Marga Gomez

She // Her // Hers

[ID: A headshot of a woman with olive skin and short, dark hair that is cropped close at the sides. She is looking up at the viewer with a small smile. She wears a black leather jacket and stands in front of a grey wall.]

Writer and Performer
San Francisco, CA
2022 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Marga Gomez was raised by a flamboyant pack of Latiné entertainers in Washington Heights, New York. Gomez’s big break was at age seven, as a walk-on in her parents’ comedy sketch show. She was immediately possessed by the communal joy emanating from the front row to the balcony. The milieu of her parents, their struggle, and their value as artists to an emerging immigrant community would inspire many of her autobiographical solo plays.

Her decision to come out to her parents at nineteen did not go well. She bolted to San Francisco, where she found her voice as an openly lesbian Latina, performing in a city brimming with promise, resistance, intersectionality, activism, and tragically, the onset of AIDS during the Regan presidency. Bouncing from stand-up to political theater, she landed a season as an actor with the Tony Award–winning San Francisco Mime Troupe, followed by a year as a founding member of the groundbreaking Latiné ensemble Culture Clash.

In the nineties, she moved to autobiographical playwriting and was selected by George C. Wolfe for the 1991 Festival of New Voices at the Public Theater. Her relationship with the Public Theater continued for several productions, most recently in 2017 at its Under the Radar Festival. Gomez is the writer/performer of thirteen solo plays that have been presented nationally and internationally. Excerpts from her plays have been published in several anthologies, including Contemporary Plays by American Women of Color (Routledge) and Out of Character (Bantam).

Portrait photo by Anne Whitman.


“Spanking Machine”

Lights Flashing and Disco Music fading away. Marga stops dancing and narrates.

Marga: And if while clubbing, Scotty offers me a bump or two of cocaine, nothing crazy. I told myself, say yes to the coke, forget the past, water under the bridge. I would say yes and start over with this generous Old Gay Miami Rich Cuban who I became obsessed with in third grade. When Scotty became the first kid at our school, Immaculate Conception, to be sent to the Spanking Machine.

We had a sadistic nun — I know that’s redundant. Her name was Sister Kevin Williams. She had a kink She liked to swing boys around by their neckties for any reason. And Scotty gave her a reason. I don’t remember why — but he sassed her “Sister you’re just jealous.” Sister Kevin Williams charged Scotty and yanked his necktie with all her might. But on this day, Scotty was wearing a clip-on. It took four kids to help her back to her feet and we saw a wisp of hair slip out of her wimple.

Nun: “Agamemnon Perez Jr. let’s take a visit to The Spanking Machine.”

Marga: Since first grade we had all been threatened with “a visit to the Spanking Machine.” None of us had never seen it except in our nightmares. We didn’t see Scotty again until he reappeared after school, in the yard. He seemed different then, like a real man. A legend. All the kids mobbed him like paparazzi.

As Mob: “Agamemnon, is the spanking machine like Sister says?

“Agamemnon — Is it like a chair? Did they strap you in. How fast does it spank?”

“Agamemnon, does the spanking machine have sticks or little hands? I thought I heard it once.”

“Agamemnon — Does it make copies too?” 

Marga: Scotty waved them off and said

Scotty: “I can’t talk about the Spanking machine. You don’t want to know. You don’t want to see it. And My name is not Agamemnon. It’s Scotty.”

Marga: Then he looked over their heads and saw me, the tallest girl in 3rd grade. At the rate I was growing I woulda been 6 feet tall by graduation with a basketball scholarship. But I worried I’d get too tall to find a husband. So I willed myself to stop growing. I’m the same height now as I was in third grade. Which made it easy for Scotty to notice me.

Scotty: “Margaret! Where have you been all my life?”

Marga: No one had ever called me Margaret before. It wasn’t my name. But When Scotty called me Margaret – a name as plain as Margarita is beautiful… I found myself. Margaret, an American name, a forgettable name, Margaret an ordinary name perfect for my new life as Scotty’s partner in crime. 

We did some terrible things to strangers growing up. But we were just kids, see, and it was a different time then. It was easier to get away with terrible things. People were so dumb. Not like we were a terrorists. We just did little terrible things. We were terriblists. We were just trying to play. We didn’t have video games.