Category Archives: Theater

At the theater: “Electricidad” and “In the Heights”

“At the Theater” is a feature in which I check out plays by Latino writers. The article is intended to be a look at the author’s work and not a review of the theatrical production – so no comments about acting, lighting or staging. I saw the Fort Worth-based Artes de la Rosa’s production of the play Electricidad and a national tour production of In the Heights.

Life in the barrio has been a constant theme in Latino literature – and it’s the setting of two powerful, and very different, plays that have received nationwide attention and are now showing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad, the barrio is at its rawest, filled with gangsters and cholos who can’t escape their ‘hood. Electricidad is a young woman who sits outside her home, protecting the body of her murdered father. Based on the Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Electra, a trio of neighborhood women serve as the Greek chorus while Electricidad deals with her mother, sister and others. Depending on your point of view, the play shows barrio life at its most realistic or it perpetuates the worst stereotypes of Latinos.

By contrast, In the Heights is so joyful, one could think it takes place on another planet. The play actually takes place near a bodega in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The story by Quiara Alegría Hudes (she also wrote 26 Miles) depicts the lives of its residents, who break into upbeat songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. At the end of the show, you wished you lived in this neighborhood where everyone is your friend and every problem has a solution. The show deservedly won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

About the plays: If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can see excellent productions of these plays until March 25. Electricidad is produced by the Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts at the Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth. For tickets, click here. In the Heights, which is on a national tour until June, is playing at the Winspear Opera House, part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, in Dallas. For tickets, click here.

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At the theater: Quiara Alegria Hudes’s “26 Miles”

DeAnna Gonzales and Georgia Marshelle Phillips played Beatriz and Olivia in the 26 Miles production by Artes de la Rosa of Fort Worth. They were fantastic. (Photo courtesy Adam Adolfo.)

“At the Theater” is a new feature in which I will check out plays by Latino authors. The article is intended to be a look at the author’s work and not a review of the theatrical production – so no comments about acting, lighting or staging. I saw the Fort Worth-based Artes de la Rosa’s production of the play.

Quiara Alegria Hudes knows how to make a heart laugh – and then break it to pieces.

Audiences who see 26 Miles will experience those emotions when they see her play, which was first performed in 2008 and has been produced all around the country. In fact, two Dallas-Fort Worth theater companies put on the play within weeks of each other this month.

26 Miles tells the story of Beatriz, a temperamental Cuban secretary living in Philadelphia, and her troubled daughter, Olivia, 15, who has lived with her white father in suburbia since she was six years old. On the spur of the moment, Beatriz kidnaps Olivia and they take a road trip together.

Along the way, Beatriz teaches her daughter five words in Spanish a day. Olivia reveals her dreams and fears – mostly to the audience, sometimes to her mother – in her writings. They both must deal with the men they left behind – Beatriz’s husband, Manual; Olivia’s father, Aaron – through awkward phone calls and messages.

The road trip is a bit of a cliché. It’s been used in countless plays, movies and books as a metaphor for life. And the characters are stereotypes – Beatriz is the emotional Latina; Olivia is the typical moody teenager. But Hudes brings up touchy subjects – bullying, cultural identity and marital woes – in a natural, not contrived, manner and the dialogue sounds like everyday conversation. The well-paced play brings plenty of laughs, which makes the climax so much more dramatic.

There’s a reason why 26 Miles has been produced so frequently – it packs a great deal of emotion and life in 90 minutes.

More about Quiara Alegría Hudes:

Hudes, who is half-Puerto Rican, is also the playwright of the 2008 Tony-award winning musical In the Heights. She has also been a finalist for the Pultizer Prize Award twice, for Heights and Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue.

26 Miles: If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you still have Friday-Sunday to check the play Artes de la Rosa’s production at the Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth. Tickets cost $12 for students and seniors and $18 for adults, plus service charges.

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A Different Point of “View”

Actor Eddie Zertuche, who plays Eddie Carbone, reads the script. Photo courtesy Adam Adolfo.

Arthur Miller has been Hispanicized.

Artes de la Rosa, a performing arts organization in Fort Worth, Texas that promotes Latino culture, has reworked Miller’s A View from the Bridge by making the characters Puerto Rican and Dominican. They were Italian in the original 1955 play.

Artes de la Rosa has previously produced works from playwrights Federico Garcia Lorca, Nilo Cruz and Luis Alfaro. In December, it will present 26 Miles by Quiara Alegría Hudes, the Tony Award-winning playwright of 2008’s In the Heights.

A View from the Bridge is part of its five-year American Classics Initiative, artistic director Adam Adolfo said. The theater has already produced Cat On a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams and will tackle Eugene O’Neill later.

“The goal is to not only show the universality of the work but to explore their stories, when given Latin themes with which to experiment,” Adolfo said. “Additionally, it will provide Latino actors the opportunity to see themselves in iconic roles most usually cast with non-ethnic actors.”

Adolfo changed little in the play’s dialogue, which centers on Eddie Carbone, who helped raise – and has an intense attraction to – his niece, Catherine. But Catherine has fallen in love with a man who has arrived from the Dominican Republic illegally.

“This story explores the trials of immigration in a corrupt society and how a family becomes tangled in a web of misplaced honor and possessive desire,” Adolfo said. “These themes are central to the Hispanic culture and lend themselves to Miller’s vision.”

Adolfo hopes more Hispanics will get interested in going to the theater.

“Education and opportunity are the big driving forces behind getting more Hispanics in the audience,” he said. “There is an idea that theater is for the rich, elite, educated, or well-to-do. The truth is the theater in Elizabethan England was for the common man. In the fifth century, Grecians of every class participated and enjoyed the theatre. Theater is for everyone and we are making great strides at Arts de la Rosa at the Rose Marine Theater to make that distinction clear. Part of getting Latinos into the audience is pure programming. You have to let them see themselves on stage.”

For more information: If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can still catch A View From the Bridge until Sept. 11. The plan will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Rose Marine Theater, 1440 North Main Street, in Fort Worth. Tickets cost $12-18 and can be purchased here.

The website Theater Jones also has a terrific article about the play.

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