Free bilingual theater forges community connections
Each summer, Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA), in association with Trinity Rep, presents free, bilingual theater with Teatro en El Verano!
The mission of Teatro en El Verano — “Theater in the Summer” in English — is to bring free, bilingual Spanish/English theater to communities across the state. In past years, local artists produced a touring show. But for this year’s production, La Mancha, most performances will be held outdoors at La Galeria de Pueblo in Central Falls from July 15 – 24. The final performance on July 28 will be held on the State House Lawn in Providence.
Teatro en El Verano has its roots in a 2015 conversation between RILA Executive Director Marta V. Martinez, Trinity Rep’s then-Artistic Associate for Community Rebecca Noon, and former Associate Artistic Director Tyler Dobrowsky. The conversation began when Trinity Rep reached out to RILA for advice on drawing more Latinx audiences to Trinity Rep.
“This was one of the first times for me that an organization looking for a partnership really listened to us,” Martinez said. “Because often what happens, and it still does, is that people come to me trying to get more Latinos involved in their organization, but just give us free tickets for a one-time event. But Trinity Rep wanted this to become a deeper relationship. And it was the first time an organization really listened to our perspective, so it didn’t feel like it was just Trinity Rep trying to get more people to see a play.”
Originally, the group discussed holding a talkback with the local Latinx community about The Hunchback of Seville, which Trinity Rep produced in 2015. But Marta felt that this wasn’t the right way for outreach. Instead, Shakespeare en El Verano (as the program was originally called) was conceived in 2016 with a bilingual production of Romeo and Juliet. But even then, she felt the theater could integrate more into the community.
“What they proposed to me was that they were going to take it to WaterFire, to Brown University, places in those neighborhoods,” Marta said. “I really pushed back though, and I said, ‘That’s great, but let’s also go to South Providence, its library, its cultural center, and the West End of Providence. And so we went to neighborhoods where Latinos actually live, which I think is key. If you want to reach the Latino community, or people of color in general, you need to go where they live, where they’re most comfortable.”
The next year, Shakespeare en El Verano would produce Romeo and Juliet again, but with a new translation. The 2016 production was translated into European Spanish, which is not the same as Caribbean or Latin American Spanish. To better connect with the local Latino community, Shakespeare en El Verano was translated to Caribbean Spanish from 2017 onward. The next production was La Tempestad/The Tempest in 2018, and in 2019, after rebranding as Teatro en El Verano, they produced Tanta Bulla…Y Pa’ Qué?/Much Ado About Nothing. Both of these shows were directed by Tatyana-Marie Carlo, who also directed Fade and Sueño at Trinity Rep.
In 2020, Teatro en El Verano hoped to produce a bilingual adaptation of Don Quixote, adapted by Marcel Mascaró, who you may recognize as one of the letter writers in Trinity Rep’s recent production of Tiny Beautiful Things. But like many other theaters across the country, they had to pivot to an online format due to the pandemic. That year, Teatro produced excerpts from that show virtually and presented the scenes on Zoom. Marta also said that 2020 was significant for Teatro en El Verano because it was the first time they produced a non-Shakespeare show. Marta and Marcel both said that moving forward, they’d love for Teatro to branch out in terms of what it adapts each year.
Marcel’s adaptation of Don Quixote, titled La Mancha, will be performed live again for the summer of 2022, under the direction of Catia, who you may remember as Rosaura in Sueño. Marcel has been involved with Teatro since its inception: Marcel portrayed Friar Lawrence in the first version of Romeo and Juliet and the Prince in the second. In La Tempestad, Marcel was seen as Ferdinand and Antonion, and in Tanta Bulla… they were the show’s dialect coach, but took over several roles when an actor dropped out last minute.
“It almost feels like community theater in scope, but with the exception that there are so many professionals involved,” Marcel said. “It’s organized, but I love that there’s so much heart in it, and we have so much fun.”
What Marcel told us makes them most happy with Teatro en El Verano is how artists grow as performers. Sueño actors like Alfredo Antillon, Catia, Rudy Cabrera, Victor Neto, and Arturo Puentes all performed with Teatro en El Verano before appearing in Trinity Rep Season shows, and community members who aren’t “professional” actors are encouraged to join in too. Some folks have found passions and even career paths they wouldn’t have known otherwise because of Teatro en El Verano.
“Leandro ‘Kufa’ Castro had only acted in one play before getting involved in Teatro en El Verano,” Marcel noted. “He is a musician and rapper so he had performing experience, but the second play he was ever in was our version of Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet. And working with him on getting comfortable with Shakespeare was one of the most profound things I’ve ever been through because I had never seen someone just after a few lessons pick up Shakespeare so well and go with it. And just a few years later he was translating Shakespearean plays, including Tanta Bulla… for Teatro and Commedia de las Equivocaciónes/The Comedy of Errors for Tatyana at Brown/Trinity Rep. It’s amazing to see these Latinx artists grow, and help them realize that if they want to do this, and make a career out of it, they absolutely can.”
Visit trinityrep.com/la-mancha to learn more about this year’s production.