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Josue Ivan Prieto is UNC student by day, "Asher Lev" by night

October 24, 2018


Terry Frei 


 Josue Ivan Prieto in the University of Northern Colorado’s Langworthy Theatre this week. He has been in shows at UNC, but now is starring in the Cherry Creek Theatre’s “My Name is Asher Lev” in Denver. (Joshua Polson.) 

He wasn’t hard to pick out as he waited in the University of Northern Colorado’s Frasier Hall the other day.

Among the UNC students between classes in the bustling lobby of the Langworthy Theatre, Josue Ivan Prieto was the one who looked 14.

Actually, he’s 22.

This was a quiet day for him.


 Josue Ivan Prieto is at home in the theatre, whether in Greeley or Denver. Here, he’s in UNC’s  Langworthy Theatre on a school day.  (Joshua Polson)

For nearly the entire first three weeks of October, Prieto drove from Greeley to Denver six days per week to exhaustively rehearse in the evenings as the title character in the Cherry Creek Theatre’s stage production of “My Name is Asher Lev.”

It was attend school by day, learn and refine a very demanding professional role by night.

Adapted by Aaron Posner, “My Name is Asher Lev” is based on the acclaimed 1972 novel by Chaim Potok. When it played an off-Broadway run at the Westside Theatre in 2012, it won the Outer Critics Circle Award as Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play.

There are only three cast members in the play, and as Prieto plays a young Hasidic Jew in 1950s Brooklyn, he is on the stage every second of the production.

A senior in UNC’s renowned theater program — he’s on the verge of receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting — Prieto was in the featured comedic role as Steve in UNC’s “She Kills Monsters” through September. “He was a crowd favorite, then he just died over and over and over,” Prieto said. “It’s like he’s the butt of a joke.”


 Josue Ivan Prieto onstage in “My Name is Asher Lev,” between Christy Kruzick, as his mother, and Josh Levy, as his father. (Cherry Creek Theatre photo by Olga Lopez.)

About eight seconds after that final curtain, he turned his attention to “My Name is Asher Lev.” He auditioned for the role in May and shortly thereafter got the role.

“I had to pre-emptively select my classes this semester with time, because it would take me an hour and 20 minutes to get down there for three hours of rehearsals,” he said.

The other two cast members are veteran professionals Christy Kruzick and Josh Levy.

“It was very intimidating,” Prieto said. “I came in saying, ‘I can do it. I have the moxie. I’ll put the work in and let’s do it.’ But when you’re there the first day, and you have these two that have actually done it in professional productions … Christy and Josh are great actors and I’m about to be coming out of college. Oh, man, its super-intimidating.”

 If you go

 Cherry Creek Theatre’s “My Name is Asher Lev,” a play by Aaron Posner, based on the novel by Chaim Potok

 Thursday, Oct 25, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.; Thursday. Nov. 1 (7 p.m.); Saturday, Nov. 3 (7:30 p.m.); Sunday, Nov. 4 (7 p.m.); Thursday, Nov. 8 (7 p.m.); Saturday, Nov. 10 (7:30 p.m.); Sunday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.).

Mizel Arts and Culture Center Pluss Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia Street, Denver

Web site: cherrycreektheatre.org

Directed by Bernie Cardell.

On Opening Night last week, Prieto soaked in the applause.

“Honestly, it felt relieving,” he said. “It was great, it was wonderful, it was a sense of pride. It was a job well done. Then I was thinking, ‘We have three more weeks … and I’ve come a long way.’ ”

Prieto was born in Mexico — he’s completely bilingual — and moved to Aurora with his family as a toddler. His father is a professional photographer, and Prieto has dabbled in that, too. He graduated from Aurora’s Grandview High in 2014 and auditioned for UNC’s theater program … and wasn’t accepted. Not the first time.

After that, he didn’t enroll anywhere, instead taking non-academic acting classes, including an intensive week-long workshop in Denver with Broadway icon Betty Buckley.  “With her, I’d say the seeds were starting to be planted about what I learned here — to trust myself, learn habits, release tension,” he said.

Accepted after his second UNC audition, he plowed ahead.

“I’d prefer to fail and then get better and then try it again,” he said. “When you enter the program here, there are so many talented people. So many. Sometimes it’s hard to find your niche, your type, where exactly you fall.”

His UNC experiences and the youthful appearance that matched what the Cherry Creek Theatre was looking for led to the “My Name is Asher Lev” role, where he also is working for director Bernie Cardell and artistic producer Susie Snodgrass.

“They’re just great people, wonderful to work with,” he said. “There were times when it showed that I was new at this and they looked past that to where it was like, ‘OK, we get where you’re coming from,’ but also, ‘We have to do this work.’ They never really told me that directly, but that was the environment we were working in.”

When the casting was announced, Cardell said of Prieto: “Josue brought a compelling combination of raw energy and emotional maturity. I am really jazzed to introduce him to Denver audiences because they will definitely be seeing him again and again.”

He’ll always have UNC in his Playbill bio.


Josue Ivan Prieto and Christy Kruzick (Cherry Creek Theatre photo by Olga Lopez.)