What do you get when you combine the barest of means and resources with the highest intentions and a great effort by a talented set of actors hungry to deliver quality performances? You get a standing ovation. That's exactly what happened last night after our performance of "Rumbo al Hermoso Norte," a play/dramatic reading adapted for the stage by Lucia Macias from the book "Into the Beautiful North," by Luis Alberto Urrea.
The circumstances surrounding the preparation for the performance were difficult ones. Working on a zero budget brings its own set of challenges aside from the typical ones of actually being able to get to rehearsals on time or at all. There are matters of health (I became ill during the last two weeks prior to the event and was not able to attend rehearsals). There is also the matter of each of our own responsibilities outside of the commitment to theatre. And yet, in spite of the obstacles we all were able to overcome. This is not easily achieved but only when the individual's dedication and a little luck intervene.
I want to thank Lucia and the rest of the members of Escenikos Art Club for inviting me to participate in this event. They are a group of professionals that are so passionate about their craft and so dedicated that they deserve to, and I am sure they will, achieve great things as actors and artists, and in life as well.
A band of Mexican teens is fed up with the dire conditions of insecurity in their land, so they embark on journey into the "beautiful north" to recruit an army of expatriates living in the United States to return with them to Mexico and rid their hometown of the bad guys once and for all.
That is the story of the play "Rumbo al Hermoso Norte," (translation into Spanish of the title of the book Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea) adapted for the stage by Lucia Macias. The play will be staged Friday, March 26, 2015 at the Edinburg Festiba Community Festival in Edinburg, Texas. (See the flier in the gallery of photos for details.)
Directed by Lucia Macias, founder of Escenikos Art Club, the production is a one-act play which will consist of fast-paced action, light drama, humor, and comedy as the protagonist (Nayeli) and her band of friends submit themselves to the difficult task of traveling into the U.S. through illegal means, and face dangers and hardship that test their resourcefulness, their comradery, and the very fiber of their Mexicaness. When questioned by a border patrol agent, Nayeli states: "I am here at the service of both nations," adding "...I'm not an illegal. I'm on a mission. I'm a patriot!"
I, Gabriel "Benjamins" Sanchez, will have the pleasure of playing the part of narrator/waiter/border patrol agent alongside a talented cast of actors such as Wendy Lara, Erika Garza, Ali Orozco, Judith Luna, Hortencia Castilleja, Daniela Ramos, Heriberto Leal, and Leinad Castle-tillo.
Come join us for a great time. The event is free to the public.
When you employ the mind alone to a project you get something brilliant. When you employ the heart to it you get love. But when you combine both the mind and the heart that is when the fires of art at its finest are stoked. The night of March 14, 2015 at the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center was one to remember. There, two of the most talented writers that I have ever known set the stage ablaze as they performed their poetry not from the confines of a sterile podium but as art flowing like the waters course down the river banks.
Brenda Riojas kick started the event. First impressions upon learning that she was debuting her acting/performance might induce some to lean toward a skepticism as to the quality of the show. But upon witnessing the first few minutes, the entire sold-out audience was captivated. It tends to happen when artists speak from the heart the words that were seemingly born from the mind onto the written form. Brenda took us on a journey through "La Primera Voz Que Oi/The First Voice I Heard," a play/monologue based on her book of poetry by the same title. She enacted scenes of her childhood mixed with images of historical events that predate her birth. All the way back to La Revolucion in Mexico. She spoke about her Mexican mother and gringo father, and what it was like to seek belonging in this American society while all along losing her identity by disconnecting with her Mexican roots. Then by some unspoken magic unknown to us, like the fountain of inspiration that strikes at any given moment without our intervention, the language of her mother returned to her tongue and she reconnected with it and has not let go. Brenda's ode to her mother was powerful and moving in its ability to make us connect with that which is primordial and unbreakable: family.
After a five minute break among strange faces, art pieces hung up on walls and empty wine bottles on the reception tables we were called back for the second show. Amalia Leticia Ortiz was entering the stage from within the audience. Short physical stature, hair pulled up to a bun that struggled to maintain. Dressed in loose-fit khaki pants and an oversized hooded sweater. She was unassuming and unremarkable at first glance. I must admit that I thought maybe she could have employed more thought into her wardrobe choice for her show. But then again, isn't that how artists are supposed to affect their audience? Throwing us off with contradicting images and ideas. She took to the stage and exploded into multiple characters, quickly changing costumes behind small spaces hidden by the curtain, taking swigs of her Tecate can between sketches. She transformed from the cholo with his call to conscience, to the grandma' with her diabetes dilemma and love of Big Red soda, to the battered woman seeking an escape from an abusive relationship and finding no way out, to the poet cat-called out on the streets by blind men who fail to see that she's more than female body parts, she's a mind--a universe unto herself. All these characters from her play "Otra Esa on the Public Transit" living in their parallel universes meeting in the same bus route on the San Antonio transit system .
These two shows proved their worth far beyond the "suggested" five dollar entrance contribution. These shows belong on the road, on major stages throughout the country. It is a good thing that they are here to begin with. Throughout the Valley, more and more visionaries are rising up to the occasion. The next time you know of these two exceptional creators presenting make it a priority to get out there and witness it. It is not often that brilliant minds are able to craft the messages born in their hearts and lay it all out on the stage where they pulsate with the rhythm of life. They make you not only see it as a passive observer, but feel it...live it. That is more than art imitating life; that is life singing a song to itself.
This is part of the group of people that participated in the "Dia Internacional de la Mujer" or International Woman's Day (am I saying that right?) held by the literary/arts group called "Enero Rojo Lunar" at the San Juan Memorial Library. That lady on the second seat from the left is Raquel Lopez the founder and organizer of the group events. Enero Rojo Lunar...what does it mean? I don't have a clue. But Raquel is the type of person who is talkative, sociable, welcoming if you have questions. Maybe you can ask her yourself one day.
That's me in the third tier. The one dominated by the two giants. I am the one with the light brown skin...the one with the black coat...hmm, the one with the open collar shirt...no, not the one to your right but the one on your left. I am Gabriel H. Sanchez. a.k.a. Benjamin. "Artistic" name. I was invited to this event by my friend and colleague Raquel Lopez. I got to be honest here, I am not a big fan of social events. So whenever I am invited to gigs like this one, I think long and hard. There are several reasons. One, I got two kids I have to get watched by trusted people for a couple of hours. Two, I got a butt-load of writing and other work to do like EVERY SINGLE DAY, so I much rather spend evenings working. Even on weekends. Three, maybe I'm becoming a grumpy old man...that would be cool, uh-huhu. But I have to say that I was pleased to participate in this event tonight, March 13, 2015.
I won't go into the details of who exactly read or who performed what because this was a three hour event, folks. Suffice it to say that there was poetry reading, performance poetry (not read off a sheet of paper but off the top of the head, the best), singing, dancing, artwork on display, and I think some dramatic performance (I had the occasional phone call to sneak out to answer). This was not the first of this kind of event that I have attended. But whenever I do, I never cease to be amazed at the turn out. Always a full house.
I remember holding poetry readings and having nowhere near the numbers of people coming in and still we'd be claiming a huge success when we saw more than three in the crowd. I supposed there is good reason for that. This kind of event organized by Enero Rojo Lunar is nothing like a simple poetry reading. They are so different, they're a different species of literary/art group. I recommend people checking it out. You won't regret it. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the vitality and dynamicity that the line-up of people end up creating almost as if by design. The truth is, it is the love and enthusiasm for the arts and literature that is contagious and everyone who ends up participating brings out their "A" game. Especially if you get to see me in action you know you're in for a treat. L.O.L. Yeah, I went there. I implemented the use of a generic abbreviation of the social network type. Deal with it. :p
Gabriel H. Sanchez is an author, poet, actor, editor, and publisher from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, on the border with Mexico. Gabriel is the author of "Once Upon a Bad Hombre," "The X Series," "The Martian Ones: Tales of Human Folly," and "The Fluid Chicano." You can read more about him and his other projects at gabrielhugo.com or on his Facebook page: @gabrielhugoauthor.
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