Gustavo Arellano has always been at the forefront of national issues with his writing.
As the creator of “¡Ask a Mexican!” and “Taco USA,” Arellano doesn’t shy away from controversies.
Anthony J. Garcia of Denver’s Su Teatro wanted to bring some of Arellano’s work to the stage.
“Gustavo and I developed this relationship over a period of time,” Garcia says. “We began to work together on some projects. I teach in Denver, and Gustavo would come into town to do an event and we’d collaborate.”
After the pair have spent years working together, Su Teatro is presenting “Interview With a Mexican.”
Arellano’s column “¡Ask a Mexican!” famously touched on topics such as “lowriders, busboys and housekeepers; drunks and scoundrels; heroes and celebrities,” and allowed Arellano to establish himself as the comic authority on what it is to be a Mexican, even challenging “gabachos” to come out of the closet and ask the obvious, ignorant, and sometimes racist questions, which were met with derision and insult, but also with a tremendous amount of insight as well as information.
The theater piece will begin a four-date run at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Thursday, Nov. 1.
The piece is a carnival of conversations and random perspectives from Arellano about what it means to be a Mexican, in or outside the U.S.
Development of the work was funded by the National Performance Network, which has as commissioning partners Su Teatro, MACLA, Colorado State University-Pueblo and the NHCC.
“Gustavo has been great,” Garcia says. “He told me he trusted me. A lot of the material comes from listening. We have been fortunate to have a lot of feedback from him. We’ve started performing it, and I didn’t realize audiences were going to respond the way they have been. The thing about Gustavo is that he may insult you, but he does it in a smart way. That’s been an interesting dynamic to bring to the space.”
Garcia says the show is low-tech but has a lot of technical elements.
“This has more sound cues than any show I’ve worked on,” he says with a laugh. “The biggest obstacle has been how much is happening on stage. There’s so much changing, and it’s been interesting to keep up with the entire production.”