"I haven't had the same impact in that environment," he admits. "Academia is really good at talking, and I'm really good at doing. I'm not so interested in art for superficial purposes. I'm interested in art that changes the world."

**********

As an eighteen-year-old high-school senior, months from graduation, Emily Hare had no desire to be a serious person. Not yet.

José Antonio Mercado was only going to live in Denver for a year.
Anthony Camera
José Antonio Mercado was only going to live in Denver for a year.
Alexandra Paulson has stayed afloat since Zoot Suit.
Anthony Camera
Alexandra Paulson has stayed afloat since Zoot Suit.

Things were going well for Hare. Unlike many of her peers at North who came from single-parent homes, she had a stable family life. She was well liked, pretty, involved in swimming, yearbook, photography. She was a free spirit with a full course load, including several advanced-placement classes. "I always wanted to participate in things. I didn't want to go home; I wanted to fill my time," remembers Hare. "You know, I was in high school. I just wanted to hang out with my friends, and get a passing grade in my classes, and have fun."

So Hare was wary when a young stranger took over as North's drama teacher. José Mercado was intense and demanding, and he wanted to talk about history and the role of art in preserving Latino culture. She decided to give him a chance, and landed a part in Love, Laughter & Lágrimas, the first play Mercado directed at North. The following semester, Mercado insisted that Hare try out for Zoot Suit Riots; he cast her as Alice McGrath, the play's female lead — not an ingenue, but a reporter-turned-revolutionary who fought for justice on behalf of the zoot suiters.

Alice was a demanding role, one that forced Hare to dig deep inside herself. What she found there was a genuine, innate talent.

Hare committed herself fully to Zoot Suit Riots, and to Mercado. When she wasn't on stage, she was next to him in the house, clipboard in hand, observing the action as the show's assistant director. Part of her job was to corral the group of students she'd become extremely close to over the course of the production.

"All of us who were in the play, we could be wild," she says. "Kids from that area were just so creative. We were so used to hip-hop culture. There was a tremendous flavor to that group. Technology wasn't such an influence yet. We didn't have cell phones or an iPad. Even if that stuff would have been around, our parents wouldn't have been able to afford it. Instead we entertained each other with challenges, like, 'Who can do a better handstand?' or 'How many cartwheels can Ali do with one hand?'

"The play gave us this new artistic outlet that was so important," she continues. "It gave us hope. We loved being around each other. We had a guaranteed two or three hours a day to laugh and not to cry or get yelled at. Even if we were being rowdy, there was always purpose behind it. We were always making progress."

Hare was ambivalent about going to college, but her parents were not. North's guidance counselor pointed her to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, which had programs in both photography and theater. Her work in Zoot Suit Riots boosted a high-school record that was impressive enough, at least on paper, to secure a spot.

"Honestly, I can't tell you a lick of what I learned in high school," Hare says today. "State capitals? Still don't know 'em. Math and science did not come naturally to me, like philosophical thinking and brainstorming, the creative things we explored in theater. What I remember is once getting kicked out of a class for asking questions and being inquisitive, and I remember writing a kick-ass play in drama class and having a lot of fun in the darkroom and in the theater.

"Zoot Suit Riots was a saving grace," she adds. "Without it, I wouldn't have gone to Hawaii. I would have just gone through high school with the usual kind of experience. Zoot Suit helped me realize I could really make something out of this passion."

During her freshman year at Hawaii, Hare returned to Denver to perform in the revival of Zoot Suit Riots at the Buell. "It gave a boost to my ego," she says. "I remember flying back and one of the flight attendants introduced me to the whole plane, over the loudspeaker. That was surreal. I felt like I was famous for a good little minute."

Despite early academic struggles, Hare earned a bachelor of arts in theater in 2008. She stayed in Hawaii for another year, part of a traveling troupe performing at schools. Then she moved back to Colorado, where she faced a series of unscripted setbacks. After being badly injured in a car accident, her older brother had to relearn to walk and talk, an ordeal that strained Hare's close, Roman Catholic family. She soon became involved with a man she met at a fitness club in north Denver. They married, but the contentious relationship ended in divorce two years later.

Today Hare is on a spiritual quest to define herself as an adult rather than a character.

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5 comments
Laura Naranjo
Laura Naranjo

We are elated to read a much needed and hearty reprise of Zoot Suit Riots. In this preview of spring a curtain call for a neighborhood home to so much cultural diversity and many corazones in solidarity and appreciation of the efforts community wide, of Jose Mercado and Padres Unidos, Cesar Chavez Committee, Sisters of Color, Escuela Tlatelolco. Sadly public education is still searching for millennial solutions via a post industrial age, out of date system. That resounds among the interviews of the people whose lives were transformed and whose lives continue to create progressive change. In gratitude Laura Bond is still searching and researching our Xicanismo/a. So well written and thoroughly lived. Our corazones y almas...are with the young people giving back to our communities; Elviz, Emily, Alexandra y todos con respeto, Laura Naranjo & Familia, Denver

lynnS
lynnS

Is he a Greeley Native?

Alexandra Monique Inda Escobedo
Alexandra Monique Inda Escobedo

North Denver Vikings has a great drama teacher now Megan Gillman. My son in drama and he love's it Mrs. Gillman really inspiring

 
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