Miracle at Gordon Square with Teatro Publico
By Antonio Barrios, La Prensa Correspondent
While spectacular, many thought this play, “Quand Cierras Your Eyes: When You Close tos Ojos,” to be some sort of miracle!
For the first time in Cleveland history, a local group of Latino artists were invited to create something new of their own; they were to tell their stories in their own words—“Latinos defining Latinos.” They were engaged in a series of workshops and storytelling activities at Cleveland Public Theater (CPT) and Julia de Burgos Cultural Art Center on Detroit Road in Cleveland.
A small band of professional and amateur talent came together under the guidance of CPT’s Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan and collectively created this “work in progress” play based on the adventures, stories, and events that surfaced during the workshops.
With a series of improvisations that brought out the many distinctly different tales of each member, a story was woven that incorporated the essence of the group’s tale. Some very personal, others of oral histories, retold stories and lost memories the setting of a funeral was laid down as the basis for the play.
The funeral, although the common thread, is celebrated in different ways according to the local customs and traditions of the many diverse nationalities of the cast members. Director Bobgan, with the help of Faye Hargate (the arts education staffer at CPT), recorded the truly raw moments of the improv’s and wrote the screenplay as it was being developed daily by the actors.
With the skill of the talented Director Bobgan, the hodgepodge of emotions, memories, and new realizations grew into a presentable “work in progress” that was created in a record time of 4 weeks from the first workshops to the 2 day presentation on Nov 8 & 9, 2013 at the Levine Theater of Cleveland Public Theater at the Gordon Square Art District, the heart of the recently developed art communities on the west side Cleveland.
Teatro Publico, as it is now called, was the result of a program funded by the Cleveland Foundation’s “Engaging the Future;” that is, working to support the growth of a Cleveland-based Latino theater ensemble.
The hope is that local artists will bring their own interest and projects that relate to their communities, to tell their stories their way. It will bring what is relevant to the local communities to the stage in their own fashion.
The members of the newly created Teatro Publico are: Dante Fernando Larzabal, Ernesto Luna Camargo, Letitia López, Blanca Salva, Liz González, Lorna McLain, Alejandro Rivera, Neiza Rivera, Rafaél Rivera, Pablo Santiago, and myself, Antonio Barrios.
John Shibley, of EmcArts, served as project consultant. The local community partners for this project were: the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Artistas Latinos Unidos, and Young Latino Network.
The event was presented as a major cultural event. The Artistas Latino Unidos put on a beautiful visual art exhibit in the storefront at CPT, with added live music performances and DJs and scrumptious authentic Latin food prepared by “Jibaro.” It ended in jamming dance parties on stage after the performances.
Both nights were sold out immediately—the Levine Theater was packed with standing room. Groups of children sat on stage as the seating was completely full. The surprise and joy was that the local communities of Lorain and Cleveland came out to support this history-making opportunity in such great numbers.
Many kudos were given to the Cleveland Foundation for funding such an innovated program; and kudos to Cleveland Public Theater for opening its doors for its neighbors and kudos were called for Director Bobgan with patience, vision and leadership in guiding the new group of local artists and in becoming the new Teatro Publico de Cleveland.
Real live meaningful theater with a Latin flavor!
¿Preguntas? Inquiries about future events? Call Cathleen O’Malley of the Cleveland Public Theater at 216-631-2727, ext 212.