Gaytino, a one man performance

By Jesus Figueroa

ELAC alumnus Dan “Eddie” Guerrero brought a culturally explosive one-man show, ‘¡Gaytino!’ to the P2 Proscenium Theatre last Thursday afternoon and Saturday night.

“How many Chicanos do you think have performed at the Kennedy Center,” Guerrero asked.  Guerrero is proud of having performed ¡Gaytino!, with much success and great reviews there.

The crowd was greeted to a large projection on the screen on stage upon entering the theater, reading “¡Gaytino!” in red letters.

Thursday saw the theater filled with high school students from the Los Angeles School of Performing Arts, brought by Sandra Guzman, Elans and special guest including Elza Almaraz, widow of Carlos Almaraz, and her brother.

Chicano screen playwright Luis Valdez joined the sold out crowd Saturday night. The performance started as the theater darkened and Guerrero walked out on stage.

He begins with a short story and on to singing, “I’m just a man, like any other man. Unlike any other man.” The performance set the tone and pace for the rest of the play.

Guerrero continued with childhood stories of his move to East Los Angeles, his father the legendary Chicano musician, Lalo Guerrero, and how he came to meet his best and longest lasting friend  Carlos Almaraz.

The touching stories entice and capture the attention of the audience. There is laughter when a joke is told and silence when the play turns more serious.

Narration and music tell the often funny story of Guerrero’s teen years and adventures in East Los Angeles.  His realization that he was a gay man, introduction to musicals and yearning to become a stage performer are revealed, leading to his time at ELAC.

At the time, being gay at ELAC was not something that was openly put out for everyone to see, said Guerrero.

The story only got more compelling as Guerrero shared the stories of his time in New York.  Showing images of New York while snow is falling show his feeling rather than telling them straightforward.

Making the decision to move back to East Los Angeles, Guerrero becomes a representative for Chicano actors, limiting himself by only doing Chicano representation.

“I was called a ‘born again Chicano’ by my friends,” Guerrero said about the reaction from the people around him. “I think I’m the only Chicano to jump back from the mainstream,” Guerrero says getting a laugh from the audience.

The mood turned serious as Guerrero takes center stage and the spotlight comes on him.

His voice goes soft as he tells the story of Almaraz dying. Recalling a story of Max, a five-year-old child, saying goodbye to Almaraz referring to him as “old friend.”

Guerrero does the same. “I take a cue from Max  but add my own penache. Carlos took a cue from me.  Goodbye old friend.  Carlos dies that night,” Guerrero says as the auditorium goes silent.

“I had lost my two heroes, My father and Carlos,” Guerrero said.

He ends the show singing in Spanish and dancing with a translation projected onto the screen behind him. The show was serious, witty and entertaining from beginning to end.

The performance was in conjunction with the “Carlos Almaraz: A Life Recalled” exhibit at the Vincent Price Art Museum.

On Saturday, Karen Rapp Director of the VPAM opened the museum at 6 p.m. allowing early arrivals to go see the Almaraz exhibit before the show and kept it open after the show as well.

Both ‘¡Gaytino!’ and the exhibit were brought to ELAC through the efforts of Guerrero,  who suggested the ideas to Rapp.

Guerrero joined guests after both performances at the Almaraz exhibit. He prides himself in having had the opportunity to have been able to bring it to ELAC.

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