By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – For the first time, the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center on May 8 will host a night of comedy entirely in Spanish. Entitled “La Gran Noche de Comedia,” the event follows on the heels of the experimental performance from the 2021 winter season, “Through the Fourth Wall,” which featured a Spanish version of the interactive escape room game.
Andrew Garcia, a long time Big Sky local and event marketing, management and production associate with the WMPAC, was instrumental in creating the Spanish version of “Through the Fourth Wall” and he is again lending a hand to plan “La Gran Noche de Comedia,” which he named.
Garcia recalled a conversation with WMPAC Executive Director John Zirkle that took place while they worked on the escape room.
“The words that he told me that have always stuck with me are, ‘The WMPAC is here for the Big Sky community and that includes everybody in the community, whether they’re Spanish speaking, English speaking or wherever they may come from,’” Garcia said.
“La Gran Noche de Comedia,” or “The Great Night of Comedy,” will be performed entirely in Spanish, bringing to the stage up-and-coming comedians Francisco Ramos and Cat Alvarado.
Ramos was born and raised in Venezuela and came to the U.S. at age 12. He’s now garnering more attention in the television industry and is currently cast in the hit Netflix show “Gentefied.”
Alvarado is a comedian and activist who covers topics ranging from parenting to relationships. She has a popular YouTube channel called “The Reel Rejects” and hosts the comedy podcast “Villains of History.”
“I’m more than sure the audience is going to love them,” said Samantha Suazo, a junior at Lone Peak High School and one of the event organizers. “They’re both very charismatic and they love doing what they do. It’s their passion.”
Other organizers include Zirkle, Garcia and Josh Perkins, owner of Justus Entertainment Group, a Bozeman-based company specializing in fundraising, pop-up shops and large-scale events.
Perkins pitched the idea of arranging an evening with Latino comedians to Zirkle who immediately pulled Garcia into the project. Rounding out the team is Suazo who started the Latino Student Union at LPHS and who is spearheading a Spanish news source for the local Spanish-speaking community called Notícías Montaña.
All four organizers emphasized the importance of the upcoming evening as a gathering point for the growing Latino community in Big Sky. Currently, approximately 8 percent of the Big Sky population is Hispanic, according to 2019 American Community Survey data on Census Reporter.
“This year in particular has been a year of reflection for us about what type of programming we want to do and who’s in our audience and who’s in our community,” said Zirkle, adding that the idea permeating the entire project is about recognizing that Spanish speakers live in the Big Sky community, and that it’s important for WMPAC to offer diverse programming.
“I’m very happy to be a part of it and I’m glad that we’re being recognized,” Garcia said, “not just as someone who lives in Big Sky but as being part of what is Big Sky.”
Suazo commended Perkins and Zirkle for pitching the idea and starting a larger conversation. “It shows that there are people out there who are trying to create bridges for both communities so that we can become culturally aware that we are here,” Suazo said.
To make this night a reality, each organizer is chipping in with their unique skill set.
Zirkle provides WMPAC as an events space while helping secure funding and support marketing efforts. Perkins is using his professional connections to network and contract with the two comedians. Garcia came up with the name for the show and is helping with tickets, which are available at El Mercadito, his family’s Mexican market located in Four Corners. Suazo has supported marketing efforts and gone door-to-door to inform people and sell tickets.
“I think it’s so important to do something like this for the Latino community because it brings to them that feeling of home and to feel appreciated and to feel like we don’t have to be divided,” Suazo said.
Perkins said the idea sparked from his experience working on shows and events at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club and the Yellowstone Club. When he arrived to set up a show, he noticed a large Latino community behind the scenes at those establishments.
“I thought it’d be dope if we built something for them, something to acknowledge them and let them know we appreciate them being in the community,” Perkins said. “Whether it’s a 99.9 percent Caucasian population, we can still do something for that 0.1 percent of people one time a year to let them know that we’re here with them too, and we appreciate their efforts to keep the Big Sky community afloat.”
To kick off the evening, a DJ will warm up the audience. There will be a hybrid in-person/virtual show at 6 p.m. and another live show at 8 p.m.
According to Zirkle, the evening won’t be a one-off and organizers are thinking of more ways to make WMPAC a space for everyone in the community, English and Spanish speakers alike.
“I’m happy that we got this going and I’m hoping that this leads to us doing more fun things,” Perkins said. “We’ve already been kicking up ideas about making a full night of entertainment where it’s not just comedy, but we mix it up and bring a bunch of different tangibles, a bunch of different lanes of entertainment and make it a yearly thing.”
As Big Sky grows, so does the Latino population and the culture that’s becoming more embedded in the wider Montana community.
Garcia recalled that when he first moved to Montana from Mexico, he couldn’t find tortillas anywhere.
“The more we try, the more we can help make different cultures feel comfortable around our community and feel more a part of everywhere in Montana,” he said.
The creation of the all-Spanish comedy night and WMPAC’s efforts to create a gathering point for the Latino community will continue, organizers say. Meanwhile, Suazo is working hard in the Big Sky community through her efforts with the Latino Student Union and coverage of the local Latino community to bring visibility to what she calls “my beautiful culture.”