Name: Josh Inocéncio
Hometown: Houston, TX
Current Town: Houston, TX
Affiliations: TETA, TTAO
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Gay Latino—the two are inseparable and I started using them to describe myself around the same time. Learning about queer precedents in my Mesoamerican ancestry facilitated my “coming out.” But if we want to get super specific, call me an Austro-Mexican. My grandpa was from Michoacán, a southern Mexican state, and my grandma is from Austria. They met in Linz during the aftermath of World War II before they settled in Texas. Both their ethnicities texturized my youth.
Q: Tell me about Purple Eyes.
A: Purple Eyes is an ancestral auto/biography where I investigate my identity as a gay Chicano amid a machismo cultural heritage here in Houston. The play is a solo show with four chapters that trace passages of masculinity through four generations of Inocencio men, from my great-grandpa Jésus, to my grandpa José, to my dad Joel, and, finally, to me. After a workshop production in Tallahassee where I was a graduate student at Florida State, I’m seeking to tour the play across Texas to universities, cultural centers, and theatres—and hopefully even beyond Texas someday. For more information, check out the website.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: While editing and rehearsing Purple Eyes last year, I decided to expand the piece into a solo trilogy with a play on each of my three ethnicities. I’m currently writing the second play, The Little Edelweiss; or, An Immigrant’s Fairytale, which follows my Great-Uncle’s journey from Austria to the United States through the lens of the fantasy stories my grandma read as a child. The third and final play is called Chocolate Gravy and White Jesus, and I can’t say much on that other than it will cover my mother’s Kentucky roots and it will take place in the holler. Each play will confront collisions between ethnicity and sexuality.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: As far as the craft, my Master’s program is where my playwriting emerged. I went through a Theatre Studies program, which is mostly academic, but through studying playwrights in Latina/o theatre, African-American theatre, and LGBT theatre, I felt more empowered to begin writing my own stories.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Virginia Grise’s blu and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue inspired me to start writing. The solo writers/performers who have had the profoundest effect on my current work are John Leguizamo (Freak) and Luis Alfaro (Downtown). During graduate school, my thesis mentor Dr. Nia Witherspoon really urged me to write and she created a space in her classrooms where students could exercise their creative voices. In one of her courses, I staged early scenes from Purple Eyes.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Just write. You have a story, and it doesn’t need to wait. Even if you don’t initially intend to share it, just start writing. Don’t be fearful of the page. I went through so many drafts of Purple Eyes before I was ready to let anyone read the play. But save everything you write! I have every single draft of Purple Eyes; I’ve deleted nothing.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m a freelance writer at OutSmart Magazine, a local LGBT publication in Houston, where I write articles on politics and popular culture. I’m very passionate about teaching and theatre education. I taught introduction to theatre for majors and non-majors at Florida State as a TA, I just got certified as an adjudicator for UIL here in Texas, and I also offer writing and history workshops for high school and college students. I also enjoy traveling and whether it’s international journeys or road-trips here in the States, I draw a lot of artistic inspiration from travel.
***For more on Josh Inocéncio, see:
- Purple Eyes
- “Going Solo: Self-Producing Purple Eyes” – Josh Inocéncio (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “Queering Machismo from Michoacán to Montrose: Purple Eyes by Josh Inocéncio” – Trevor Boffone (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “Mixing the Culture Pot: Growing Up Gay and Austro-Mexican in Houston” – Josh Inocéncio (Out Smart Magazine)
- Check out Josh’s writing at Out Smart Magazine
- “Panza Chusmology: Part one of a two part series on The Panza Monologues South Texas Book Tour” – Josh Inocéncio (The Panza Monologues Blog)
- “Purple Eyes: Queer Latino Playwright Josh Inocéncio Brings His One-Man Show to UH” – Donalevan Maines (Out Smart Magazine)