MECA and MST Partner for Mexican Pastorela LA MUSICA DEL CIELO, 12/7-9

MECA and MST Partner for Mexican Pastorela LA MUSICA DEL CIELO, 12/7-9

Main Street Theater collaborates with MECA Houston (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts) to present a Mexican Pastorela, La Música del Cielo (Music from Heaven), written and directed by Peter Webster. The production will be presented in Spanish with English surtitles.

The piece is designed for family audiences, ages 3 and up, with ticket prices ranging from $12 - $16 (special discount for MECA members). There will be 3 performances, December 7 – 9, 2012 at MST – Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose Blvd. Performances are on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are on sale by phone at 713.524.6706, or online at

Audiences are encouraged to come early for A Taste of a Mexican Christmas before the show, including tamales and hot chocolate! Celebrate with family and friends. 6:45pm on Friday and Saturday; 2:15pm on Sunday.

La Música del Cielo (Music from Heaven) is an interpretation of a Classic Mexican Pastorela (Shepherds Play), a centuries-old popular theater-piece with music and dance, presented around Christmas time. All Pastorelas tell the story of Shepherds on their way to Bethlehem to greet the Christ Child, and how Devils try to stop them.

Pastorelas are traditionally comic, irreverent and politically savvy. Only the Holy Family is sacred. Traditional songs and dances abound. The art form is part pageant, comedy review, Morality play, political commentary, and song and dance spectacle. Pastorelas, like the English Christmas Pantos, present their joyful, profound message of Good over Evil in strong, primary colors.

La Musica del Cielo characters include such archeypes as Luzbel (Lucifer), King of the Devils; his clueless lieutenants, the devils Asmodeo and Belzebú; the 7 Deadly Sins, or Vices, (Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Violence, Sloth, Pride and Avarice); and an infernal ensemble of little devils. Humans traveling to greet the Holy Family include La Gila, a heroic Shepherdess and her simple son, El Bato; La Ermitaña (The Hermitess), a blind seeker of truth; and a flock of brave, dancing little sheep. Heavenly characters include San Miguel (Saint Michael) Heaven’s Warrior; Saint Cecilia, patron Saint of Music; and, of course, The Holy Family. The play will be performed by professional actors from the Main Street company and students, faculty, and alumni from MECA AfterSchool Arts Program, including mariachi musicians and ballet folklórico dancers.

Inspired by the memories of 6th Ward legend Juanita Vásquez, La Música del Cielo was written by and will be directed by theater professional Peter Webster. A longtime resident of Mexico City and Houston, Mr. Webster has directed projects at Main Street Theater (An Ideal Husband) the Alley Theatre (The Duchess of Malfi, Romeo and Juliet – a co-production with MECA), The Ensemble Theatre (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Celeste Bedford-Walker’s Distant Voices – Susan Smith Blackburn prize-winner), Houston Grand Opera (World Premiere of Little Women, also nationally telecast on PBS Great Performances), and at theaters and opera companies in Mexico, New York, California, Utah and Connecticut, where he is currently based. Director, author, producer, opera drama-and-text coach and sometime actor, the multilingual Mr. Webster notes, “I create projects that permit professional arts organizations, educational institutions, and communities to work together. Each component in this collaboration adds its own particular expertise to the project. These components work together, meld, to achieve a directed, united purpose. The result is a unified effort, inclusive, supportive. The end result belongs to everyone.” This is certainly true of this project, and Main Street is excited to be working with MECA for the first time.

Jef Johnson will create the role of El 4-en-Uno (The 4-in-One), a Super-Vice combining Gluttony, Envy, Violence and Sloth all in one. Mr. Johnson has been called a pioneer in the field of Performance Theory and Creative Development. His research, has contributed to a movement toward a more honest and open dialogue in education, business, the arts and even in public policy. As a researcher, his work focuses on human consciousness, creative intuition and perception.

Currently on hiatus, Mr. Johnson is a principal artist in the company of Slava’s Snowshow, (Off Broadway, Broadway and International tours). He has also worked with Cirque du Soleil as clown, special artistic consultant, and workshop director. He is the founding director of La ONDA (Observacion Nueva de los Artes), faculty member of the Nouveau Clown Institute in Barcelona, Spain, and has served as Artistic Coordinator for the International Nonverbal Theatre Initiative, based in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has been commissioned by many universities and companies, including: Cirque du Soleil, Slava’s Snowshow, Camp Broadway, University of Houston, University of Pennsylvania, Colombia University, Weslayan University, NYU, CUNY, SUNY, UNAM, CENART, UDEM, TEC Monterrey, UQROO, BUAP, among others.

At present, he is in Mexico, conducting research into the nature of human consciousness, creative association and social performance. Drawing from Clown, Mask and Butoh, his work has initiated deeper investigation into the primary essence of human experience, character and performance, including the formation of a new performance discipline which he calls Manantial (Wellspring). Mr. Johnson has performed or taught on five continents in more than 20 countries. A native of Houston, he will be familiar to many audiences from his many roles at Main Street Theater, Stages Repertory Theatre, TUTS, Houston Shakespeare Festival and other venues.

Julio López is the Mexican Ballet Folklorico Director for the production. Julio López is an award-winning performer and choreographer with decades of experience. He was formerly the Artistic Director of Ballet Folklórico Umalayapem of the Casa de Cultura in Tampico, Tamaulipas, and is a graduate of the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas. He continued his artistic studies at Instituto Regional de Bellas Artes de Tampico with Professor Manuel Vargas. His commitment to excellence resulted in his receiving first place awards in various competitions, as well as invitations to participate as a special guest artist in numerous ensembles throughout Mexico. López’ extensive experience and education has provided him with expertise in traditional dances, history and costumes from the different regions of Mexico, and he is a skilled and enthusiastic teacher.

Gumaro Armando Silva will create the role of St. Michael as well as choreograph the “little angels” in the Pastorela. Mr. Silva is a graduate of the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) and Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA). He continued his studies on scholarship at Southern Methodist University and the Ailey School in New York City. In 1995, Mr. Silva became a member of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) of which he became assistant rehearsal director in 2000, rehearsal director in 2001 and later company manager until his departure in 2006. He has worked with such noted choreographers as Talley Beatty, Donald McKayle, David Parsons, and Alonzo King among others. His works have been commissioned by the Dallas Latino Cultural Center, Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the Brinker International Lecture Series, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX., Houston Community College, HSPVA, and Milwaukee Dance Connection.

Currently, Mr. Silva acts as Dance Director for MECA and is a member of the Lula Elzy New Orleans Dance Theater where he serves as the rehearsal director, choreographer, and Company instructor. Mr. Silva is responsible for starting dance programs for both the Desire Street Ministries and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans, LA with his friend and business partner, Lula Elzy. During his summers Mr. Silva can also be found teaching dance and yoga for the KUUMBA Institute at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans, LA.

Jaime Zelaya will create the role of Luzbel (Lucifer), King of the Devils and will also create the devil costumes for the Pastorela. Mr. Zelaya is the Artistic Director of Playhouse Community Theater, a Spanish-language theater here in Houston founded in 2010 which provides performing arts education and entertainment through bilingual live performances, after-school programs for children, and evening theater workshops for adults. Zelaya’s career spans more than thirty years, beginning with the Centro Nacional de Artes de San Salvador in El Salvador. He also held an apprenticeship with the renowned Horacio de la Vega in the U.S. He re-established the once defunct Teatro Latino de Houston and served as founder and director there for twelve years.

MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts) is a 35 year old community-based non-profit organization committed to the healthy development of underserved youth and adults through arts and cultural programming, academic excellence, support services, and community building. MECA provides arts education, support services, and multicultural artistic performances and events to Houston students and their families, helping to build discipline, self-esteem, and cultural pride. The American Institute of Architects recognized MECA for its creation and development of the Old Sixth Ward Art Park. President George H. W. Bush recognized MECA as the 382nd Point of Light. MECA was named a national semi-finalist for the President's Council on the Arts and Humanities' Coming Up Taller Award in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2005. Mariachi MECA was designated as an NEA American Masterpieces Touring Artist for 2009. Originally located at St. Joseph Church, MECA moved in 1993 to the Historic Dow School building in the Old Sixth Ward. MECA recently celebrated Dow School's 100th anniversary. Over the years, MECA has helped countless youth achieve success in and outside of the arts, in their academic studies, and has brought cultural opportunities to communities and schools that would otherwise be neglected.

MECA is a founding member of Houston Arts Partners and a Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). This project is made possible in part by support from the NPN Performance Residency Program. Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Main Street Theater was founded in 1975 to offer Houston theater-goers a more varied and challenging selection of plays and musicals and to provide a venue for training, employment, and exposure for our city’s professional theater artists. The organization produces plays at two locations, 2540 Times Boulevard in Rice Village and 4617 Montrose Boulevard at Chelsea Market.

Our MainStage (for adults) is in its 38th season and its 13th season operating under an Actors’ Equity Association union contract. Produced primarily in our 99-seat Rice Village theater, the MainStage features new works (including numerous world and regional premieres), rediscovered classics, passionate revivals, works by female playwrights, and neglected musicals in the intimate setting of our Rice Village location.

Our Theater for Youth is Houston’s most-attended theater for young audiences, serving over 140,000 children and families from the greater Houston area in school performances, weekend family matinees and tours to schools and community centers across the state of Texas. Plays are selected based on literature children are reading at home or at school.

Our Education Department offers students a performing arts playground where professional theater artists serve as mentors. With an emphasis on creativity and collaboration, we provide hands-on opportunities for students to make an original contribution in all aspects of play production. In support of Main Street Theater’s mission, our Education Department provides a significant resource in the community for education in theater and classical theater for children, families and educators.

Main Street Theater is a founding member of the Fresh Arts Coalition,which recently merged with Spacetaker here in Houston, a founding member of Houston Arts Partners, and a constituent of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theaters. Main Street Theater is also a member of Actors’ Equity Association and of Theatre for Young Audiences/USA (formerly ASSITEJ), the world theatre network of theatre for children and young people. Main Street Theater is funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Photo courtesy of MECA.

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