I first met Rafael Agustin when I was producing Latinologues with Rick Najera two years ago. Out of our entire cast of actors he was the only one with no real film credits. Nevertheless, Rick insisted on using him because of this little show called N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK that he had seen, which Rafael co-wrote and co-starred in. The guy was very polite and a very hard-working ‘«Ű typical of a Latino immigrant who has spent 14 years of his life in the United States as an undocumented immigrant.
Rick and I decided to bring him on board when we got hired on to write for a Latino-based entertainment website. The guy was a great comedic writer ‘«Ű not typical of a Latino immigrant who has spent 14 years of his life in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Later that year, I found myself producing the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival with him. As the Festival Manager, he was a workhorse: always the first to arrive and the last to leave the office.
Rafael and I continued to collaborate. But in between projects he would always leave months at a time on tour with N*W*C. This little show with this offensive title always kept him busy. He would go from one of our projects to touring and back again, so on and so on. (I constantly remind him to take a break from his work routine.)
Now I find myself working with Rafael full time. He, Rick and I have established a Latino-based creative company where we work on developing Latino films. But still, despite all the work that we do, Rafael always goes back to N*W*C. Here's why‘«™
OT: Why do you insist on performing in every N*W*C show?
RA: The show is autobiographical so it's my personal story that I'm telling on stage. But the show can definitely keep going without me. I look forward to someone else telling my story someday.
RA: A well-respected Hollywood producer is trying to develop the show into a sitcom right now. So it would be pretty dumb for me to step away now.
OT: Is that your ultimate goal for N*W*C? To make a television show out of it?
RA: No. The show is a live event; it's a comedy. The LA Times says it's like the comedy of Chris Rock. So I think it's important to experience N*W*C live and with people. Laughter builds communities.
OT: What is N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK about?
RA: The show is a comedy about three friends living in modern-day America as people of color. It's that simple. The problem is that people don't consider it a play because it blends hip-hop, stand-up, prose and slam poetry. It's still theater, just a new hybrid of theater ‘«Ű the kind that's not boring.
OT: Those words are very powerful? Why that title?
RA: Because nobody would watch a show called "Ethnic Friends!" The truth is that there is a huge difference between calling people these words and having a dialogue about them. We've been called these words. These words tried to take place of our individual cultural identity. I think we have a right to address them and destroy them.
OT: What does it mean to be a Latino in LA today?
RA: It's better than being a Latino in Arizona! Or Arkansas! I've traveled the entire nation and let me tell you: there is no place like LA. The best food, art, music, fashion and women (I'm working on that Latin lover stereotype) are in LA. The culture here is so rich because of all the immigrants who bring with them a flow of ideas and information. Don't forget that China's culture and society suffered once they build their Great Wall.
OT: Thank you, brother. I wish you success on your April run of the show at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. If you succeed, we all succeed.
For more information on N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK and their upcoming run in LA on April 1-23rd at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater please go to www.NWClive.com for ticket and show information