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“Evolution of a Sonero”: A Salsa-Hip-Hop Epic Takes On Chicago

Written by on October 21, 2022

Flaco Navaja by Martin Cohen, courtesy Jay Kelly PR.

NH: When I was watching the show, I was like, “Okay, this takes… what you’re doing on stage, it takes so much crafting of that.” It’s not only the singing — which you’re exceptional at, you have a great voice — it’s the acting, but… it has this host, comedic vibe as well, because you’re able to speak to a crowd, which not a lot of people are able to do. You could be a great actor, a great singer, but to be able to have charisma with a crowd is a different thing. And I’m like, “Oh, no, this is someone who’s in it. Who’s done a lot, who knows their craft really, really well.”

FN: I think I started my career in the late ‘90s, 1997 or 8, as a spoken word artist. I came up in the whole spoken word scene in New York, at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and things like that. So being able to connect with an audience ended up becoming second nature, because of all those years of just having a microphone and speaking directly to people… 

My training came from doing it. I didn’t have to unlearn a lot of stuff that people in conservatories… that they have to do. I kind of… this is just, it is what it is. It’s what I do. Throughout the years, that kind of has developed… to get me to the place where I am now, where I’m able to put together a skill set that has been kind of cultivated and incubated for almost 25 years. I started at a young age, and kind of just my entire adult life has been kind of played out on stages, I feel

NH: I was also extremely jealous. Because you sing, you act, you dance… you’re not full-on doing choreo, but you’re moving. And I’m like, “Come on, is there something you’re bad at? I can’t get one talent! And he has like 10 talents.”

FN: I can’t juggle!

NH: I was just like, “Man… you’re extremely talented.” And so, this weekend is the closing weekend for the show. Are you guys sad? Are you sad it’s ending? You want it to go on forever?

MG: It’s always a conflicting feeling for me, because I’m like, “Oh, man…” You bring together people and you watch them grow together. You watch them have moments together. And then it has to end at some point. And, at the same time, I miss my weekends.

FN: We were just talking about it. 

NH: It’s always that struggle!

FN: I’m tired!

MG: Yeah, like, Flaco needs a vacation.

FN: Oh, man.

Flaco Navaja during a performance of “Evolution of a Sonero” by Victoria Sanders, courtesy Jay Kelly PR.

NH: How do people get tickets? What are the showtimes? Because, again, everyone kind of needs to go and experience this.

MG: I agree with you, and, right now, I have to say there’s probably five tickets left for the entire weekend. 

NH: Oh, wow. Okay, you’ll have to jump on ‘em fast! 

MG: Yes, yes. So we’re at Urbantheaterchicago.org — theater spelled “-er.” And that’s where you can get tickets. You can also just Google the show, “Evolution of A Sonero.” And that should come up to grab tickets, but we are definitely… like, people are tagging us. We were just talking about that on the ride over…

NH: Are people harassing you? 

MG: They’re tagging, like, “Hey, is anybody selling two tickets? Hey, anybody, I got to see this show!” And it’s lovely, it’s nice, it’s well-received. And I’m also like, “Man, we told y’all.”

NH: We told you guys to get these earlier! Are you guys planning to work together in the future? Because it sounds like you guys really enjoy working together.

MG: I hope so, that’s my wish. I don’t know about Flaco, I don’t want to put him on the spot. Be like, “You better say yes.”

NH: He’s looking at his calendar, he’s like, “Uhhh, I’m booked until…”

MG: “I’m busy.”

FN: “I’m booked indefinitely.” No, I would love to. Like I said before, this has been a wonderful experience. It’s been cool to trust and feel trusted. It’s been cool to feel supported and seen. And not just, for lack of better words, used… 

This experience has been very… I’ve felt nurtured throughout this time, working on this piece. I’ve felt safe and protected. That’s very important, especially when you’re doing something that you wrote, that’s something about your own life, it’s very personal. And, in this very transitional… and vulnerable time in my life. I was like a raw nerve… and to be treated with the level of respect and care has not been missed on me.

Flaco Navaja by Martin Cohen, courtesy Jay Kelly PR.

NH: I don’t know, there’s only five tickets available, allegedly. So if you can’t get any… but this is definitely something I feel like everyone needs to experience. And, again, because I’ve had such a hard time trying to relay exactly how important this is and how beautiful of a show it is. And, again, if you want to check it out, Urbantheaterchicago.org is where you can go for more details. Anything else you guys want to mention before we end the interview?

MG: No, just my gratitude to Flaco. Thank you.Honestly, it was a marvelous experience for me, and not every experience is like that. So I do feel really lucky to be a part of it and to be a part of the evolution of this work.

FN: Thank you. Yeah, same. Yeah, you can check me out on social media @FlacoNavaja Instagram and Facebook. I have a single out on Spotify that I released last year. Please check it out. Share it. And, yeah, thank you for having us.

MG: Thank you, Nudia, so much.


Learn more about “Evolution of a Sonero” on UrbanTheater Company’s website, and find more information on Destinos on the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance website.

Interview and audio production by Nudia Hernandez

Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca

Transcript and editing for length and clarity by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca

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