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[whitespace] Je m'appelle Ennio: Marchetto cuts up as Babs.


Paperoni

Stage caricaturist Ennio Marchetto and his cutouts send up all manner of celebrity

By Cory Feldman

Ennio Marchetto is literally a piece of work. His paper costumes lampoon numerous celebrities while his lip-synching and dancing enthrall the audience. In person, sans makeup or cutouts, Marchetto looks strangely normal.

How would you classify your work--stand-up comedy, impersonating, performance art?

I like "impersonating" but I don't like when it's too real, like to see the real celebrity.

You create caricatures.

Exactly.

How did you start?

I start really doing costumes for the Carnivale--made in poor material, plastic, paper. But the influence of [Venice] brought me here. I still live there really but I start to tour at 28 years old. I never learned English.

In school I studied French. Even now there are words I don't know really, but my lip-sync is fantastic!

Have you always wanted to be famous?

I used to go to see a lot of band shows and I thought to myself that maybe I could be like them. I could be on stage, me too. I never really thought to become a performer. Not really, not at the beginning. My first show was to enjoy my friends in Venice. I used to make show in my house in Venice for my family and friends. I did some things with a friend of mine, performance art at the end of the '70s--some stupid things.

How big was your first audience?

In my house in Venice?

Wasn't the Edinburgh Festival your first big audience?

No, in Edinburgh there was nobody--five people. It was my first time outside Italy and nobody came because nobody knew me.

Since then?

We went to 55 different countries in 11 years.

What was your favorite?

Australia, maybe. South Africa is nice too. I don't really know much America but I was in New York last year. We performed there for a month. I must say my show is more American than Italian or ... all the big icons they come from America and all the American characters are recognizable in all the world. When we go to Israel we have some Israeli. We try to do a few characters if it's easy.

Ever had a stiff reception?

Sometimes the audience is confused. Yes. The Japanese audience is not too alive. They respond very quietly but they like the paper.

Is there another level where you want to take the show?

No. Sometimes we think to make the show more commercial with the set with scenery with a lot of stuff like that, but we do not think this could be a level more because it is important to have just a black set and my costumes and choreography.

Who was your first paper character?

The idea of the first costume in paper was a daydream that I had: I dreamt about Marilyn Monroe and I woke up and cut out the first shape of Marilyn's body. And then for seven years, Marilyn was the only one in paper. Then I decide to make another one and I won a prize in Bologna for the best comedy of the year. Then I met [pointing to fashion/costume designer Sosthen Hennekam] and with him the costumes started developing. One costume, one character transformed into two, three, four different costumes.

Were you searching for help at the time?

EM: Not really, no.

SH: You needed help for the television--that's how it started really. I saw his show and I met him afterwards and he asked me if I could help him with costumes for a TV show. I worked with him on that TV show and then decided to continue working with him.

What characters do you do now?

EM: In the show we have Pavarotti, Madonna, Elvis, Britney Spears. I like to have mixed audience, I like to have children, too. Even if they don't recognize all the characters, they enjoy the costumes. We have Marge Simpson, we have Snow White. It's a good show for a young child who never went to the theater. Because it's just music, color, not boring. ...

SH: Our show attracts also like 16- to 18-year-olds, which normally they don't want to hear about theater, and they like the show very much.

Do you have a way to prepare a character, a method?

EM: No. When I listen to the songs of most of the characters, it gives me a certain feeling and I can understand the way he or she moves.

Can it be taught? Or do you have to be born with it?

EM: It's a bit difficult, I think. Of course you can learn to make the costume. There were some people in Europe that tried to make the same costume the same idea--we stoppa them.

SH: The lawyers stoppa them. [He laughs.]

Is there anyone you couldn't caricature? Who stumped you?

EM: Man is a bit more difficult than woman. We did Mick Jagger. I prefer I don't do it. There are some men who are not so much, non particulari io capito.

Did you ever meet anyone you impersonated?

In England, Boy George. 'Cause I performed on television when he was the presenter. He enjoyed it very much.

Is anyone too sacred to tease?

EM: We do the Pope.

SH: When Freddy Mercury died we stoppa doing him for about a year. But it became a sort of homage to him because he had seen it. We knew he loved it very much so.

EM: We don't do nothing bad to him.

SH: When Ella died we thought of stopping her in the show as well, but people liked it--they didn't see it as an offense.

Do you think Americans compare all funny Italian men to Roberto Benigni? Is your humor "Italian humor"?

EM: Maybe they want to say in a sense the kind of movement or imagination. No, it is not Italian humor. Do you think Benigni is Italian humor? Probably.

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From the March 6, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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