under boxing gyms. The name Frankie Goodman's Boxing Gym caught my
eye. I called and Frankie picked up, invited me to train on Saturdays. My
parents came home and I told them I was going to learn boxing. I trained there
for the next 3 1/2 years.
Armando | And while boxing there were whispers of your sexuality?
Oliver | My sexuality was hardly in question then. I was a teenager, so
everyone understood I had a permanent hard-on. But the fighters all around
me were a mix of young and old, successful and down-in-the-dumps, many of
them with girlfriends and some not. Boxers' dressing room include military
style showers, so it's hard to hide who you are and the size of your package,
etc. Sex was always a topic; the biggest news in the gym was when a girl was
present. Then everyone got really mean and started throwing punches with
extra meaning. I picked up on this quickly.
Armando| This is one of many connections between you and "Filo al Fuego's"
subject matter. As a Latino man, you understand this is not the most
"comfortable" subject for a Latino. What would you like to impress upon any
Latino that watches "Filo al Fuego"?
Oliver | This play I hope will free the Latino audience to view itself with more
kindness and openness. Sexuality, gay and straight, is still a big taboo among
Latinos in and out of the United States -- even though we are among the most
sexually expressive people anywhere. It's a puzzlement. I try to use boxing as a
metaphor to show how men treat
www.ambiente.us JULY| JULIO 2010
Filo al Fuego | Interview with playwright Oliver Mayer
By Armando Diaz, Jr.
Set in 1962 Miami --an epoch full of international turmoil and a time when the United
States was only starting to deal with racial and cultural inequities -- FILO AL FUEGO
takes place in the world of boxing, the most ‘macho’ of sports. Just before the meteoric
rise of Muhammad Ali, this was a time when Latinos put their stamp on the boxing
game and gave Spanish speakers here and abroad something to cheer about.
Mantequilla Decima, the undefeated and beloved Cuban-born world champion, loses
his crown in a surprise decision to the Californian Chicano upstart Pedro Quinn -- a
young man whose Spanish is halting and who identifies himself as more American
than Mexican. A third fighter, Nuyorican Wilfredo Vinal, starts a rumor about Quinn's
sexuality. This one word creates a firestorm that engulfs all three men, not to mention
those who love them, making the Mantequilla/Quinn rematch something more than a
fight, turning the stage into a battleground over identity and the definition of manhood.
In a recent press release, Mona Elyafi of ILDK Media writes,
“Indeed, Miami is prime location for the play. It is the perfect city
because it carries in it so many Latino identities (Cubans, Puerto
Ricans, Colombians, Dominicans and Mexicans_ it as does the
play. Previous versions have set the story in big cities - particularly
NYC - and have been about the grime and overpopulation, not
to mention the desperate cold of life there.
MIAMI RIVER INN
WORDS & IMAGES
Gay & Lesbian Alliance
SHOP AT THE DOT
offer some great
discounts & specials.
Moving the play to Miami is a logical fit
not only because the play is so Latino
in nature but also because it is so
much about boxing at a time when
Miami was a boxing mecca. The very
terrain and temperature of South
Florida invades the play in sexy and
sultry ways. Now with the Prometeo
production, the audience will see Filo
in all its sweaty and humid glory - the
characters' body heat adding to the
‘calor’ of the world they inhabit.”
The day before opening night, Oliver
was available to answer a few
questions for myself and Ambiente.
Armando | How long did you train as a
boxer when you were younger was it
like a junior boxing league?
Oliver | I started boxing at 13. I'm not
sure what got into me. I picked up the
yellow pages and looked
Oliver | You have great taste. She is an incredible actress, a complete life changer, and
the sexiest woman alive. (I shouldn't have said that -- now more men than usual will be
after her. Glad I put several rings on her marriage finger!)
Armando | A couple years ago during Madonna's Sticky and Sweet Tour, she sported
(and I actually bought a pair) boxing shorts, taped wrists and gloves. The photo shoot
in the concert program saw her in various sultry hardcore poses in a boxing ring, was
this inspired by "Filo"?
Oliver | I think you're right. As you know, she bought the rights to make the film some
years back, and for a couple of years we worked pretty closely on the screenplay. Mutual
friends tell me that she still
wants to direct it some day. She embodies so
much of the sex and feel of this play, and I'm
honored that she loves what it has to say.
Armando | Has there been any further talk
of a film adaptation?
Oliver | The film business is tricky and sticky.
There continues to be interest, particularly now
because I've just written it as a novel. This new
manuscript is a kind of Bible of the play, including
the action and spectacle of the play with the
interior thoughts and feelings of the participants,
and also the memories of the best moments of the
screenplay and also of the best productions. Plus
there are entirely new elements. I'm very proud of it.
Whoever makes the film needs to deal with this new
Armando | There is a novel/book version in the works right?
men -- with cruelty and in a pack mentality, but also with moments of amazing
connection and softness. The play occurs before a gay identity existed -- when
even Liberace was officially straight. I think this allows a re-examining of
people as people, without preconceptions and judgements. I know it's a lot to
ask, but it's about time, isn't it?
Armando | If you were stranded on a desert island what (3) things could you
not live without.
Oliver / Bach on vinyl my dog, reams of paper to write on, old style
Armando | Do you call your mother "mami" or "ma"?
Oliver | She’s Mom to me, but when I'm in trouble or feeling down I may say
Armando | Your mother found love again with another woman and they've
been together (16) years, as a proud son, what would you like to let your
Oliver | I know something about this! I would affirm my pride and my thanks to
the person who gives love to the woman who gave me life. It's great to have
two moms! It still hurts to have lost my dad at a young age, but I believe in
making peace now with those you love.
Armando | If you were to get invited out to karaoke, what song would you have
Oliver | "Let's Get It On" (badly I'm sure) and Al Green singing anything
Armando | By the way I'm a huge Star Trek fan and your wife (Marlene Forte)
was the incredibly sexy transporter chief on the USS Enterprise (Star Trek
2009)! I love it!
See previous Oliver | I turned the manuscript in to some smart people. We'll
see what happens!
Armando | What can we expect from Oliver Mayer in the next (5) years?
Oliver | I have a beautiful home and career as Associate Professor of
Dramatic Writing at USC School of Theatre, and I mean to invest my time and
energy in the program there. Besides FILO, I have several new plays in various
states of development. I also have a film on the life of Adan and Chalino
Sanchez in pre-production. With any luck, all these pursuits will keep me busy
through at least the next five years. If not,
I'm sure my wife will be as or more busy, and I'll happily tag along
Armando | If you could choose an actor to plain
the main boxer(s) in "Filo al Fuego" who would it be?
Oliver | In all seriousness, I would pick the actors in
“Filo al Fuego” -- Luis Santiago Fuentes, Anthony Bless,
and Boris Roa -- all three of whom are attacking their
roles with every last ounce of their passion. There is
absolutely nothing better than that in my book.
Oliver’s work is now resented by the prestigious Teatro
Prometeo (the only Professional Actor Training Program in
the nation offering the opportunity of conservatory-style
actor training in Spanish) as part of the XXV International
Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami, "Filo Al Fuego" debuted on
July 9 in Miami at Teatro Prometeo.
For more information on Prometeo Theatre please visit:
CLICK HERE for more Armando Diaz, Jr.
Copyright © MBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing this