Harrisburg Stagecraft, Part 2

Miguel Gonzales, Arts Volunteer and Actor

by M. Diane McCormick, Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler

“Theater is universal,” says Miguel Gonzales. So, when he moved from Pittsburgh to Central Pennsylvania, he dove right into the scene.

“You’re always going to be scared going somewhere new, but you’re going to find how comfortable it is,” he says. “You’re going to find your niche. Everybody feels like an outsider until you’re not anymore.”

That was around 2007, when Gonzales and his partner – now his husband, attorney Adam Britcher – moved to Britcher’s native Perry County. Before long, he was balancing dual roles – actor playing iconic roles on local stages and passionate volunteer for the arts, literacy and his church.

Growing up in a musical household in San Antonio, Gonzales learned operatic tunes from his grandmother, an opera singer in Mexico. Gradually, he switched interests to musical theater, because “I don’t like not knowing what I’m singing,” he says now.

In his first local appearance, he sang the moving “All Good Gifts” in the ensemble of Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg’s Godspell. He jumped at the chance to play Che Guevara when Oyster Mill Playhouse announced auditions for Evita.

“I wanted to bite my teeth into it,” he says. “I could actually sing it like a real Latino could sing it because I speak Spanish.”

Coming to Central Pennsylvania as “Miguel Gonzales in a roomful of Smiths” hasn’t subjected him to any discrimination, Gonzales says. In casting, “most directors are blind to things like that. They’re looking for that person who’s going to be the right fit.”

Playing the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar, another Andrew Lloyd Webber show, Gonzales struggled to reconcile his passion for serving the community, inspired by an influential aunt and uncle, with Webber’s Jesus, who advises followers to appreciate their own blessings before helping others.

“Let me tell the story,” Gonzales prayed. “Let me tell your story.”

“You just want to do the right thing,” he says. “My husband and I are extremely blessed in our lives. We have parents who provided for us and helped us become the kind of people who want to help others. Whether you call that good Christian values or whatever, it’s just being a good person.”

As a Perry County Council of the Arts board member, Gonzales sometimes holds musical-theater audition workshops. “If we help one kid, that’s great, because you don’t know what that one kid is going to accomplish,” he says.

A bit of an arts wonk, he also reviews grant applications for a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts program, scrutinizing “this huge binder of applications” to ensure that applicants’ outreach efforts reach their intended targets.

With his passion for raising funds for the Perry County Literacy Council, he argues that getting people off public assistance boosts the local economy. “Let’s take our conservative values and put it to good use,” he tells potential donors.

Still, in all this, theater is “always there,” Gonzales says. “It’s always there. Even when I’m at home doing the dishes, I’m singing the songs on my playlist.”