Arts and Culture

Roldan’s performance recounts remarkable life story

On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 9, the Lyon’s Den hosted Jose Roldan, Jr., who performed his solo, autobiographical performance “Father Forgive Me For I Have Sinned.” The event was a collaboration between the Marshall Center, the Latino Student Association, and the Alliance in honor of National Coming Out Day.

Directed by Dante Albertie, Roldan’s former professor, “Father Forgive Me For I Have Sinned” is Roldan’s story of his upbringing in the South Bronx of New York City in a Puerto Rican family and his coming to terms with his sexuality. 

Throughout the course of the performance, Roldan introduces the audience to his memorable family members, including his sister, the self-proclaimed “freestyle queen” of the Bronx, his aunt who practices witchcraft, his cousin who is easily distracted by beautiful women, his overbearing and almost cruel father, and his patient and wise mother. 

He discusses how throughout his childhood, he was bullied by his peers for not being like other boys– for instance, he prefered academics and theatre (he was a lead in a Spanish production of “The Wizard of Oz”) over sports. He spent most of his adolescence keeping to himself and avoiding his tormentors in any way possible. 

Once he started college and met his friend Xavier, he slowly began to come to terms with the fact that he was gay. He goes on to talk about the process of coming out, the different and unexpected reactions he received, and how he ultimately came to accept himself.

The performance was highly intimate. Roldan said more than once, “We’re all family here.” He engaged the audience throughout the performance; there was never a dull moment. His story was both funny and heartwrenching.

After the show, Roldan held a Q&A, in which more of his story was revealed, including how shortly after coming out, his involvement with his church required him to go back in the closet and even marry a woman – a marriage that lasted only four years. He also talked about how his performance came to be: he originally wrote it for a class and had to perform it for his final. Since then, he has performed at multiple festivals, colleges, and off-Broadway shows and has won multiple awards.

His performance here at Wheaton was part of a larger tour of colleges in the area. An extended version of the show will soon be returning for a run in New York City.