JOHN LEGUIZAMO is one of the most popular Latino artists performing today. His talent has taken him to create memorable characters in numerous films (who can forget his Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge ?) and, since his role in Miami Vice in 1987, he has gathered a very large, and impressive, list of titles of the movies and TV shows in which he has been part of the cast. But, it is his love for the stage that brings him to Hartford.
His acclaimed play “Latin History for Morons“ will be presented at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on June 30 at 6:30 pm. The excitement generated by the announcement of this show, already has many people in the Latino community asking me about how and where can they get tickets. My answer is: Get in line! because the sale starts on April 12.
Written and performed by Leguizamo, and directed by Tony Taccone, the show was nominated for a Tony Award when it opened in New York in 2017.
This show and the lessons we can learn from it are relevant and very timely. If we try to find information about Latino artists and people who have contributed to the history and culture of Connecticut, we will have a hard time finding any of them. Now, some of us in the community are resorting to posting on FB pages and writing opinion pieces like “Why Including Latinos Matter” written by Prof. Jose B. Gonzalez and published recently in CTLN. The invisibility of CT Latinos has meant that our work is not included in anthologies, and we are not invited to participate in many of the arts programs offered statewide. Leguizamo’s show reminds us that it was the invisibility of Latinos in the history books his son was studying in schools, which inspired him to start developing the concept for this play. In an interview with Gwen Aviles in NBC NEWS/Culture Matters, Leguizamo said: “I felt so invisible like our culture was always being excluded, that we didn’t even have a seat at the table.”
Now, thanks to this play, many people who attend the performances will learn, for the first time, about subjects like the involvement of Latinos in the revolutionary wars, the greatness of the Aztec empire, and many other important topics which have remained mostly hidden from textbooks or presentations. You may ask: Can 3000 years of history be extracted into a 90-minute show? The answer is: If you are Leguizamo, you know it can be done.
By now, Leguizamo has written five other very successful plays some of which have been filmed and are available on HBO. His plays: Ghetto Klown, Freak, and Spic-O-Rama have been nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Awards. Sexaholix…A Love Story received a Tony nomination, and Mambo Mouth an Obie Award. With appearances in more than 70 films, he has also been the producer of 10 films and, as mentioned before his TV roles as numerous. One has to admire how the talent –and stamina– of this Colombian-American actor have combined to create this extraordinary and dynamic performer, who now at 55 years of age, is not slowing down.
The show “Latin History for Morons” was developed during several years which included presentations at Comedy Clubs and many readings to fine-tune it. For those who want to know about the play, I recommend a very interesting documentary produced for PBS Great Performances which follows the development of the play and conversations with Leguizamo. The one-night-only show at the Bushnell is part of a 12 state tour which will take him from New York to Texas and ends in Los Angeles.
LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS at The Bushnell in Hartford on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the Hartford engagement go on sale April 12. Ticket prices start at $39.50. Tickets are available online at www.bushnell.org, by phone at 860-987-5900, or at The Bushnell box office, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford.
( Bessy Reyna is a member of the Connecticut Critics’ Circle.)