BWW Interviews: Storyteller David Gonzalez Talks Career, Upcoming World Premiere at Kennedy Center
David Gonzalez is the proud recipient of the 2011 International Performing Arts for Youth "Lifetime Achievement Award for Sustained Excellence". He was also named the Joseph Campbell Foundation Fellow for 2010. Mr. Gonzalez was nominated for a 2006 Drama Desk Award for "Unique Theatrical Experience" for his production of The Frog Bride at Broadway's New Victory Theater. He has created numerous productions, including the critically acclaimed ¡Sofrito! with The Latin Legends Band, and MytholoJazz, both of which enjoyed sold-out runs at New Victory Theater.
His newest commissioned creation, Man of the House (Or: How I Tracked Down My Dad, the Spy, will be premiering at Washington DC's renowned John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 2-3, 2013 with direction from Karen Jenson. This semi-autobiographical solo piece focuses on the plight of Pablito, a young boy of Cuban/Puerto Rican heritage who searches for his long-lost father while spending a summer in Miami.
In advance of what looks like will be a show to see, Gonzalez answered a few questions from DC BroadwayWorld about the upcoming show and what inspired it, his varied career to date, and what comes next.
Jennifer Perry (JP): To date, you've had a pretty diverse and respected career consisting of writing in the theatre, opera, and poetry worlds, performing, and teaching. Did you set out to engage in all of these fields or did it happen organically? How do you decide what to work on at any given moment?
David Gonzalez (DG): My career has been a joyride of unfolding opportunities. At the root of all I do is storytelling: the simple commitment to bringing a story to stand in the imaginations and hearts of my audiences. Over time the vehicles for these stories have grown and grown - collaborations with great musicians of every stripe, visual and video artists, theater designers, opera composers, musical theater composers, directors, and on and on. Still, there is nothing more thrilling than a room full of kids sitting cross-legged on the cafeteria floor in bug-eyed wonder at a story.
JP: You've done several performing arts pieces celebrating Latin culture. Where does this interest come from and how does your own cultural background influence your creative endeavors?
DG: My mother is Nuyorican (a funky New Yorker with Puerto Rican parents) and my father was born and raised in Cuba. The tendrils of those cultures and of the Latino diaspora are touchstones for my psyche and for my art. There are lots of ways in which this plays out, but perhaps none more important than the sense of lyricism and groove that is critical to all the work I do. In the famous words of the Duke Ellington/Irving Mills song, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."
JP: Your upcoming world premiere at the Kennedy Center, "Man of the House (Or: How I Tracked Down My Dad, the Spy)," is billed as a semi-autobiographical piece. What are the key differences and similarities between your own life and Pablito's life as presented in the play and why did you choose to use your own life as one basis for the play?
DG: The good people at the Kennedy Center were interested in the idea of heritage what it is, how it is transferred, how it changes. When I thought about this notion it occurred to me that a good deal of my childhood journey was centered on connecting to my own family heritage - especially the re-discovery of my long-lost father and his Cuban culture. The story is based on true events, but given a broad and liberal interpretation so "semi-autobiographical" is the correct term.
JP: What do you want audiences to take away from ""Man of the House (Or: How I Tracked Down My Dad, the Spy)" particularly the children that see the show?
DG: Two things: first, I want kids to know that life presents challenges, that growing up means becoming an "agent" in your own world. Second - and this is not a new idea, but it does bear repeating - there are many different kinds of families. Even in divorce there is still a family.
JP: After the run of "Man of the House (Or: How I Tracked Down My Dad, the Spy)" at Kennedy Center, what's next for you?
DG: The next two months include a mid-west tour of Sleeping Beauty (in rhymed verse set to the music of Bach), a tour of The Carnival of the Animals with piano virtuoso Frederic Chiu, a tour to Spain with concerts, workshops, and an appearance at the American Embassy. I've begun work on a Moby Dick project. We shall see...
"Man of the House (Or: How I Tracked Down My Dad, the Spy)" plays at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - 2200 F St, NW in Washington, DC - on November 2-3, 2013. For tickets, call the box office at 202-467-4600 or purchase them online.
Photo Credit: Frank Veronsky