve found several actual cousins of mine out in the world that I now claim. My mom was Jewish and my dad was Haitian but they’ve both passed. So as an only child, it was tough. I had to make all the decisions. Hard. 

What’s a favorite memory with your mom?
We would really get into decorating things together. Like when it came time to wrap presents, we’d create works of art! We’d go above and beyond with creative wrapping jobs. It was the same with food presentation, when we prepared something, our thing was to make it look gorgeous and creative. 

Tell me something about her.
She was one of the most creative thinkers I know. And being raised by the O.G. hippies, that’s saying a lot. She was a spiritual teacher and a minister and a counselor and an energy healer and a jeweler. She liked to eat steak for breakfast and drive muscle cars. She had a very authoritative presence and people would often want her to run things for them just because of the way she carried herself. So in the ’60s, she ran a lefty printing press in Berkley. She was briefly the general manager of KBFA, which was a very successful left-wing radio station and later in life she was the office manager for a geothermal company. And she dabbled in stained glass making.

Nice! When did you first start performing?
I started in Children’s Theatre when I was 5. 

Do you remember your first role?
I think it was one of the Anansi stories. 

The wha… oh, wait. Ha! At first I thought you said “A Nazi Stories!”
[Laughing] No! No! Anansi the spider. 

I’ll try something safer. What was a favorite class?
American Sign Language. I learned it in high school. Also, psychology, dance and — before I got to high school — I was really into math. I was in a Montessori school which really made it interesting and then I transferred to a public school and not so much. I ended up dropping out of school my junior year and started community college. There was a teacher there who was really good and that got me back into the love of math. But I didn’t do anything with it. Theater seemed so much more practical! It served me very well, whereas math was just for fun. 

How would your mom have described you?
Oh my God, good question. She loved me so much and was so proud of me, bless her heart. She was deeply, unconditionally loving and supportive. I think she would have said that I do things at my own pace. She was a mother who was attentive, so she saw that in me, where it took me years to see that in myself. I put so much pressure on myself to be like others, but as I’ve done more personal growth later in life, I’m starting to realize things that she always knew about me. 

Do you think being mixed contributed to trying to fit in?
Oh yeah, that’s part of the story. Trying to fit in and just not…just not getting there. 

So as you got into theater, what was the first thing that made you feel like, “OK, I’m legit.”
Well, despite the fact that I’ve done theater for so long, I had very low self confidence. I didn’t go to a university to study and…this is going to be a really roundabout response because I don’t have an answer so I’m just going to start talking and see what happens! 

[Laughing] OK!
So, without a degree in theater, I was afraid to audition. I was working at my own pace and it took me years to build the confidence to really put myself out there, though I worked in the Bay Area theater scene since I was 5. But that was like family and fantastically experimental. After a while, I saw people who I had trained come up and surpass me, I suppose because their pace was different than mine. However, I just continued to plug away and do what I do and over time, it has led to success! I think by just not ever making the choice to do something different has led me to where I am now! 

But to answer your question, there was an all-female Shakespeare company in San Francisco called, “Women’s Will” and the artistic director of that company saw me at a big regional audition that I managed to go to where you get two minutes in front of 90 regional theater directors. She looked and pointed at me and said, “That person.” She brought me into the fold of her company, which was a well-established company, and I think that was the first thing that made me feel, “OK, this is it. This is on a professional level.” That one person, seeing whatever it was that she saw in me, really set me in motion. 

That’s inspiring. So what brought you to our neck of the woods and the beautiful People’s Light and Theatre Company?
I auditioned! It’s also the third time I’ve played this role, and I’ve done other shows by this playwright, Madeleine George. I’m a big fan of hers. I live in New York now, but I did one of her shows when I was still in the Bay Area called, “Precious Little” and it was the show that first got me some recognition. And I got to be seen doing multi-character transforming roles, which I specialize in. I was also in her version of “Three Sisters” by Chekhov. So good. [Does a chef’s kiss] She’s so good with language, as you know from seeing this play. 

Yes, the dialogue was snappy with great repartee. That must’ve been fun. And you get to kiss a lot of women!
[Burst of laughing] I do! Well, one kiss and a lot of embracing in this show! The second time I did the show, it was right after lockdown and there was no touching. This is definitely the sexiest of the three I’ve done. 

And the other women in the show are really funny, each in their own way.
Yes, they are all really, really good. I’m having a wonderful time. It’s a great theater and all the people who are involved with the show and the theater are lovely. 

Rami Magron headshotRami Magron headshot

What’s your sales pitch for people to come see the show?
For one thing, it’s funny, which is always nice. But it’s also about something that’s important. And it’s the kind of show where people often see themselves reflected on the stage in at least one of the characters. 

That could be good or bad!

What’s a favorite line from the play?
I’ll tell you but you can’t print it because it’s so funny when they say it in the show. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone coming. [Answer redacted. You’ll just have to see the show.]

That was a good one.
Yes, and it’s classic Madeleine George. She writes for “Only Murders in the Building” and I can tell which episodes she writes or has the lead on because she creates that little ladder of dialog. 

So let’s talk about your coming out journey. First, let me ask how you identify.
Oh wow, no one’s asked me that in a long time. Gender identity yes, but not sexuality. It’s funny how the conversation has shifted. Hmmm, at this point in my life, I guess I’d say pansexual. I first came out in high school as bisexual and sometime later, I identified as lesbian. 

I had my ’90s lesbian life! I was working at a famous lesbian restaurant called the Brick Hut, so I was around lots of other baby dykes my age and the butch/femme thing was really big at the time and I really felt boxed in. Fortunately, I think things are a little better these days in terms of expression. The young people have a million different terms to choose from. I usually say I’m gender fluid, but I’m comfortable with any of the various nonbinary terms. [Laughing] Just don’t put me in a box! 

That I will not! OK, let’s do some random questions. Have you ever had to use your combat skills?
Off the stage? 

No, but yes, since you brought it up!
So thankfully never off stage, but on stage, oh yeah! Absolutely! I did a show half a year ago in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a Shakespeare play, and oh my God, I got to play the bastard and do a lot of fighting and it was so much fun! I did hand-to-hand and swordplay. 

Has identifying as nonbinary ever had an effect on your career? Good or bad?
Well, I’m a multiple character actor, and the reason they/them resonates with me is that I feel like many different things at once. I like the plural nature of they/them. I feel multitudinous. Coming up in the Bay Area theater community was great because I got to do lots of different kinds of parts. It was nice not to be pigeonholed into being just one thing. 

And I’d guess that, like me, that carries over to race as well. You can play multiple ethnicities.
Well, that’s the thing about multiple character roles, I might play a white character and a Black character or whatever in the same show. There’s a kind of safety in that for me. I also did a lot of improv comedy, which let me play different characters as well. And of course doing Shakespeare, I’ve played roles that were written male. I find that Shakespeare companies have been on the forefront of gender and race fuckery in casting. I feel really blessed that I’ve had an easy time and have had the opportunity to do roles that were affirming for me. In fact, the show before this one was “The Age of Innocence.” Someone was like, “I can’t imagine you playing a woman!” and I was like, “Bitch! Just wait, I can play a great woman!” and I did. I was totally femme’d out in a corset and a bustle.

You go on! Play any instruments?
[Laughing] I play the squeeze box! It’s a clowny instrument, you know, that whole circus adjacent thing. I didn’t trust myself to learn to play the actual accordion. I thought, “Oh, the concertina, it’s cute and small, that should be easy.” Nope, it’s not easy, just smaller. 

What’s a favorite celebrity encounter?
When I was working at the Brick Hut, I once waited on — tell me this is not a power couple — Tracy Chapman and Alice Walker! Okrrrr!

Oh! And I got to meet Julie Andrews. I was in a show directed by her son-in-law. She came to the opening night and I was told that she was going to be there. I started crying before the show! I was having a meltdown. But she loved it and came to see it twice. She came backstage and hung out with us. She was lovely. 

The last song you listened to?
“Worship” by Jon Batiste. He’s my hero. 

What’s the worst hairstyle you’ve had?
Mixed race child, white mother, lots of hair. I spent a year of my life in elementary school wearing a hat every day. I had two hats. One was a neon green “newsie” and the other was an Indiana Jones hat. 

Speaking of Indiana Jones, what’s something adventurous you’d do if you couldn’t get hurt.
Cuddle with a lion. 

I don’t know. It seems like they might have terrible breath, being carnivores and all.
Okay, I’ll spoon with them. That way I’ll be in the back. 

Much better. 

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity. For more on Rami Margron, visit ramimargron.com. “Hurricane Diane” plays through May 19 at People’s Light and Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit peopleslight.org or call 610-644-3500.

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