1. FILM: John Leguizamo, Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography (view in class)
2. READ: Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire, “Gonzalez – HoE Colombians” (PDF)
3. PRESENTATION: Carlos A. Restrepo & Emily Van Buren
John Leguizamo’s Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography
- Show ran on Broadway between 1996-1997; in 1998 it was directed by Spike Lee for HBO
- Traces Leguizamo’s life from birth to the beginnings of his acting career
- Show highlights his traumatic experiences that make him feel like a “freak”
- Play (monologue) is divided into 19 scenes
- Key (male) characters: his father (Fausto), his uncle Sanny, and himself
- How is Fausto’s yelling paralleled with city noise?
- How does Leguizamo describe his birth?
- What is the relationship between the Leguizamos and authority figures? (doctor, US Customs, the police)
- A very specific understanding of what it means to be “manly” is established shortly into the play. What are the messages John receives for not adhering to these “ideals”? Who gives him these messages?
- What could the everyday domestic items represent in the scene where John recounts his father’s television?
- Explain the “third world logic” that John’s father follows regarding his television. How is this related to the masculinity ideals presented? Are these ideals exclusive to the “third world”?
- How does Fausto discipline his sons?
- When does Fausto show affection towards John? How does this interaction once again reinforce a specific form of masculinity?
- What is Fausto’s secret scheme?
- How does John first experience sexuality? How does his father address it? How does he discuss it with is group of friends?
- Describe John’s experience in New England.
- What does John learn from his other relatives about masculinity (e.g., his grandmothers, his uncle Sanny, his aunt Anissette)?
- His relationship with his uncle Sanny is particularly important to his understanding of “masculinity.” In the play, this act is entitled “Surrogate Moms.” What is the importance of both the title and his uncle Sanny is contrast to John’s father?
- The play presents John’s rite of passage into manhood. What are some rite of passages in our society, in your specific culture? Are rites of passage always gendered? In John’s case, what do they reveal about Latino masculinity?
- What is the relationship between the title of the performance with the masculinities that Leguizamo is presenting? How is “freak” used in a similar way to the word “queer” ?
Remember these are only questions to get you started. Please feel free to share any other themes and topics that stood out to you from Leguizamo’s performance.