In this edition, Tío Louie interviews actor and playwright (and HOLA member) José Roldán, Jr., about his award-winning, self-penned solo show Father Forgive Me For I Have Sinned, which will be once again presented this March at the world famous Nuyorican Poets' Café in New York. [Blogger's note: The play won him a 2013 HOLA Award for Outstanding Solo Production and an award from the United Solo Festival in NYC. For more information, including what other honors the production has received, click here.]
• How did you make the leap from actor to playwright? It was serendipity because of taking a college class on writing and performance. I could have taken a class in any area, so I took something in theater. My instructor, who was my original director, said you have a gift for writing. However, I ran from it because I did not want to be labeled “the gay actor.”
• How did your family respond to your having written this play? Initially, my family was completely against it. The only one curious to see it was my elder sister. Everyone else thought that I was airing “dirty laundry”. They eventually came. My younger sister and her school came to see it. When she saw it, she was in utter tears because she had never lived that since she was too young. It wasn’t until my elder sister came and saw it and told the rest of the family that it wasn’t as bad as they imagined. She emphasized that it was his interpretation of what happened and that it did not paint them in a negative stroke.
• Is there a social message in this play or is this your therapy in cleansing an aspect of your life? I think it’s a little bit of both. When I initially penned the story it was more therapy. But as the show has taken the path that it has taken, there is a message beyond the Latino and LGBT communities as it deals with a duality of acceptance for oneself and others.
• What did you learn most about yourself in the process of writing and performing this play? That I am actually a lot stronger than I gave myself credit. Throughout the play you see this kid constantly questioning who he is. At the end of the play you see who this kid is and that he accepts himself as a gay Latino young man. But even then there are a lot of insecurities as he questions what he brings to the world.
• Family is primordial to a Latino. How did you weave the family into this story and give a stark reality of acceptance, while sprinkling humor in it? That was a personal decision I made. I wanted to be honest about what actually happened and how I felt during that process. And I wanted to make sure that when the audience left they did not leave with a heavy burden, but rather I had overcome that part of my life and wanted to show that while it was a difficult period in my life, I can now laugh about it.
• How has the play evolved now that you are rolling it out at the Nuyorican Poets Café and why is it important to perform it there? It’s evolved from when we first opened. A lot has happened since then. The original ending is different. When I first performed the show I did not come out to my dad. I decided after the first run to come out to my father and his reaction was so profound I had to rewrite the show and add it as the new ending to the one-man show.
• Plays can evolve. You first created this as a one-man show because its genesis was in a college course, but why have you continued to perform it as such and not a multi-actor production with an ensemble portraying your family? Because I wanted the ability to continue to be vulnerable on stage. I felt that for the majority of my life at that stage I was hiding my sexuality and who I was in respect to everyone and I wanted an opportunity to be as real as possible, honest and vulnerable. What better way to do it then as my mother would say, “Air your dirty laundry on stage”.
• What are your $0.10 worth of advice [Tío Louie's version of "give me your opinion, or your 'two cents'" updated for inflation] for a playwright who writes an autobiographical piece about something deeply personal and the pitfalls to avoid? I would say, be honest and remind yourself that it’s your story and no one can take that away from you. There will be some people who will disagree or get upset about the story you are telling, but remember that it’s your story and you are entitled to tell it as you see fit. The pitfall to avoid is to write the story for someone else.
Performances of José Roldán, Jr.'s Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned run March 3-5, 10-12, 17-18 and 26, 2016 at the Nuyorican Poets' Café, 236 East 3rd Street, NYC. To see showtimes and to buy tickets for the show, click here.
Check out Louis E. Perego Moreno (Tío Louie) on Facebook (here and here), Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, and LinkedIn. To follow PRIME LATINO MEDIA on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, click on the links in the above paragraph.