If Roz Russell and That Girl's Marlo Thomas had a kid, she'd be sassy drag queen Miss Coco Peru, a liberated woman who emerged in the early ‘90s as a beacon of empowerment during the ugliest days of the AIDS crisis. Twenty years later, Coco, and her creator Clinton Leupp, are still going strong, with a new one "woman" show, She's Got Balls, opening in February at the Renberg Theater.
"In my new show, I'm exploring the Gay community, the fringe," Leupp said, adding that Balls explore the importance of not assimilating. "I want the same rights as everyone else but that doesn't mean I have to behave like everyone else to get those rights. It's a show about sexuality and expressing it."
In the play, Leupp speaks about his supportive mother who has now reached her 80s. Leupp found one of the show's themes in her newly liberated behaviors. "She's finally at that age where she gets to say what she feels," he said. "I ask the audience, ‘Why wait?'"
Leupp isn't waiting until his elderly years to speak his mind. It's been a part of his Coco persona from the beginning. "Gender is very fluid," Leupp said. "We live in a society that tries to make it black and white. The gay community knows it's not that way. Drag is an expression of that truth. For me, drag was a way to create who I am rather than fall into the system of ‘You're a boy and this is how you behave and what you have to do.' By choosing who we're going to be -- new name, clothing, voice -- we choose who we are, instead of falling into traps of who we're supposed to be."
Though drag had been around for eons, Coco was a groundbreaker. She was the first to do monologue shows when most drag was lip-syncing. "People were doing things that were different," Leupp said. "But as far as someone doing autobiographical stories in monologue form, that was something they hadn't seen before. I was talking about AIDS. Drag queens were doing AIDS benefits but they were not doing political monologues about it."
Leupp thinks the time is now for drag queens. "When I started doing drag in the ‘90s, I would spray paint my name on sidewalks in stencil, anything to create a buzz," he said. "Younger drag queens now have the Internet with [viral videos] and RuPaul's Drag Race. It's easier to get noticed."