Edit ModuleShow Tags

John Leguizamo's One-man Show

The actor returns to La Jolla Playhouse with Latin History for Dummies


Published:

John Leguizamo | Photo by Jeffrey Weiser

SEE IT!

John Leguizamo: Latin History for Dummies
April 5–17
lajollaplayhouse.org

John Leguizamo has played French artist Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge!, a gangster in Carlito’s Way, and a sloth in the Ice Age films. This month, the Emmy winner takes on the role of history professor in his one-man show, John Leguizamo: Latin History for Dummies, part of the La Jolla Playhouse’s Page To Stage new play development program. The actor returns to the Playhouse following the success of his 2010 show, Ghetto Klown, which went on to Broadway acclaim. In Latin History, he delivers his signature razor-sharp comedic take on often-overlooked Latin culture, from the Aztec and Incan empires to World War II. We spoke with Leguizamo about acting solo, researching the past, and telling jokes for free.

How do you keep up the performance energy when there’s just one person on stage?

I have to get very immersed in the emotions and circumstances of the play, and if I can lose myself in that and in the characters, then I don’t feel alone on stage. I feel that I am in the world that I created. It’s kind of like being a rational crazy person all at once. The more I can hallucinate and really see other people and the imaginary places I’m creating, the less I feel like I’m acting and I’m just responding.

What’s the inspiration behind Latin History for Dummies?

My favorite teacher was my college history teacher. He was nuts and would do characters and tell us inappropriate bits of history, and it was so sensational. It really got me hooked. So I felt I had to channel him for Latin History for Dummies. It’s about little-known heroes and sidebars of history that should have taken center stage, but because they were Latin, they were diminished in importance. I mean, we were always here. We discovered ourselves, for crying out loud! We were the Spanish and we were the Native Americans. That’s the dichotomy of the Latin experience, and then you throw in the African element and it’s a tripartite experience. The only way to get anyone to partake in this valuable information was through a comedy piece with analogous moments in my life. I learned this all through trial and error as I toured across America.

How did you research the show, going all the way back to the Aztecs? How long did it take to write?

It took me two years to write, and I’m still writing and fine-tuning, but almost 15 years to research—tomes, encyclopedic perusing, Googling, talking to Latin history professors. There is a lot of information on our contributions. The Spanish priests were the very first ethnographers in history, so they annotated the Aztecs, Incas, and other tribes to a dizzying degree of detail. Yet you never hear it or see it. We were a huge part of the American Revolution. We had generals and women in it. Cuban women in the South sold all their jewelry and belongings to feed the rebels. Ten thousand of us fought in the Civil War. That’s a crazy huge number in the 1800s, and yet you never hear about one Latin person participating—as if someone went in with an eraser and rubbed us out of history. We fought in all of the American wars—the War of 1812, World War I, and 500,000 of us fought in World War II. The movie From Here to Eternity is based on a Mexican guy, but you would never know it ’cause he was played by a white guy.

Who do you hope will come to the show and what do you hope will come out of it?

I want Latin people to walk away with a sense of empowerment and entitlement. I grew up feeling so unwanted, disempowered, and with really low self-esteem because of the lack of role models and heroes of Latin origin in history and literature. I want Americans to give us the respect and pay long-overdue homage to our huge and important contribution to the making of this great nation.

Can you share one anecdote or joke you use in the show?

Nah! You gotta pay for it. Even sex workers don’t give it up just ’cause you ask. Show me the money.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ Is a Natural Fit for the Stage

The Old Globe brings the Wild author’s beautifully written advice column to life

Bob Mould on Seeking A Brighter Outlook with ‘Sunshine Rock’

The punk legend discusses his latest album and reflects on the industry

Things to Do in San Diego: February 18-24

Fifteen events you don't want to miss this week
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. San Diego Magazine's Travel Awards 2019
    Cast your vote now for your favorite hotels, travel companies, and attractions
  2. Best Restaurants in San Diego: 2018
    San Diego's top restaurant owners, chefs, and bartenders name their favorite San Diego restaurants of 2018.
  3. The Best Soup Dumplings in San Diego
    My hunt for the best xiao long bao in the city unearthed two surprising winners
  4. Puesto's Next Top Taco
    Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
  5. Behind the Brands 2019
  6. First Look: Realm of 52 Remedies
    Wildly imaginative speakeasy cements the arrival of design to San Diego’s Asian food haven
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Sony Consumer Electronics Innovator Builds a Future Where Robotics and Connected Devices Prevail

Robust music and pictures ecosystem bring bespoke experience to TV and audio

Live the Dream with the Dream House Raffle

A multimillion-dollar dream home, fabulous trips, luxury cars, and more could be yours
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags