Where Are They Wednesdays: Greg Maraio
Time was when SpeakEasy alumnus Greg Maraio (Significant Other, Casa Valentina, Necessary Monsters) hardly slept during the month of October, and not just because he is an in-demand actor. For years now, Greg’s other job has been making incredible replicas of some of the most famous superhero costumes in the universe. That role has taken a new twist these days, as Greg details below in a wide-ranging interview about his careers onstage and off.
Just a little over four years ago, you starred in SpeakEasy’s pre-Broadway production of Joshua Harmon’s play Significant Other. What do you remember most about that experience? What about that play resonated for you?
Four years! That’s just crazy. The show is so vivid in my imagination that it really seems like it happened just yesterday. Significant Other was truly an incredible experience. Being able to work with Paul Daigneault and that amazing cast and crew on that script was truly such a gift. I loved playing Jordan, the main character, I think mainly because I loved him so much. He was sweet, caring, selfish, awkward, eloquent, and so human. I don’t know if I’ll ever have an experience like that again.
As occasionally happens at SpeakEasy, the author of Significant Other – Joshua Harmon – came to see our production. What’s it like as an actor to have the playwright in the audience?
It’s always a bit nerve-wracking when a playwright is in the audience. It’s best not to know beforehand of their presence; otherwise, one can tend to get a bit self-aware. But Joshua was absolutely amazing. He worked so closely and directly with the original cast that it was probably a bit jarring for him to see his words coming from these new faces; but he couldn’t have been nicer to everyone, perfectly witty, charming, and handsome. I remember his parents loved it too!
Your other SpeakEasy shows – Casa Valentina, for which you were nominated for a Norton Award, and Necessary Monsters, which was Norton-nominated for Best Play — just hint at your range and versatility on stage. What attracts you to a role? And what is your approach to discovering a character?
I’ve been very lucky with the roles I’ve been able to play. The characters I am drawn to the most are the ones that are the most unlike me. I think the reason I love acting is that it’s usually a great exercise in empathy. For example, when I did Brawler at BPT, I knew nothing about hockey or hockey players; but in learning about the sport, the lifestyle, and the consequences, I can truly say I’ll never look at a hockey player the same way again.
Your work on the play Necessary Monsters resulted in lasting friendships with two Boston theatre legends – John Kuntz and Thomas Derrah. What have you learned about theatre — and about friendship – from these two talented individuals?
Oh God, I could write a book. I’ll first say that I’ve never seen two people so much in love and truly made for each other. The memories we all made while Tommy was still with us are truly some of the happiest of my life. So many adventures. And the older I get, the more I realize what a genius Tommy was. Talk about versatility; look at his career. Boston was truly so lucky Tommy stayed here to work. He could have gone anywhere and been a household name, his talent was that astounding; but this was his home. I miss him every day but I still feel him around every day. He was pure magic.
Like many Boston actors, you have another line of work to help make ends meet. Some might call what you do costume design or costume work. How do you describe what you do?
Hmmmm. Okay, I specialize in the restoration and replication of costumes, which includes building the displays and figures for their preservation in museum settings. So basically, a collector or a museum says I have a Batgirl costume but its missing the boots; I then create replica boots to complete the costume based on the reference of the originals, while also creating the character display for the final costume to be displayed on.
For a time, Halloween was your busy season, with individuals paying you a substantial amount of money for a custom Halloween costumes. What were your most popular sellers? And what one costume was your favorite or most inspired work?
At one point, Halloween was a 20-hour-a day gig from August to October 31st; but since I transitioned into the museum pieces, Halloween isn’t as daunting anymore — thank goodness! The recent Wonder Woman costume worn by Gal Gadot was huuuuge a few years back; it was all I did for Halloween that year. But my most inspired costumes are the ones I make for my nieces and nephews. They always get the best. Last year I did a four-armed character named Goro (a character from Mortal Kombat) for my nephew. That was quite the feat. They like to challenge me. I hope they put me in a nice nursing home.
Last year, you were part of the creation of a Catwoman exhibit for the Hollywood Museum in Los Angeles. Tell us about your work on the exhibit and the celebration on opening night?
That was a dream job. I was commissioned by the Hollywood Museum to build a display featuring all of the actresses who have played Catwoman over the years (6 of them!). That meant the full figures, full replica costumes, props, accessories, and backdrop. It was a solid 7 months of work to do that huge display, and I was really proud of it. And I got to hang out at the opening with the original Catwoman of film, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt’s daughter, Kitt Shapiro. Truly such an incredible night.
Currently, you are restoring many iconic costumes from classic TV shows for a new museum. Tell us more about your role and what we can expect when we visit.
Yes, I’ve been working on displays for a museum opening on the East Coast (hopefully soon, I’ll keep you posted) which will be an amazing collection of some of the most famous television costumes and vehicles! I’m talking original Batman costumes from the TV show plus costumes from The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island and so many more. Every time I work with one of these costumes, I have to pinch myself. As an actor and a costume lover, it doesn’t get more amazing than this!
Having worked and built replicas of superhero and super-villain costumes, which would you rather be- a superhero or a super-villain? Why?
If we are talking dramatically, then I’d go villain any day. They are always the most fun to play. But in real life? Its 2020, and we have plenty of villains everywhere; so I’d be holding out for a hero!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
These days I can’t stop thinking of the lasso of truth. Could you imagine being able to compel anyone to tell the absolute truth? But in all honesty, the ability to cure diseases. Every single one. That’s the only power I would want.
Has there been a superhero in your life or acting career thus far?
My mom, Diane, has been my biggest supporter in everything but especially theatrically, and she has seen everything I’ve done. I’m talking shows when I was performing in basements with flood lights. Actually! No! I wouldn’t let her see Necessary Monsters! If anyone saw it, maybe you can understand why I wouldn’t want my mother to see me doing those things. So she’s seen everything but that!
What is your dream role for your post-Covid return to the stage?
Well, you can say you heard it here first! I’m trying to get award-winning playwright Johnny Kuntz to write a vehicle for an up-and-coming hot young actress named Paula Plum and me called Who Killed January Smalls?. The premise is a struggling out-of-work actor (me) who moves into a new apartment where he is haunted by the ghost of a dead pornstar (Plum). She agrees to help him get acting work in exchange for his assistance in finding her killer. Doesn’t that just sell itself??? Now, maybe we can get SpeakEasy to debut it!