IATI Theater Presents THREE ON A MATCH as its 50th Anniversary Production

IATI Theater Presents THREE ON A MATCH as its 50th Anniversary Production"Three on a Match" by Rhett Martinez is an allegorical drama examining the legacy of state terrorism in Latin America. It will be the 50th Anniversary production of IATI Theater Todo Vanguardia, a performing arts organization located at 64 East 4th Street, which is devoted to contemporary, cutting-edge Latino works. The drama examines, absurdly and gravely, the terrifying plague of "disappearances" during Argentina's "Dirty War" of 1974-83 and similar experiences of countries across South America in ensuing decades. Written and performed in English, it will be directed by Eric Parness.

A decaying hotel in a forsaken South American city houses an unlikely band of three. Each of these three represents a people or a place that have been historically marginalized or lost to history entirely. There is a charming Haberdasher who speaks in standard British. There is a Bellboy (who happens to be a girl) who can't--or won't--speak at all. And there is a regal Queen of a lost island nation which has recently sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. She speaks in Castilian tones. Cocooned from the daily chaos outside, these three do their best to create a life of civility, order, and even elegance. One day, they are threatened by a dangerous interloper: a handsome, shadowy man with an American passport. Initially he is simply treated as an unwelcome visitor, but he soon takes over the hotel using the tools of diplomacy and tyranny. Isolated from the rest of the city by civil strife and government-driven disinformation, they must either submit or fight back. "Disappearance" hangs over them as a universal threat. Each wears different "masks" throughout the play in their efforts to resist the power of the intruder. Sometimes, the play moves into absurdism. Often it is delightfully funny. Other times, the mystery of identity and betrayal erupts in harrowing tension.

"Disappearance," as a technique of South American politics, horrifies in its scale. In Argentina, 30,000 people were disappeared during the dirty war. In Chile, 3,000 people were killed or disappeared. In Colombia, after a half century of internal war, more than 51,000 people are now registered by the government as missing without a trace and the real total may be as high as 92,000, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. More than 1130 new cases of forced disappearance have been officially registered in the last three years. In noting this, we are framing "disappearance" as a regional historical trauma. Nevertheless, the unnamed city wherein the play unfolds could be any number of cities throughout history. The task for this play's cast of four is not just to find true human impulse within a fantastical, abstracted reality, but to bring to life archetypes that represent a global history of oppression and violence.

"The play explores the nature of, whether it's an individual or society, the need to control and to dominate someone else to make themselves feel more powerful," says director Parness. While the piece references the centuries-old legacy of U.S. attempts to liberate or democratize countries in the Global South, its themes are more eternal and universal. Audiences are confronted with questions that aren't easily answered, but which are bound to be relevant to them regardless of political or cultural affiliations. "The best plays ask questions without necessarily answering them, and this play does that," Parness says.

Stylistically, the play emulates the magical realism of Latin American literature, as exemplified in novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez ("One Hundred Years of Solitude"). It "externalizes the internal" through devices that "channel the subconscious," connecting the experiences of Latin Americans across South America to universal experiences. "There are so many cultural symbols and icons, so your individual subconscious connects to a collective unconscious," explains playwright Martinez. Sometimes the symbolism is subtle and sometimes it is quite literal. A frescoed ceiling is an allegorical site for "disappearing." Censorship is illustrated via a newspaper with chunks of text physically removed.

The play's title implies the peril of the three anti-heroes by recalling the vulnerability of World War I soldiers to snipers if they lit three cigarettes with one match.

The play is the keystone work of IATI's 50th anniversary season, which celebrates the theater's commitment to adventurous new works by Latino theater artists. Martinez commends IATI's legacy of fostering contemporary, daring work that also highlights the Latino experience, saying it is aligned with his interests as a playwright. Whereas many theater companies are reluctant to "take a risk" on producing plays that heavily invoke magical realism and surrealism, IATI has offered Martinez a welcome opportunity to see his work produced since the play's inception. "Three on a Match" was originally developed as part of IATI's "Cimientos" reading series in 2016, a ten-week workshop invoking a peer-playwright development process, which Martinez credits as incredibly helpful.

IATI Theater is a New York-based, non-profit performing arts organization founded in 1968 by Venezuelan director Abdón Villamizar and a group of Latino writers and actors, dedicated to serving all audiences in both the Spanish and English languages. IATI's vision is to bring art into the lives of those in poverty, ethnic and cultural isolation. IATI artists address contemporary issues of broad human interest and frame them in an appropriate cultural context of powerful social impact to provoke introspection and social awareness. IATI is devoted to facilitating the emergence of new artistic talents in the disciplines of theater, music and dance. In its 50th season, it will mount two mainstage shows, workshop productions, musical and dance concerts, free touring workshops and touring children's productions to schools and libraries. For info on the season, contact info@iatitheater.org or 212-505-6757.

Playwright Rhett Martinez is a Houston native. He came to NYC after completing a BFA in theater from Boston University. He started off in the early '90s performing one-man shows in New York's East Village and later freelanced as a director and writer before moving back to Houston and launching Bulletproof Productions there with his wife. He returned to NYC to earn an MFA from Brooklyn College in 2007 and subsequently directed a production of two of his one-act plays at Impact Theater in Brooklyn. He stayed here until the 2008 recession, then returned to Houston. "Three on a Match" is his IATI debut.

Director Eric Parness is Artistic Director of Resonance Ensemble in Manhattan, where he has produced 20 new plays and classics, many on Theater Row. These include classics by Sophocles, Gorky, Chekhov and Ibsen and world premieres by Charles L. Mee, Michael Feingold, Christopher Boal, Steven Fechter, Ginger Lazarus and others. Parness has directed Off-Broadway for Jean Cocteau Repertory, State of Play Production, Oberon Theatre Ensemble, Boomerang Theatre, and Vital Theatre Company. He has directed regionally with the Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, NC, Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, NY, and The Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs, NY. He is currently a Professor of Acting and Directing at Westfield State University in MA. He is a graduate of Brandeis (BA) and Brooklyn College (MFA) and a member of Lincoln Center Theater's Directors Lab.

The actors are Angus Hepburn as the Haberdasher, Rosa Rodríguez as the girl Bellboy, Elisa De la Roche as The Queen and Sean Phillips as the shadowy interloper. Set Designer is Warren Stiles. Lighting Designer is Miguel Valderrama. Sound Designers are Haydn Díaz and Gabriel García. Costume Designer is Viviane Galloway. Stage Manager is Maxwell Waters. Technical Manager is Anthony Fernández. Assistant Director is Anna Hogan.

Angus Hepburn (The Haberdasher), originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, was in several award winning productions in Norwich where he also received two best actor awards from the Breckland and PAN festivals in Norfolk England. On moving to New York in the early '90s, he and his wife (a director, actor and singer) founded and ran Peekskill Repertory Theatre at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill from '94-'98 where the two of them appeared together in several productions, notably "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." He was a member of the resident company of Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre for the last four years of its existence. He was named best actor by OOBR for the role of the Captain in Strindberg's "The Father" and played Mr. Peachum in Marvell Rep's production of "The Threepenny Opera," which received a 2012 Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Revival of a Musical. On TV, he has appeared in "Boardwalk Empire," "Royal Pains," "Billions," "Blacklist" and "30 Rock." His films include "The Comedy," "Happy Life" and "The Post."

Rosa Rodriguez (The Bellboy) is a Dominican actress, singer, director, and producer. Her theater credits include the national tour of the chamber music one-woman show "Tres Vidas" (Core Ensemble) in which she plays the iconic Frida Kahlo, Rufina Amaya, and Alfonsina Storni; the off-Broadway productions of "Romeo and Juliet," "Stage Door" and "Sangre y Viento" (Chelsea Rep) and "Rally Cry" (Irondale Theater). Her film/TV credits include the self-produced series "Space Available" and the feature film "Eli Moran." (www.RosaRodriguezNYC.com)

Elisa De la Roche (The Queen), over many decades, has played diverse roles in a myriad of venues. She has appeared in off-Broadway productions at Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Shakespeare Festival, Bouwerie Lane Theatre, Playhouse 46, PRTT, INTAR, DMAC, La Mama, Repertorio Español; on TV in "Law and Order" and "The Cosby Show," and in the films "Arranged the Musical," "Hiding Divya," and the upcoming "Low Tide." She has written and performed three one-woman shows. She holds a doctorate in Educational Theater from NYU and has taught at many schools and universities, as well as artist-in-residency programs.

Sean Phillips (The Shadowy Interloper) is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Theatre credits include Resonance Ensemble's "Burning," "In The Heat Of The Night," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "A Raisin In The Sun," "Knock Me A Kiss," "Mother Courage" and "Her Children" with Meryl Streep. He has appeared on-camera in "Madam Secretary," "House of Cards," "Difficult People," "The Following," "Boardwalk Empire," "Person of Interest," "Elementary" and "Law & Order."

Photo Credit: Jonathan Slaff

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