About Productions and Bootleg Theater Present EVANGELINE, Now thru 5/27
The songbook of Grammy Award winners David Hidalgo sand Louie Pérez of Los Lobos drives Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, a multimedia play with music by Theresa Chavez, Louie Pérez and Rose Portillo that takes its title from the group's 1985 rocker "Evangeline." Chavez and Portillo co-direct the world premiere production for About Productions, opening at the Bootleg Theater tonight, May 12 for a limited, three-week engagement through May 27. Low-priced previews take place May 3-11.
Evangeline...a devoted daughter by day, a Hollywood go-go dancer by night. A journey of self discovery by a young Chicana, whose neighborhood roots and make-believe world collide when she experiences the West Side art scene and the music of the Sunset Strip, is set against the 1968 student walkouts in East L.A. and the fight for equal education and civil rights. Songs written by Hidalgo and Pérez are drawn from their 40-year catalogue, marking the first time the songbook will be part of an original production. Songs including "Good Morning, Aztlán," "River of Fools," "The Neighborhood" and "Revolution" will be played live on stage by East L.A. band Ollin with featured vocalist CAVA (Claudia Gonzalez-Tenorio). Musical direction is by Ollin's Scott Rodarte.
"David's and my approach to songwriting has always explored the possibilities of character and story," explains Pérez. "My lyrics have always come from a personal experience populated by people, places and things from the reality of growing up in a Mexican-American community. This production gives me an opportunity to expand my artistic horizons beyond a three-and-a-half-minute song and into a theatrical form, to see Evangeline in the flesh, immersed in a world of her own creative possibilities, inspired by the world around her."
David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez started writing music together when they were in high school, long before they became members of Los Lobos. Songs from both Los Lobos and off-shoot band Latin Playboys are incorporated. Newcomer Catherine Lidstone stars in the title role, with Karen Anzoategui as cousin Rita (her solo show Ser: L.A. vs. B.A., a Queer transnational tale, was seen at Macha, Hollywood Fringe, REDCAT, and recently selected as a finalist for the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival in N.Y.C.); Danielle Barbosa as her mom (Cesar and Ruben, El Portal Theater); and Jorge Diaz as brother Ray ("Eddie Vargas" in the upcoming feature Filly Brown with Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips). Also in the cast are Daniel Chacón playing multiple roles including Evangeline's politically radical boyfriend (Oedipus el Rey, Boston Court-LA Weekly Award, Best Ensemble; Visitors' Guide to Arivaca, Company of Angels; Spinning into Butter, LA Theatre Works); and Georgia Reed as Eva's dance club mentor (Last Summer At Bluefish Cove, Stella Adler Theatre).
About Productions has been developing Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe with Pérez for the past three years; the production at the Bootleg culminates a carefully orchestrated series of events leading up to the world premiere. Last winter, students from Monterey Continuation High School in East L.A. were invited to interview journalist Luis Torres, educator Paula Crisostomo, and artist Ofelia Esparza, each of whom had participated in the historic 1968 student walkouts, as part of About Productions' Young Theaterworks program; in March, professional actors performed 2011 Meets 1968 at Plaza de la Raza, staged readings of one act plays written by those student historians. In April, About Productions joined with 89.3 KPCC to present Civil Rights and Go Go Boots: A Groovy Evening of Theater, Live Music and Chicano History as part of the station's Crawford Family Forum, inviting the community to explore the late 1960s history of East L.A. through theatrical excerpts, live music inspired by the Go-Go Era, and a panel and public talk-back with professors Josh Kun, Alma Martinez and Victor Viesca. In June, About presented Stories & Songs, a one-night concert featuring Hidalgo and Pérez at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Finally, a unique in-gallery workshop of Evangeline was presented at the Autry National Center in October as part of the L.A. art initiative, Pacific Standard Time. At the Bootleg, About Productions will present two free weekday morning matinees for high school students, including highest-risk youth from East L.A. who participated in the 2011 and 2012 Young Theaterworks program. Also provided will be a study guide-a hands-on tool to inspire students and engage them in the civil rights history of Los Angeles. Following the world premiere production of Evangeline, a touring version featuring Hidalgo and Pérez will be readied for the 2013-14 season and will include special workshops conducted by the creative team (Chavez, Hidalgo, Pérez and Portillo).
"It's a template we've used before," notes Chavez who, in addition to her role as co-writer and co-director of Evangeline is artistic director of the 23-year old About Productions. "Working collaboratively, we develop an original work and concurrently engage our audience in dialogue built around our content and process. Exploring this era and the Eastside/Westside setting that is specifically relevant to my personal history has been particularly thrilling."
Video design for Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe is by award-winning cinematographer Claudio Rocha; set design is by François-Pierre Couture; lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick; costume design is by Marcy Froehlich; sound design is by Rani de Leon; choreography is by Michele Bachar; and production stage manager is Marjorie Knight.
Louie Pérez is principal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the Grammy Award-winning band, Los Lobos. The Mexican-American experience and other cultural issues have made their way into Pérez's songs, which often revisit the East L.A. of his youth. His work with co-writer David Hidalgo has been showcased on every Lobos recording, beginning with "And A Time To Dance" (1983) and continuing through the band's most recent Grammy-nominated album "Tin Can Trust" (2010), as well as in countless motion pictures and television series (most notably for several of director Robert Rodriguez's films). Pérez also co-wrote songs for two albums by the Lobos side project, Latin Playboys, and original music as well as lyrics for Tony Kushner's 1994 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman of Szechwan at the La Jolla Playhouse. His canon of work includes such iconic songs as "Will the Wolf Survive?," "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" and the title songs from "The Neighborhood," "This Time" and "Good Morning Aztlán." His songs have been widely covered by recording artists such as Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, and, most recently, by Robert Plant on his Grammy-nominated album "The Band of Joy." Also a talented visual artist, Pérez has served as art director for a number of album projects and most of Lobos recording packages including the boxed set, "El Cancionero: Mas y Mas," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Boxed Recording Package. Pérez' prose and other writings have been featured in the Los Angeles Times magazine, Bomb magazine, LA Weekly and other periodicals.
Theresa Chavez's work as director/producer and playwright has been seen throughout the U.S. and Canada including The Public Theater (N.Y.), Hogg Auditorium (Austin), National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago), Getty Center and Mark Taper Forum. Most recently she co-wrote, directed and produced About Production's They Shoot Mexicans, Don't They?, which explored the cinematic and historic encounter between early Hollywood and Latino culture (Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Autry National Center); By the Hand of the Father, which combined text, video and original music to examine the 20th century experience of the Mexican-American father (regional and national touring production, Austin City Limits on PBS); and the noir-influenced, site-specific Bleeding Through (L.A. History Project, Shakespeare Festival/L.A.), which she co- directed with Portillo. A published playwright, she is included in "Women Playwrights of Diversity," a book which describes the work of 90 women identified by professional theaters or scholars as significant voices. Chavez is the recipient of a 2012 La Opinión Mujeres Destacadas (Exceptional Women) Arts & Culture Award celebrating Southern California Latinas who have committed themselves in the service of others and have distinguished themselves in their chosen field, and will be honored, along with Rose Portillo, on May 8 by Playwrights' Arena with the lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community.
Rose Portillo is an actor, writer, director, educator and visual artist whose stage and film career began with a lead role in Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit (original L.A. production, Broadway, film). Since appearing in Chavez's solo play, L.A. Real, she has directly partnered with Chavez on more than nine critically acclaimed productions. She has directed in L.A. and at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, and recently directed an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest for Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles' award-winning Will Power to Youth. Rose has received writing commissions from Center Theatre Group's P.L.A.Y. and California Institute of the Arts' Community Arts Program, and has been Writer-in-Residence at the William Inge Center for the Arts. A respected educator, Rose is a faculty member at Pomona College in Claremont, where she directs Theater for (and with) Young Audiences and she is director of About Productions' Young Theaterworks, which serves students in continuation high schools, primarily in East L.A. As an actor, Rose has extensive credits in regional theater, film and television. Highlights include starring in the award winning film by Severo Perez, And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him, based on Tomas Rivera's groundbreaking novel; a recurring role on the television series Resurrection Blvd; series regular on Allan Burn's Eisenhower & Lutz; Sonia in The Anteaus Company's production of Chekov's The Wood Demon at the Mark Taper Forum; and Death and the Maiden at San Diego Repertory. Along with Chavez, she will be honored on May 8 by Playwrights' Arena with the lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community.
Ollin (Nahautl for movement/earthquake) was formed just after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994 by twin brothers Scott and Randy Rodarte, and continues to steadily rock audiences throughout the southwest United States and beyond. Their music is a mezcla (mix) of their East L.A. Chicano punk rock roots and their affinity for all folk music made by and for the salt of the earth. Their multi-cultural musical explorations have made Ollin a known name in the burgeoning punk-world music genre. The band also includes original member and multi instrumentalist Angel Juarez and musical director/bassist Gil DeSoto. As a musical director/composer, Scott Rodarte's credits include Chavez Ravine (CTG); A Flag to Fly (Watts Village Theatre Company), Soldado Razo (Latino Theatre Company), and As You Like it: A California Concoction (Cornerstone Theatre Company/Pasadena Playhouse). Vocalist Claudia "CAVA" Gonzalez-Tenorio has been performing around the world as a featured vocalist/percussionist with artists such as Lila Downs, Ozomatli, Money Mark and Mono Blanco. In 2006, Claudia re-emerged as CAVA: a project that continues the evolution of Latin music in Los Angeles. Cava has released two independent albums, "Cava" and "Naughty Dread," introducing the new configuration of Latin-powered jazz tinged with Peruvian soul.
Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 7 pm (please note early curtain time) and Sundays @ 2 pm from May 12 through May 27, with preview performances taking place May 3-11. Tickets are $32, except for a benefit performance on May 20 which is $75 and previews which are $22. Groups of 6 or more are $25 per ticket (except previews and May 20): use promo code EVAGROUPS. In celebration of the premiere run, a "Music Night" featuring Ollin and special guests will be presented on Saturday, May 26, immediately following the performance of Evangeline; call theater for pricing. The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90057. For reservations and information, call (213) 389-3856 or visit www.bootlegtheater.org.