Naropa University professor Lorenzo Gonzalez goes beyond simply teaching about the theater: For months, he’s starred as Gold Hat in the play “Interview with a Mexican.” For Gonzalez, the role …
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Naropa University professor Lorenzo Gonzalez goes beyond simply teaching about the theater: For months, he’s starred as Gold Hat in the play “Interview with a Mexican.”
For Gonzalez, the role represents a chance to dismantle Mexican-American stereotypes — by playing a Mexican-American stereotype.
“You have the big Mexican hat, right? Gold hat,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of laughter in the process, because you know, laughter heals.”
Developed by director Tony Garcia, the show is based on writer Gustavo Arellano’s OC Weekly column, which addressed readers’ questions about the Mexican-American experience. A selection of these answers was later compiled into a book.
After meeting Arellano at a lunch, Garcia became curious if the book would ever be adapted into a play.
“As I inhaled as many tacos as I could, I asked Gustavo about the play, and he said, ‘That ain’t happening. You should do it,’ ” Garcia said. “And then it was scheduled.”
Having opened in Denver in 2018, theater Su Teatro will bring “Interview with a Mexican” to Northglenn’s DL Parsons Theatre, 11801 Community Center Drive. The show will run as part of the Northglenn Arts Presents program, which partners with nearby organizations to bring diverse voices to the Northglenn arts scene.
According to Michael Stricker, cultural programs supervisor at Northglenn Arts, this mission primarily aims to heighten diversity in the city. But it also winds up engaging the different communities already present in Northglenn, including the suburb’s notable Hispanic and Latino population.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34.4 percent of the Northglenn population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. World Population Review also reported that 12.7 percent of the population speaks Spanish.
“I knew we needed to bring it to Northglenn,” Stricker said of the show. “The show is absolutely hilarious and enlightening.”
One of the show’s most unique facets is its departure from a conventional plotline, Gonzalez said. Instead, the show strings together a series of sketches in which characters often recite the answers Arellano gave in his column.
“Some of the questions were asked with scorn, and Gustavo’s answers come in kind — really a zinger kind of thing,” Gonzalez said. “And when people were asking real questions, the answer came in a more didactic form.”
To bolster the comedy, Garcia split Arellano’s personality into two characters: “Gold Hat,” who represents stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, and “La Profesora,” who delivers Arellano’s more scholastic answers.
As a professor in his daily life, Gonzalez said he enjoys stepping into a completely different role on stage.
“Yeah, I don’t get to play La Profesora,” he said with a laugh. “And one of the highlights of that is I’ve really gotten a sense of how effective a weapon laughter is.”
The show certainly relies on humor to send its message, which more than anything, Garcia said, is about encouraging others to “listen and learn.”
“We clearly live in a time of division. We get to the point where we can’t talk,” he said. “We can offer an opportunity to laugh at our weaknesses. The goal is to have fun.”
In addition to speaking to the broader community, Gonzalez said the show has special meaning for a Latino audience, particularly the younger audiences for which the cast has already performed.
“The young audiences have those ‘aha moments’ of seeing themselves portrayed,” Gonzalez said. “There’s been this affirmation of `It’s OK to be who you are. It’s OK to be a Mexican-American.’”
Although the show is about the Mexican-American experience, he added, it’s got something for everyone — mostly in the form of humor.
“One of the lines in the play is ‘education and ridicule rolled into one juicy taco.’ So it’s like that,” Gonzalez said. “It’s like this instant vacation you can take, and there’s a lot of laughs.”
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