Splintered in Three: An American Trilogy

I'm a queer Texas boy with a heart split in three. My Mexican roots in Michoacán metalworkers and warriors, my Austrian roots in Linz spell-speakers and bakers, my Appalachian roots in Kentucky moonshine makers and gospel charmers. My purpose as a cultural worker is to bridge my ancestries and nourish the memories.

With each generation preserving fewer fragments, I perform to remember. In 2015, I wrote and performed my first solo play, Purple Eyes, an ancestral auto/biography that explores growing up gay in a machismo family, and now I’m working on the second, The Little Edelweiss; or, An Immigrant’s Fairytale, which revisits my closeted Great-Uncles journey to the United States from Austria through the lens of the fantasy stories my grandma read to me as a child. The third play, Chocolate Gravy and White Jesus, will focus on my mother’s side of the family, which is mostly from rural Kentucky amid the mystic Appalachian hills. These will form a trilogy where, as with Purple Eyes, I perform as myself and as ancestral figures from each of my three backgrounds.  

To write Purple Eyes, I collected memories from family members willing to share their stories about Texas and México. I stitched them together into a performance piece where I worked through four generations of Inocéncio men, interrogating passages of masculinity, from my great-grandpa Jésus, to my grandpa José, to my dad Joel, and, finally, to me, an inheritor of their experiences and a conjuror of my own.  I’m embarking on similar journeys to write the next plays.

As a theatre artist and cultural worker, I’m crafting these stories that emerge from pockets of the United States to illuminate the narratives of immigrants who have chiseled out a mosaic of American identities. Reawakening these histories and staging encounters with ancestors, for me, is a path to redressing the homophobia, sexism, and racism that have corrupted all our lineages. Similar to Purple Eyes, I want to tour these solo plays across the country to theatres, cultural centers, and universities. Beyond performing, I’ve also begun sharing my writing process in workshops so that other individuals, from both artistic and non-artistic backgrounds, can create solo plays based on their own ancestral memories. In a society that encourages us to forget our cultural histories, remembering is an act of survival.  But revisiting our ancestors’ stories fulfills the sacred human need for making myths and discerning our purposes in the world.