In 2011, if someone told you old Ethel Merman songs could have a part in positive social change, would you believe them?

After a fashion, that’s what Al Justiniano, artistic director of St Paul’s Teatro del Pueblo will be trying to do with Teatro’s annual Political Theater Festival, running this weekend and next. Alongside “Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers,” the festival will feature “¡Gaytino!,” a one-man show written and performed by Los Angeles-based actor and director Daniel Guererro, about growing up as a gay, Latino, baby boomer. Teatro is using a $7,000 grant from the PFund Foundation to produce the show.

But it’s exactly Guererro’s age and somewhat dated cultural references that Justiniano says will help spark a discussion of homophobia within the Twin Cities’ Latino community.

“[Guererro’s] generation is one of the very toughest in our community when it comes to homophobia,” Justiniano told TheColu.mn. Like most young people across the nation, Justiniano says he thinks young Latnios are more likely to be accepting, as they are growing up surrounded by many more positive portrayals of LGBT people than their parents.

“His father [Eduardo “Lalo” Guererro] was one of the most famous Mexican-American singers of his generation. I think he can touch boomers like that,” Justiniano said. “We’re trying to educated subtly, without lecturing.”

Justiniano says Guererro’s performance will be followed by structured discussion, where the actor himself will take part. To make sure the show won’t be preaching to an audience of LGBT-rights supporters, Justiniano says Teatro will be working through community organizations and using other approaches to make sure a wide swath of the community comes to the festival. He was inspired to put the show on, he says, by former gay, lesbian, and bisexual coworkers from Latin America who had to hide that part of their identity when going home to conservative parents and older family members.

“It breaks my heart,” he said.

Gaytino runs February 24th through 27th at St Paul’s Gremlin Theater.

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