Ben DeJesus, director of John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway, discusses witnessing the creative development of the Tony Award-winner’s play and its personal impact.
Premieres Friday, November 16 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Streams Saturday, November 17 at pbs.org/gperf and on PBS apps.
Latinos have been here since the very beginning Hi, Broadway Babies! I'm Elisa Lichtenbaum from Great Performances and we are here to get super jazzed for Broadway's I'm very excited because sitting right next to me is my very special guest Mr. Ben DeJesus, who is the director of the documentary 'John Leguizamo's Road to Broadway' 'John Leguizamo's Road to Broadway' is a documentary that chronicles John's latest show on Broadway which is 'Latin History for Morons' We captured his journey from inception from when he first had the inkling of the idea and finally culminating with his triumph on Broadway.
For those who may not know, what is 'Latin History for Morons' about?
Sure. Well 'Latin History for Morons' is actually tells the story of John trying to find Latino heroes for his son who was being bullied at school for his Latin heritage, so essentially it's John's search for these untold stories and heroes that have been in a sense been whitewashed from the history books [JOHN ON STAGE] How do we become so non-existent? Because if you don't see yourself represented outside of yourself you just feel invisible.
Has he gotten like lots of really emotional responses to people?
Who are like yeah I can relate and thank you for telling this story like that kind of thing?
Sure, as a Latino myself, some of the stories were really eye-opening and give you a sense of pride and make you feel like we were there we were part of history and I think that's what the audiences that came from his community really really responded to but Also, wasn't just Latinos who responded to it?
I felt like all kinds of audiences white, black, Asian...they really responded to this Idea that history is for all of us Tony Taccone was a director all the way through Broadway and He did an amazing job and this relationship that him and John have it's kind of like a big brother little brother type of a scenario 'You do? That's later. I know I know but we should we should... and the Aztecs...where is that? Where is that?
'Don't yell at me' *laughter* 'Where is it? God damn it!'
'Don't yell at me' *laughter* 'You sent me to flashbacks of my childhood' Just watching that give and take with masters of their craft Between Tony and John and John and Tony with Oscar it just was... awesome. I mean sometimes I'm in the room shooting behind a camera but I'm just I feel very privileged to be capturing and watching and witnessing and being in the room where it happened.
What do you hope that viewers will take away from the story from watching it?
I hope they'll be inspired to pursue whatever dream they have first of all regardless if it's Broadway, or otherwise but the other thing is I think that the story has an important message which is Latinos have been here since the very beginning since before the country existed we were part of the fabric of this nation and especially then the times that we are in right now I think that's a message that needs to be highlighted and amplified.
[JOHN] 'I feel like a lot of people come and see the show have been touched' [JOHN] People start weeping you know the pain of being a Latin person and having to work so hard to validate yourself in the world in this country Because there's so much negativity toward us.
So that's really kind of part of my life's work is to highlight stories of people, who have similar backgrounds to me but to share it with the world Thank you so much for being here Ben and for sharing your wonderful stories and for sharing your journey with us and thank you for all for tuning in.
You can watch 'John Leguizamo's Road to Broadway' tomorrow night at 9 p.m on Great Performances and the day after it will stream... So many ways to watch, it's so fabulous Thank you Broadway Babies, see you next time! Jazz hands!