Living with a bevy of characters is nothing new to Peter Suarez. • Up until this year, Suarez hosted Gulfport's weekly "Family Dinner" at his home, an open house potluck attended by artists, writers, lawyers and random bohemians. Guests filtered in and out of the house, lounging in the backyard, playing music in the living room. Some even crashed for months at a time.
When not spending his down time in Gulfport, Suarez is a busy performer, touring and working in Manhattan.
He's danced and choreographed for the Cincinnati Ballet, performed eight years with the Metropolitan Opera and shared a stage with the Gipsy Kings at Radio City Music Hall. He has served as style coach/adjunct choreographer for Cirque du Soleil and Olympic athletes. Suarez also juggles fire balls on sticks at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, plays guitar at Chattaway and other local haunts and shares tales during Gulfport's monthly storytelling nights, Wednesday2.
The 57-year-old Ohio native grew up in New York. He sold his house this year to live in his boat. Suarez says he's decided to kick up his career and will start performing a new one-man show, then take it on tour. On Saturday, Suarez will premiere My Life and How I Pretend to Live It (A Work in Progress) at the Studio@620 in St. Petersburg. He also plans to reprise it locally.
"I'm not prone to hero worship," he said. "But I got a lot of inspiration from Tim Minchin, an Australian comedian, actor, writer, musician and director."
In the hour-and-a-half performance, Suarez reveals fragments of his psyche and personality through five distinctive characters — in turn, showing off his acting range, musical chops and knack for foreign accents.
Here are all the characters he channels:
Theo, a stagehand and "half-wit savant" who wears thick-framed glasses and pants hiked up over his belly button, resembles a cross between Martin Short's Ed Grimley and Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys. Theo, for all his bumbling, is kind and often wiser than the others. Most of all, he loves his wife, Edna, dearly. When he speaks about her, he gets choked up and teary-eyed.
Brother Soiree, is a scarf-swirling, ambiguously gay bon vivant. He's married to Tori, who may or may not be a woman, lives in Seattle and is "tres glamorous and a great shopper."
There's Colin From Galway not Dublin, a point he gets across with salty vehemence. The Irish troubadour wields a guitar and performs the deeply touching No Right at All, a farewell to Suarez's father that he performed with violinist Rebecca Zapen when casting his father's ashes on the Atlantic Ocean. Colin has a son of whom he speaks winsomely.
Travaylin West is a patriotic, Republican country singer and ladies' man who upholds all the bravado and stereotypes of a red-blooded American man. During the show, Travaylin performs an amusing protest song called Spin Around.
The Spanish Guy is a gaucho/flamenco dancer and juggler from Galicia on the northwest coast of Spain, where he claims the first bagpipes were played.
"Flamenco has both the joys and pains of living, like the American blues," he said in character. "There's never a moment the audience will not be filled with both."