Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives: Jose Mercado

#8: Jose Mercado

A Greeley native who left for schooling and a chance at the limelight in L.A., Jose Mercado returned to the state after garnering praise and awards on the stage in California. He took a job teaching theater at North High School in Denver, and his future path was set: Mercado went on to famously stage a production of the Latino classic, Zoot Suit, that lifted barrio kids up off the street and eventually even hit the big time with a performance at the Buell Theatre. He's since gone on to teach at the University of Colorado at Denver, and when he's not doing that, he's spearheaded many side-projects on the side over the years: the youth arts program Labyrinth at PlatteForum, an ongoing campaign to refurbish the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre for community use, and a private evening theater academy for adults, among other things. He's also lent a hand in bringing some of his Hollywood friends to Denver for performances, lectures and fundraisers, including Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman and Wendell Pierce.

Now, he's kicking off a new touring show, Dreaming Sin Fronteras, right back on the familiar North High stage in March. Mercado's a guy who makes things happens; read his 100CC questionnaire to find out what inspires him to keep going, no matter what.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: donnie l. betts

If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

At this point in my life it would be Salvador Dali. His irreverent, bold and unconventional style would make an ideal collaborator. I would love to direct a play that he'd design. I love working with designers who are talented and bring their own ideas to the table. I have someone like that now with Alan Trumpler. As a director, I don't always know what I want, but I know what I don't want. And to surround myself with talented people I can trust makes me look good...or makes it look like I know what I'm doing.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Pope Francis. I was an altar boy for years and went to catholic school. Back then I thought I'd become a priest. I never thought I'd see the day where a Latino would become pope, let alone one who was a bouncer before he became a priest. He's shaking up the Vatican. Can't wait for him to cause more trembles.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Selfies. Duckfaces. Duckface Selfies.

What's your day job?

Teaching. I've been doing it for the last ten years. If you would have told me ten years ago I'd still be doing it I would have said you were fucking nuts. I've been a professor at the University of Colorado Denver for the last six years. I'm excited about my burgeoning private acting studio.  

Continue reading for more from Jose Mercado. A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

I'd open a Brooklyn Academy of Music in Denver that would be a pipeline to the creatives in LA. I trained as an artist in LA but my heart is in Denver would be a cultural bridge with the music and Hollywood scene mixed with Denver's western and adventurous attitude. I dig the risks BAM takes and would want to do it here with music, opera, theater and film.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Contribute more to K-12 arts education. I have freshmen students at the university who have never been to our major cultural institutions in Denver. Colorado is at the bottom of arts education funding nationally. How do we expect them to buy a ticket at these venues if it's not ingrained at an early age?

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

It would have to be my music director Shawn King, who is the drummer for DeVotchKa. Very talented and adventurous with eclectic tastes. And brave....takes my crazy ideas and makes them happen. He's in demand to score movies, to DJ. My cool factor increases dramatically just by hanging around him.  

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I'm directing the world premier of Dreaming Sin Fronteras, an ambitious live performance of music and storytelling about immigration and undocumented youth. Grammy winning/nominated musicians share the stage with student actors. We open in Denver with plans to travel with the show in DC and LA.

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?

A young, talented and stellar ensemble of opera singers: Stephanie Ball, Joshua Zabatta, Thomas Sitzler, Ruth Carver and Greg Storken. Opera is not my thing, but they make me want to know more about it. They are part of a new generation on a mission to reinvigorate opera. I'm their acting coach.

Let's face it. Traditional audiences are dying out if we keep up doing things the same old way in theater and classical music. The Colorado Symphony is making great strides in this area. These guys have great ideas on how to attract new audiences to classical music, and  they can sing their asses off. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in an inner city classroom by day educating kids on classical music and performing at the Met at night.

Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd