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John Leguizamo Returns To La Jolla Playhouse With 'Kiss My Aztec!'

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Actor John Leguizamo co-wrote "Kiss My Aztec!," a musical that uses humor to tell the story of a group of Aztecs who are leading the resistance against Spanish invaders in the 16th century.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 There is a new musical hitting the stage of the La Jolla playhouse called kiss my Aztec with humor. This production impacts the difficult time period when Europeans invaded the Aztec Empire. John Leguizamo co-wrote the musical with Tony Tacony. I sat down with John at the La Jolla playhouse. So the musical follows a group of Aztecs and leading the resistance against the Spanish invaders in the 16th century. Tell us about the characters in the group of Aztecs. Well the, the, the whole piece is about conquest and how do you make the conquest as funny as possible. So that, that was the premise. And, and th the, the humor that we found was in these rebels wanting to free themselves from Monday, European rule at the time, you know, where they were, they were being conquested and used as slaves and, and to mind gold and all this stuff. And then now I'm mining it for humor.

Speaker 1: 00:51 How do I make this accessible to people? So we're, we're in that world of a book of Mormon, you know, really Raunchy, really low brow, but at the same time, really high brow, cause we were talking about 16 hundreds and I created kind of um, kind of a, a ghetto patois. So the speaking of Elizabethan with ghetto slang at the same time. So it's like an interesting Combo, you know, I always feel like any good comedian can always bring a message through their comedy. Right. And it's a real craft. It's an art. Tell me about that. Yeah, I think the best way to get information out is to smuggle it in a joke. I think it's the best way to get people to, to want to listen to things that they don't really want to listen to. Is it game of seduction, you know, how close to the actual history did you stay in the telling of this story?

Speaker 1: 01:40 I tried, I tried to stay as accurate as I could, you know what I mean? In terms of what was going on in that period in terms of a viceroy reality and enslavement and, and all that. And then obviously we took license cause it's, it's, it's a hero. Hilarious spoof. So, you know, I'm just, I'm just gonna go for every joke and every low brow thing I can. And so why was it important to bring this to the stage? Because we're, we're is all our Latin product. I love Latin stories out Latin history. I mean it's just not anywhere. And you know, I'm going to start with the Aztecs and hopefully maybe didn't want an Incas and Mayans and we have such a rich wealth of history in American, in the world. I mean it just, it just been missing it forever and I'm kind of tired of that.

Speaker 1: 02:25 And what, and you're not, I want to talk to me about that. You're tired of it. Like do you hope that people see this play walk away and that maybe there's some legislative push to have this, I'm taught in school curriculums. I mean, what do you hope? What's the end game? Well, the, the end game is for people to see, Oh wow, Latin culture is hot. You know, it, it's something that we can all relate to and all enjoy because Latin history is American history for the most part anyway. Um, more with, with like Latin history for morons is where I really expect more legislative changes in schools include inclusion of Latin history in textbooks, curriculums, syllabuses, uh, just like, you know, when, when I found out that we're almost 20% of the population and, and almost 22% of our kids are dropping out. I, I believe it's because they can't relate. I mean, I felt that way growing up. I mean, there was no Latin people in the literature class or in history or mat anywhere. Joining me now is Tony Tacony. He covered the musical with John Leguizamo and directs the musical. He joins me now via Skype. Tony, welcome. Thank you so much, Jay. Hey, we heard John Leguizamo talking about creating a dialogue, uh, that is, uh, Elizabethan with some, uh, some ghetto slang as director of the musical, tell us what it's been like to direct your actors in this dialogue.

Speaker 2: 03:53 Well, you have to have people who are very facile with language. That's, that's a given. You can't have somebody who doesn't have the aptitude and, and the intelligence to sort of, you know, understand what the language is trying to do and to own it and to embrace it and to sort of express it with like a lot of verb. Uh, one thing I just want to say is it's not like something you can't understand. I'm not making this some sort of, you know, Arcane, you know, weird dialect that's impossible to sort of really hear. It's very easy on the ears. But one thing it does though it, it, it lifts, it lifts the comedy into a little bit of a different kind of atmosphere. It makes you listen in a bit of a new way. It's also funny if that's the whole point is it's, it's trying to place you in period. Like, so you're watching a quote unquote period piece, but you're super aware that you're hearing now

Speaker 1: 04:47 [inaudible] and there's a wide range of music that's part of the piece. Talk to us about that.

Speaker 2: 04:51 Oh yeah. It's a really a mixed tape kind of approaches. It's a, it's a sort of a beautiful, like our culture. I mean, our culture is, is, uh, is a wonderful celebration of every kind of polyglot and culture out there. And so we've decided to sort of, you know, embrace that. And, uh, and so it moves from everything from Madang in salsa, you know, to Gospel Music, you know, uh, to rock and roll to at [inaudible]. There's just a lot of different kinds of music up there.

Speaker 1: 05:21 And Tony, what do you hope audiences take away from this musical?

Speaker 2: 05:24 Cool. I hope they feel some joy. I hope to feel some, some hope. I mean, this is, we live, you know, we're living in times where we're kind of bombarded with a lot of darkness and I feel like we need to, you know, empower ourselves and, and, and remember the, our capacity as, as human beings to both, uh, enjoy life, celebrate life, change our lives and make it better.

Speaker 1: 05:47 I've been speaking to Tony, two county, the director and co-writer of kiss my ass tech. Thank you so much Tony. Sure a question. Thank you. Kiss. My ass tech runs through October 13th

Speaker 3: 05:58 at the La Jolla playhouse.

Speaker 4: 06:16 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 06:22 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.