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John Leguizamo in his one-man show, Latin History for Morons.

Class is Now in Session

Things to Do in Connecticut in June

In John Leguizamo’s latest solo show, Latin History for Morons, the actor-writer takes a hard look at how Latin culture has been ignored, misrepresented and misappropriated over the decades.

Leguizamo’s dilemma as a supportive-yet-clueless parent happens when his teenage son is faced with the belittling of his heritage by a school bully who brags about his ancestors while Leguizamo’s son is at a loss to point out accomplishments of his. His son’s school assignment sends Leguizamo off on his own journey of cultural discovery — as he joyously, hilariously and even touchingly brings the audience along with him.

“I felt many emotions,” Leguizamo says of starting research for the satirical show, which makes its Connecticut bow June 30 at The Bushnell in Hartford. “I was so overjoyed to see our contributions finally, but it also sort of depressed me that it wasn’t out there for others to see. Then I was angry that this information was kept from me.”

It’s not only that Latin history is not often taught in schools, “but it’s even prohibited from being taught in Arizona and parts of Texas. It’s interesting how people are afraid to point out our contributions to this country.”

The most interesting revelation he discovered?

“That 10,000 of us fought in the American Revolution,” he says. “That’s 10,000 Latin patriots out of 80,000 — one in eight. We had generals, officers and, of course, soldiers, but you never hear about that. There were Cuban women in Virginia who sold their jewelry and their furnishings to help feed the patriots. We, too, have sons and daughters of the American Revolution.”

bushnell.org

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Storrs native Stephen Brine in Cirque du Soleil's Luzia, coming to Hartford in June.

High-flyers in Hartford

When Cirque du Soleil comes to Connecticut this month, it will have a decidedly Mexican flavor with Luzia, which will be presented under its big tent June 19 to July 21 on Market Street in downtown Hartford.

Among the dozens of performers will be Stephen Brine, who grew up in Storrs, where he started gymnastic training in junior high school before moving on to an interest in circus arts. 

“Nothing really compares to the feeling of flying when your wrist is holding just one tether and you’re 30 feet in the air spinning around,” says Brine, 27. “That to me is a completely indescribable feeling.”

Does he ever have a calm moment in his act where he takes it all in?

“In the beginning of my act there’s a powerful moment when there’s a deep lull in music and there’s smoke all around me and I’m rising from this pool of water and [I’m thinking] ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ ”

This will be his first Cirque du Soleil performance in his home state. What might his friends from Storrs think?

“It’s a very exotic profession,” he laughs. “They’re proud of me, I guess, but it’s also, ‘Oh, that’s just Stephen doing whatever Stephen does.’ ”

cirquedusoleil.com/luzia

Photo by Alex Brenner

Nir Paldi, left, and George Mann will offer their show No Kids at the 24th International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven from June 12-14.

No Kidding

Have George Mann and Nir Paldi, partners on stage and off, come to terms with becoming parents as a gay couple?

Their personal grappling with the prospects of potential fatherhood — or not — after being together for 14 years and married for one, is the focus of No Kids, a show which will be part of this year’s 24th International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven. It will play June 12-14.

When Paldi suggested that they turn their own process about the kids question into a play for their British-based theater company Ad Infinitum, Mann’s reaction was: “Are you crazy? That’s too personal.”

“I just thought it fit in with the kind of theater we do and that there was some drama in it,” Paldi says. “I felt it would be entertaining while raising some important discussions.”

Both men related their mixed feelings to me in a Skype interview from Israel, where they were before traveling to the U.S. “I brought the question of having kids up first,” Paldi says. “It was always something I was interested in and felt we would complement each other and make very good parents.”

Says Mann: “I was not prepared for the question and I found it quite terrifying and overwhelming. For me, it was about getting over a lot of fears.”

They found out that in their struggle with the question they were not alone, and that it echoed talks that heterosexuals have as well. “So many people relate to the show in one way or another,” Paldi says. “Everyone at some point or another will be confronted by the desire — or lack of it — to have children.”

And their final decision?

“We’re not going to tell you because we don’t want to spoil the ending,” Mann says. “But I will say we have a clearer idea of what we both want and what we don’t want.”

artidea.org

Have you heard?

… The annual Connecticut Critics Circle Awards will be held on June 3 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m., is free and open to the public. It’s the only statewide event which celebrates Connecticut’s theater community.

John Waters will present his show This Filthy World: An Evening with John Waters at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford June 29. The event will include a reception, a talk by Waters and a Q&A session, a book-signing and a screening of his film Cecil B. Demented.

Len Cariou (Applause, A Little Night Music and the original title character in Sweeney Todd) will bring his show Broadway & The Bard, an Evening of Shakespeare and Song, to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre on July 14-16.

… Orchestrator-arranger-music director David Krane of Guilford will be flying to China this fall to be part of an epic stage presentation based on the Kung Fu Panda films. The big-budget live “spectacular” is filled with Tony Award-winning talent from Broadway including director Susan Stroman, costumer William Ivey Long, lighting designer Ken Billington and puppet designer Michael Curry. It opens in Macau, a leading destination resort in Asia, in December.

Chasing Rainbows, the young Judy Garland musical which played the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam three years ago, is inching closer to New York. The show will play the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, Sept. 26 to Oct. 27.

This article appeared in the June 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter here to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

Frank Rizzo has covered the arts-entertainment scene in Connecticut since disco reigned in the ’70s, including nearly 34 years writing for The Hartford Courant. Email him at FrRiz@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @ShowRiz.