Change has come to North High School, too. The school's numbers are improving: In 2012, North claimed one of the highest rates of growth for all the traditional 9-12 high schools in DPS, and its performance rating was upgraded last year, from red to orange. The campus is now shared with a charter school, STRIVE Preperatory, as well as the North Engagement Center, which serves the area's most at-risk youth.

Like most public schools in Colorado, North is transitioning to the new Common Core standards, which stress competency in traditional subjects like language arts and math. Theater is an elective — untested and, as a performance indicator, undetectable. The Black Masque Theatre Company is active, but not the draw it once was. Athletics and music are now among the school's most popular activities.

When North's library was remodeled last year, principal Nicole Veltzé — who attended the first performance of Zoot Suit Riots in 2004 and took over as principal in 2011 — oversaw the installation of a tribute to the play, built right into the new architecture.

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.

Last fall, Veltzé hired a full-time theater teacher. This fall, the school will stage a musical.

Author's note: I first met José Mercado and the people in this story ten years ago, when I wrote Westword's cover story about Zoot Suit Riots. Like everyone else who shared in the strange, creative alchemy of that experience, I was changed by Zoot Suit. In the years that followed, I moved back to north Denver and got involved with the Black Masque Theatre Company as a volunteer. I helped Ali, Jacquie and Elvis write One Love, and after raising money for the Scotland trip, I traveled with the group to Edinburgh. By this time, I had left Westword and, like Mercado in 2004, was processing the loss of my mother. Theater at North High helped me to heal, too, and to refine a belief that all people, especially young people, are creative and capable when given opportunities that unlock their potential. I'm not impartial to the people or events in this story: It's my story, too.

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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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