by Austin Giles
Before class, John Gonzales is printing out stacks of poems by a collection of writers. After gathering all of his papers, he puts them under his arm and goes to grab a cup of coffee. On his way, he says hello to students and asks them how they’re doing. One student comments on Gonzales’s usual apparel: shorts, on a day of poor weather.
He moves at his own pace and is not easily overwhelmed. Gonzales juggles many interests with his career: director, writer, actor; he is Whatcom Community College’s own sort of renaissance man.
In school, he studied a wide variety of subjects and earned a double major at the University of Nevada/Reno, where he grew up. His subject matter is interdisciplinary studies, a hybrid of literature and history.
“I’m not a disciple of one field,” says Gonzales. His background of delving into many things serves him well in his Humanities 101 course that covers art, archeology, biological evolution, physical anthropology and religious philosophies.
Gonzales wants something very simple from his students, for them to be “responsible thinkers.” In humanities, he challenges all of his students to do a creative project and take a creative risk.
Ten years ago after a student challenged Gonzales to take that same risk, he participated in a 48 hour festival at the Idiom Theater where anybody and everybody is welcome to write or perform. “My first time on stage was after I was up all night writing my own play,” said Gonzales.
“Theater has captured my creative imagination and latched onto it,” he said and since then, Gonzales has been pursuing theater at a relentless pace and has been in over 70 full length and one act plays. He has starred in commercials, done improvisation and stand-up comedy and has written 20 of his own plays, many of which have been produced in the area.
Theater is a natural extension of literature said Gonzales. Right now he is reading a book on Shakespeare, two books on evolutionary biology and several science fiction short stories. Being such a book-worm may explain his expansive vocabulary. Or it may be because he is, as he explains, a “cruciverbalist,” (someone who is a fan of crossword puzzles).
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