When Marc Acito pulls off a traditional ballet tour jet while belting out a show tune, it's often in the name of literacy.
The 42-year-old Colorado College alum has just released his second novel, Attack of the Theater People, and on Aug. 5, he'll be visiting CC as part of his book tour. And he's not one to just sit behind a table, nodding and smiling at potential readers. Acito will grace the stage in Marco! The Musical, which he calls a book singing (as opposed to signing) at the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center.
"It is a one-man musical extravaganza," Acito says. "I describe it as being like Mamma Mia, except without the Mamma. Just the Mia."
It may seem unusual for someone who writes fiction, more often a profession for introverts, to promote his work this way. It was natural for Acito, however, a former professional opera singer.
"To me, publishing is just another arm of the entertainment industry. We do read to entertain ourselves, and I write to entertain readers," he says. "For me, it's equally an internal, personal experience as it is an external, audience-oriented experience."
Acito's singing isn't limited to theater stages. He feels author readings have gotten really moribund, and thinks it's essential, with decreasing literacy, to do everything he can to make the experience wackier and more theatrical. So he's performed his act, with pianist in tow, amid the shelves of various bookstores.
He's found another home in an unusual location, too.
"Believe it or not, I'm the darling of the Rotary circuit," Acito says. "I walk in and we start off with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, followed by, "Who is this crazy homo talking about his book?'"
"This crazy homo" has done pretty well since graduating from CC in 1990. Acito's had two books published, the first of which, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater, was a New York Times' Editors' Choice, and has been optioned for film by Columbia Pictures. (A second draft of the script is in the works.) His books have been blurbed by the likes of authors Armistead Maupin and Jennifer Weiner, as well as Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of Wicked.
Both novels tell the stories of Edward Zanni and his misfit theater friends. Book One meets Edward in high school, trying to get into Juilliard. Book Two finds Edward kicked out of drama school for being "too jazz hands for Juilliard."
"Love letters to [my] theater geek friends" is how Acito describes his books. But they're not just for high school play people.
"I think as a writer, it's my job to be a tour guide and to take you on a journey into a new world," says Acito. "And the wonderland of this book is the subculture of theater geeks."
Acito's "three-quel" in progress, The Jazz Hands of God, follows his "merry crew of miscreants" to Hollywood, for their first grand adventure outside of New York.
Acito relates well to his main protagonist. He, too, was kicked out of acting school. It's how he ended up at CC, and after graduating, traveling abroad on a Watson Fellowship.
In the years since, he's become a playwright his first professional play, Holidazed, will be produced this fall in Portland, Ore. and in the eyes of some, the "gay Dave Berry." And though he's recently been speaking about his favorite books and the economic stimulus package (seriously!), this commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered was on the outing circuit for quite some time.
"I did three pieces [on All Things Considered] on closeted homosexuals," he says. "I missed [Ted] Haggard. That was before my time. But it was Mark Foley, and then Larry Craig, and then Dumbledore [J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter character] in quick succession."
Rear of the house
Oh, and one more thing to add to Acito's rsum: He's a budding nudist. OK, that might be stretching it ... a bit.
In December, Acito decided he was in a rut, a bit of a midlife crisis. To get through it, he chose to do something new every day, and write about it.
Bring in the blog. Over seven months, Acito has written about and shared photos of warping a weaving loom, driving a tow truck, and sleeping with his head at the foot of his bed. And riding in the World Naked Bike Ride and, most recently, taking nude self-photos.
What's up with all the skin?
"At 42 years old, I have found it very challenging to find new things to do every single day," he says. "If you've had a remotely interesting life, you've already done a lot of interesting things."
One place Acito had not gone earlier was taking off his clothes. He's struggled with body shame issues for as long as he can remember, having gained and lost his body weight twice over the course of his adult lifetime.
"I've never been the guy to get naked in public, or even shirtless in public. As I approach midlife and I happen to be skinny again, it's a vast frontier of undone tasks," he says. "I really do try to push myself to places that make me uncomfortable. And that's a big hot-button for me. So on the surface of it, it might appear as if I'm an exhibitionist and I'm someone who's just always running around naked, but it's quite the opposite, actually.
"My feeling is, I may never look this good again," he adds. "I've got a window of just a few years before everything starts heading south, so I better enjoy it while it lasts."
Acito won't be getting naked at CC. But his appearance there should be striking nonetheless.
"I'm gonna sing show tunes," he says, "until your ears bleed."
Marco! The Musical
CCs Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $7, $5 with CC ID, $2 for students; purchase at CCs Worner Center Information Desk or through ticketswest.com.