At this year’s Tonys, we won’t see many Latinos winning awards. But we will see the legendary Chita Rivera receive a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater. And we’ll also see John Leguizamo take home a special prize for bringing diverse stories to the stage in the last three decades. Leguizamo, who is also up for Best Play for his Latin History for Morons, has drawn on his own experiences in his work, including Sexaholix, Ghetto Klown, Spic-O-Rama, and Mambo Mouth.
When Leguizamo staged Freak – his third one-man show – in 1998, he vowed to stay away. The show was well received and captured an authentic Nuyorican experience, but it took a toll on him, both physically and emotionally. But he returned a few years later. In 2017, he debuted Latin History for Morons. Even in the playbill, he makes it clear what the show is about. “To all the immigrants who made this country,” the booklet reads, “and its original people whose spirit still run our lives unbeknownst to us.”
The show came about after learning his school had to create a school presentation n the subject of heroes. While researching Latino military heroes, he realized that it wasn’t easy to find ourselves in textbooks. And while the play is supposed to empower our community, it was also an eye-opening experience for him. “I’m being empowered by our history,” he said. “There’s no way I could feel like a second-class citizen ever again. Knowing now that we have fought in every single war this country’s ever had and that we’re the most decorated minority and ethnic group in each war – you can’t take that away from me ever again.”
The 2018 Tony Awards will take place on June 10 at 8 p.m. ET and air on CBS.