Q&A: Marga Gomez on bringing ‘Swimming with Lesbians’ to New York

Marga Gomez's "Swimming with Lesbians" opens at Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival on July 10.
Marga Gomez’s “Swimming with Lesbians” opens at Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival on July 10.
Brenna Merrit

Marga Gomez is coming back to New York City with a (pardon the expression) Moby-Dick of a seafaring solo show, opening at Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival on July 10.

We had a chat with Marga as she prepared to catch the red eye to the city, and bring us “Swimming with Lesbians.”

Is this your first time performing in New York since the pandemic?

I had a one-night stand at Dixon Place last August, of a show they commissioned that’s funny but it was also pretty emotional. It’s called “Spanking Machine.” They commissioned it before the pandemic, and I did it virtually. As things started to op

Ahead of her trip to New York, Marga Gomez has been performing “Swimming With Lesbians” in San Francisco. Lucy Jane Bledsoe

en up, I told Dixon Place I’d do a live benefit performance of it. That was my first time performing in New York since 2019.

Now you’re back at Dixon Place during HOT! Festival, their annual celebration of queer culture, with your latest solo show. What’s it about?

The show is a multi-character seafaring story that takes place on a fictional lesbian cruise ship, sailing in the Aegean Sea. There are seven characters: One of the main characters is the ship’s bingo caller, Pru Perez, who suffers from social anxiety, which is not a good condition if you are a ship entertainer!

On this particular cruise of the Celesbian, there’s also a disgraced lacrosse player who used to bully Pru in boarding school, so the story of the show is how Pru hides from her bully, and then finally gets the courage to face her. Then the other characters include the captain of the ship, Captain Admiral, who has a passion for the ship. It’s her first love, but all the different passengers and crew members on the ship have been in the captain’s cabin.

I also play the narrator. The story is told as if it’s an old romance novel, broken up into chapters. The narrator tells us it’s a memoir and it’s the story of when she was a passenger on this ship. It’s her first lesbian cruise and she is hoping to have her first lesbian affair!

It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, there’s a little bit of dancing in it. There’s no nudity, I just ejaculate through my pants.

What gave you the idea for “Swimming With Lesbians”?

This is my 14th one-person show, wow! It’s the first one that I began after theater started to open up [after the pandemic].

I wanted to do a farce: kind of like a “Love Boat” lesbian fan fiction, and because the last few years have been so grim, and it doesn’t let up; life continues to be hard. Also, we still don’t have enough lesbian stories in theater and film and when we do have lesbian characters, there’s always something sad or they die. So, this is just a silly 60 minutes, and there is a little bit of poignancy, but if I’m doing my job, you won’t know until the next day!

It was always something that I had on my list of projects I’d like to do. I had “lesbian cruise ship” on my list because I worked on lesbian cruise ships for about 10-15 years, so I always wanted to write a solo piece based on that life.

Where have you been performing it?

I’ve done it in two venues in San Francisco since January, different solo performance workshops where people go up and they bring 15 minutes, and that’s how I built the show.

I’ve been working without a director, but I’ve also been working with the best director you can have: the audience.

Then in June for Pride, I did three Sundays in San Francisco, full-length, 65 minutes and that was really a lot of fun.

What will audiences see in this version of “Swimming with Lesbians”?

I wanted to do a no-drama solo performance that goes fast. There are so many cruise ship movies, and they make you feel like you’ve gone on vacation, and that’s how I want people to feel after the show.

This is like a workshop, so we decided to go minimal, and do it in the Lounge at Dixon Place, so that it’s more intimate and people can get drinks.

So people need to get their tickets early because the lounge only has about a third as many seats as the big space. And they’ll save like 3 bucks!

Do you think you want to tour “Swimming with Lesbians”?

A: I think it’s really going to be fun to tour, because first of all, “lesbian” is in the title and I think there’s a need for that around the country, especially in Florida. I gotta do it in Florida, absolutely!

It’s also a show that I can customize. If I’m in a smaller space, I can scale it back and make it seem almost like a live audio book. I get to do different accents, different sounds, different postures. There’s a lot you can do, even when you’re just standing at a microphone.

Wow! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the show?

I just bleached my hair blonde. The black roots are coming in which I think is is better than when you’re all blonde.

That’s very punk, Lower East Side in the ‘80s.  

Yeah! I’m also gonna be showing my toes. I wear open-toed shoes and that is a first because it’s cruise wear, so I have a little costume in this one. I’m taking this seriously, and if you want to see my toes and see my blonde hair, that’ll all be on display.

“Swimming With Lesbians” | Marga Gomez | July 10-14 at 7:30 pm in the Lounge at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., between Rivington & Delancey | Tickets are $22 online and at the box office.