Michael Marrero Key West
  • Michael Marrero, shown with his wife Liz at a photography exhibit, is a multitalented spirit whose creativity reflects his Key West "Conch" heritage.

     

  • By: Laura Myers
  • August 30, 2017

Michael Marrero, executive director of the popular Key West Theater, is an award-winning playwright, photographer and filmmaker whose drama “Locura” was recently part of a historic Cuban-American theatrical exchange.

It was one of the first such theatrical exchanges between the two countries in half a century.

Locura Key West play poster

Michael’s critically acclaimed play “Locura” is a two-character exploration of Key West’s renegade past.

In June 2017, Michael took a Spanish-language version of “Locura,” his two-actor play about Key West’s renegade mid–20th century atmosphere, 90 miles across the Straits of Florida to be performed in Havana. In exchange, last January a Cuban troupe performed “Eclipse,” a play by the famed Cuban playwright Jazz Vila, at the Key West Theater.

The theatrical exchange was coordinated with the island city’s One Race/Una Raza, founded by local resident Nance Frank, whose Gallery on Greene showcases Mike’s photographic artworks.

 A native Key Wester (or “Conch”) of Cuban descent, Mike started working on the play more than 16 years ago.

“Locura” is a two-actor production on a simple set with a couple of boxes. Colorful slang-infused dialogue takes place between a young man and his Cuban-born uncle in Key West in the mid-1900s. Action includes smuggling, an escape from Cuba, cockfights, raucous behavior and street fights.

Another of Mike’s theatrical works, “Oklahoma Smith and the Pantheon of Annihilation: the Musical!,” co-written with local Chris Shultz, features famed explorer Oklahoma Smith and trusty sidekick Beanpole in a wacky music-fueled extravaganza.

Key West Theater

In 2014 Mike was chosen to oversee Key West Theater, now a popular venue for notable music and theatrical performances.

The two set out to find the lost Book of the Dead and save the world from an evil Mistress Nefarious. The audience, in an interactive choose your own adventure–style twist, helps decide the plot.

Mike says his offbeat sense of humor comes from growing up deep within the native Conch culture of Key West.

“As Conchs, we tease a lot,” he said. “A lot of humor is based on affection — if we don’t mess with you, it means we don’t like you.”

Mike’s wife Liz Love, an avid runner, is a well-regarded local fitness professional, race organizer and personal trainer. The two met on a photo shoot and now have a young daughter, Isabel.

“I already see signs of her humor,” Mike said of his daughter.

A 1992 graduate of Key West High School, he attended Virginia’s Marymount University, Florida Keys Community College and Florida State University. However, Key West’s breezy pull — the island’s lifestyle, creative energy, family and friends — repeatedly lured him back home.

Key West always drew me back,” Michael said. “It was always the people.

Michael Marrero Key West

Michael’s insightful grasp of Key West and its heritage is evident in his writing, photography, theatrical works and filmography. (Photo by Roberta De Piero)

“I didn’t really get into true creativity until later in life,” he added. “Key West, with its small town charms, is very supportive of the arts and has afforded me a lot of opportunity.”

His extensive list of awards includes two for his recent short film “Buzzcut” — named the best horror film for 2017 at an international film festival in Amsterdam and best short film at the Key West Film Festival in 2016 — along with several Addy awards for photography, art, video, a website and ad campaigns.

Theatrical works include nearly 20 credits, with nearly another 20 filmography credits.

Founder of Marrero Studio in 1998, Mike has been a studio artist-in-residence at The Studios of Key West since 2014 — the same year he was chosen to oversee Key West Theater.

To organize his considerable talents, he structures a schedule to optimize creative energy that typically involves writing or photography. Through his works, he hopes to preserve Key West history.

For the future, Michael Marrero has planted family roots firmly in the island city. When he’s not working or spending time with family, he can be found at local hangout The Porch — enjoying a cold beer and a creative conversation with friends.