By AJ Trager
‘Salve Regina: A Coming of Gay Story’
8 p.m. Aug. 22
22742 Woodward Ave,, Ferndale
FERNDALE – It was Toni Morrison, famous Nobel Peace Prize 1993 winner and author, that said “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
That’s exactly what Javier Rivera did when he wrote his one-man play “Salve Regina: A Coming of Gay Story.” The play is Rivera’s coming-of-age story, chronicling his life as a “super gay” boy in the machismo, Catholic society of Puerto Rico – raised by a domineering father in a house where he didn’t quite fit the idea of a perfect son – who ended up moving to the United States to pursue theater at American University.
Rivera references pop icon Madonna throughout the piece, using her works as transition elements between the stages of his life. “She’s a metaphor for whatever we as individuals latch onto to figure out who we are,” he says. “Whether it’s art, dance, theater – we all have that vehicle that helps us become who we are. It’s a really universal aspect to life.”
The story took a year and a half to write and Rivera workshopped the piece at the Chicago Dramatists, a group for young playwrights to collaborate and share their stories. Having directed plays for years as a theater professor at his alma mater, the performance process is second nature to him. And yet, for his Aug. 22 premiere at the Ringwald Theatre in Ferndale, there are still nerves.
“It might turn out to be emotional diarrhea,” he says. “Scary to talk about these things.”
Rivera will take us through nine chapters that will push the audience through his upbringing: the bullying, his first kiss, his first sexual experience, coming to the U.S. and, of course, coming out to his parents.
“I purposefully crafted a universal story that talks about the obstacles in life, and not just sexuality, but feeling like you were born in the right family and what you do with your life – everything that gays deal with are things that everybody feels,” Rivera says.
To tell his story, he runs through three costume changes, all of which signify his life progression. And high heels – you can look forward to those too.
“I can provide the fireworks. I am too much for a lot of people, let me say,” Rivera laughs describing how much he’d like Madonna to show up. He’s blasted her social media with press releases but hasn’t heard back. “Wouldn’t that just be the most surreal moment of my life? There she is, taking it all in. I feel confident that she would love it, in particular the ending,” Rivera laughs.
The queen of pop, the muse for his show, has been his idol since childhood. “If this play were going to premiere anywhere, it better be Detroit. I mean, that’s where she’s from!”