Locals create Latino musical based on book and controversial events in Arizona
November 5, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Five years ago, local Jorge Gonzalez Avila wrote the self-published novel, "La Marcha de los Rosados."
Shortly after, he saw it becoming something more.
The book itself details acts of discrimination and harsh treatment of Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona. Through interviews, Gonzalez Avila documented various accounts of people who lived through the county's hard-hitting approach to illegal immigration along the Mexico border.
And now, the book has become a musical, featuring lyrics and instrumentation by Gonzalez Avila and another Steamboat local, Caleb Campos.
"We wanted to show something that is happening now that is controversial through art to have an impact on communities everywhere," Gonzalez Avila said. "I think theater is a good form to show something like this, and Latino theater in LA is not something that is very exposed, so we wanted to create something original that hasn't been done already."
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After a year of work, "Maricopa el Musical" (Maricopa the Musical), directed by Juan Parada, will premiere Nov. 20, 21 and 22 in Los Angeles’ Margo Albert Theater.
The musical primarily focuses on the treatment of prison inmates by long-time Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — nicknamed "America's Toughest Sheriff" — who is known for forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in tents.
According to the Washington Post, in 2010 the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division opened an inquiry into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department based on alleged racism and abuse of power, in addition to allegations the sheriff had not cooperated in a federal investigation.
Gonzalez Avila — who spent time researching and interviewing inmates at the prison three years ago — said it has been a challenge to compress more than 18 years of history into the 90-minute production time.
Providing two sides of the story — both from the perspective of inmates and of law enforcement officers — Gonzalez Avila and Campos said the production offers a universal story that breaks down stereotypes.
"We want to show communities that not all Latinos are the same," Campos said. "We are trying to express ourselves through theater to show the rest of the world what is going on, and what better way to do that than through art and music."
Gonzalez Avila said he approached the local theater in Maricopa County but was turned down by the artistic director. The Margo Albert Theater and FB Productions company in Los Angeles, however, accepted their script, and over the past year, Gonzalez Avila and Campos have frequently traveled to the city to work on the production.
"Through art, you have to show that you really believe and let the audience decide their opinion," Gonzalez Avila said. "I think that, if you can get people's attention and touch on their emotions and they start thinking different, that is the reward."