Jim Walsh “Listened to His Call” with the Romero Theater Troupe
by Rodger Hara
James Patrick (“Jim”) Walsh, PhD, coauthor of Irish Denver with Tom Noel and Dennis Gallahger and author of Michael Mooney and the Leadville Irish: Respectability and Resistance 10,200 feet, 1875-1900 for his Doctoral thesis, Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Denver in Irish American History and Community Theater and Organizing has long used theater to bring history to life for his students. His love of history and theater led him to found the Romero Theater Troupe ten years ago with a mission to “…bring to light the dignity and resilience of marginalized people through theater.” Last January, he gave a presentation at an Irish Studies conference in Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland about how the Romero Troupe’s work is reminiscent of the long history of theater in Ireland used as a tool of resistance
The Romero Theater Troupe was recently honored by the National Education Association with the presentation of its Cesar Chavez Human and Civil rights Award. An all-volunteer “organic” community theater collective with a floating membership between 70 and 200 members ranging in age from their teens to their 90’s, the Troupe was nominated for the award by the Colorado Education Association for its work in support of the protests staged by teachers and students in Jefferson County in 2014.
In an interview with the UCD alumni magazine, Jim was asked for his reaction to receiving the award and said: “We’re thrilled! It feels great to have our work recognized nationally, particularly by the NEA. What we do is always about freedom to educate and truly teach, so to be recognized by teachers is even more rewarding.”
In response to a question on how his work with the Troupe has affected his work as an academic and a teacher, he replied: “I was asked to join the political science department largely because the department greatly values the Romero Troupe, the mission of our work and the values behind it. I teach courses about empowerment, community organizing, social movements, labor, immigration and it’s exactly related to what I do with the Troupe. I’ll never be that academic who publishes numerous articles in academic journals, but I’ll be talking about pedagogy through theater, I’ll be talking about community organizing and social change through theater. I had to let go of that traditional ideal of what an academic is and embrace the academic that I am. I’m so fortunate to be in a department that’s celebrating it.”
When asked to sum up his last ten years with the Troupe, his reply was “ When you’re called, listen.”