John Leguizamo shines a light on Latinx history
"Latin History for Morons," from actor John Leguizamo, is coming to the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia from July 19-20.
"Latin History for Morons" is the one-man show of Tony award winner John Leguizamo. Through his show Leguizamo is putting his foot down, saying enough is enough with the erasure of Latinx history.
Being Latinx is full of wonderful and sorrowful tales. Latinx is the largest minority in America, yet the land of the free often forgets to incorporate the many accomplishments of the Latinx community throughout history.
For Leguizamo his one-man show arose from a personal story, a result of his son being bullied because of his race. Instead of fighting with punches, Leguizamo helped his son fight with words. By giving his son Latinx heroes, Leguizamo gained insight into the often overlooked history of his community.
His captivating solo performance takes the audience on a journey through 3,000 years of Latin American history. Leguizamo highlights both the good and bad, the triumphs and failures.
“I just tried to make it the most exciting fun evening and then the rest is history,” Leguizamo told AL DÍA in a phone interview on July 15.
While some might see 3,000 years of history being told by one person as an exhausting endeavour, Leguizamo believes this brings him and the audience closer.
“[It] feels like we're in a conversation together that this is just for us, this evening is just for the audience and me,” he said.
It took about four years to finally complete the script and to perform on Broadway.
“It was trial and error. I did it in a lot of clubs — I love history but people where like ‘Hmmm.’ “They loved it but they didn't want that much history. They didn't want all 3,000 years, they just wanted the highlights and I was like, ‘Ok I get it,’” recalled Leguizamo.
Leguizamo developed a love for theater at an early age. A mind-blowing moment happened when he was 17.
“My mom got me tickets for ‘American Buffalo’ to see Al Pacino… I sat in the front row, he was amazing! He spit all over me… I [felt] like I was baptized into acting,” said Leguizamo.
For the actor, there is a serious transition between acting on stage and acting on a television.
“Being on stage you have to be like an athlete you have to be top of your game. In a TV series you have to be incredibly vulnerable and open,” he noted.
Landing roles for Latinx actors is challenging due to the lack of roles or stereotype roles that Latinx actors face. Leguizamo believes that the community should not wait for Hollywood to change, but instead create its own road to success. He explains that he sees many Latinx comedians on Instagram and Facebook who have “millions of followers because people want to see the Latin [point of view].”
He explained that “we have to persevere and fight and flip the minds, and more importantly create our own opportunities.”
"Latin History for Morons" wants to inform the audience in an entertaining and positive way. Yet, there are tragic events that unfold over 3,000 years that have to make an appearance. But that is also an integral part of the experience.
“[There are] moments I’m saying something really painful and they get so so quiet… until I speak again I keep that silence and we’re in a moment of silence together, a voluntary moment of silence unconsciously,” said Leguizamo.
As for the future of the Latinx community, he hopes that there is more representation in politics and the government, more statues to celebrate the many Latinx icons, and greater awareness of the many achievements that Latinx have done throughout history.
Leguizamo concluded his thoughts on the Latinx role in the U.S. with these words of encouragement: “We’re American and no one can kick us out — it’s our country too.”
As for what Leguizamo thinks of Philadelphia: “I love coming to Philly!”
He hopes that the members of the audience learn about the history that is often left behind, and that it fills them with knowledge and courage.
“You're going to feel ten feet tall when you leave,” he declared.
"Latin History for Morons’ is coming to Philadelphia from July 19 to July 20 at the Merriam Theater. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or through the Kimmel Center. "Latin History for Morons" is also available through Netflix. Make sure to check Leguizamo in the Netflix mini series, “When They See Us.”