Thursday, April 23, 2015
Although I was unfortunately unable to attend Dan's presentation at the QScholars Symposium, Urquijo-Ruiz's article, Beyond the Comfort Zone: Dan Guerrero's ¡Gaytino!, was an incredibly fun, inspiring chapter to read and helped me to better understand what a queer performance is all about! This is entirely new to me, as I have never before heard of Dan Guerrero or of his performance, ¡Gaytino!. I enjoyed reading the part when Dan, after moving to New York, had a brief, heterosexual, experimental relationship and realized being with a woman was definitely not for him. Sharing such a "normative" encounter with the audience and "queering" it, meaning the heteronormativity, is a brilliant idea. Most likely, not all the members of his audiences identify as queer so I think that incorporating a "straight experience" and playing on it to make it queer and relatable to the rest of the audience is wonderful. It was interesting to read how Dan describes having to be alert all the time, so much that it comes as second nature. I am unable to relate to this feeling, as I am in the majority of the heterosexual population, but reading his experience allows me to better understand the powerful emotions and deep experiences which many people must endure throughout society and life. When Dan is extremely conscious of homophobia and fears being judged, having had lived in discomfort, silence, and isolation back at home, he ventures to Fire Island. Here, he feels accepted. Everything finally changes and he feels more at ease, at home. He feels he can better accept his queerness. but now he must address and confront his ethnic identity. Another fascinating part to read was how Dan's close friend, Charles, decided to change his name back to Carlos, after becoming a well-known artist. It's beautiful to see someone feel completely comfortable in their skin, at ease with their true identity. This is a major aspect of Urquijo-Ruiz's definition of stepping further into the queer zone of comfort. I wonder how different his life, as well as the performance, would have been if social class was mentioned in the play. One of my questions for Dan would be how his experience differed from from his friends financially. He was given the opportunity to create a whole new life on the other side of the country, and many people are not given that freedom. I wonder how his emotional and social life would have been if he stayed with his family in Los Angeles. It was terrific to see that after making a closely-knit, always expanding familia circle with the Zoot Suit and Chicano cast, Dan was able to receive acceptance and embrace his ethnicity rather than feeling isolated and disassociated from working in the white show business theater world. Finally, his "Ah-Ha!" moment arrives when he realizes he wants to be a bigger part of the change. Another essential part of the performance, which I strongly agree with Urquijo-Ruiz, is the discussion about HIV/AIDS. So many people lost friends, family members, partners, coworkers, and loved ones-all from this horrendous illness. Something which has claimed the lives of countless members of society, especially people of color, is an unavoidable topic and very necessary component in a queer performance. I am aware that HIV/AIDS was not widely discussed or studied back in the 80s and 90s, but I was surprised to read that HIV/AIDS was only publicly spoken about/acknowledged through productions like ¡Gaytino!. Because ¡Gaytino! was first performed back in 2004, which was not too long ago, so it is surprising to me that this is still so new to the community. I appreciate how Dan accomplishes his performance even more by turning the audience into community activists, by educating them and making it so that everyone, queer or not, is able to relate to his experience as a whole. I'd like to know how lesbian Latinas relate to his piece too.