Interview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front

Rogue Machine Theatre starts off their 2024 season w/the West Coast premiere of Juan José Alfonso’ Middle of the World opening January 27th @ the Matrix

By: Jan. 22, 2024
Interview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front

Interview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front

Rogue Machine Theatre starts off their 2024 season with the West Coast premiere of Juan José Alfonso’ Middle of the World opening January 27, 2024, at the Matrix Theatre.

Guillermo Cienfuegos directs the cast of Cheryl Umaña, Christian Telesmar, Leandro Cano, Jennifer Pollono and Dan Lin. Guillermo managed to spare some time out of his multi-tasking to answer a few of my queries.   

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Guillermo!

You directed the world premiere of Juan Jose Alfonso’s Middle of the World last October at the Bosie Contemporary Theatre. What initially enticed you to direct it?

Benjamin Burdick, the artistic director at Boise Contemporary is someone I knew from L.A. back when he lived here. He actually performed in a Rogue Machine production in 2017 called Bled for the Household Truth by Ruth Fowler. He reached out with the script, which they’d developed and presented at their BIPOC Playwrights festival last year, and I loved it. I can’t often leave town to direct projects, as I make my living on television in Los Angeles, but as it happens, there was a strike on - so the timing was kind of perfect.  I was excited about working with a relatively new Latino playwright on such a challenging piece of work, and we hit it off immediately. And I was very excited about the story centering around a strong and complicated Latina female character.

WInterview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front as it a no-brainer to produce Middle of the World at Rogue Machine?

Absolutely. Besides the fact that most of the cast and many of the designers are L.A. locals, I'm so proud of the production that we created in Boise so I can’t wait to share it with our audience. We’re all pretty happy to get the band back together and do it again. Juan José has also taken the opportunity to do some refining of the script from what we learned in the initial run, so I hope this version will be even deeper and more impactful.

 As artistic director, do you have first dibs on directing stints?

Yes, I do - but I always have to ask myself, along with John Flynn the founding Artistic Director of Rogue Machine, what does the play need? What director would be best for this story? Sometimes that means turning over a play that I would love to direct to someone whose better suited to serve it. The play is always the king - and we all serve at the pleasure of the play.

What aspects of a play invite you to direct it?

Well, it’s always the script, but what grabs me isn’t always the same. Sometimes it’s the story, something about one of the characters (like it is here), the clarity of the playwright’s voice, maybe I just like the energy of it - it’s not always so easily quantifiable for me. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s really about whether or not I feel compelled to do it. Do I want to dive in and get inside of it and make a mess and discover what it’s really about? I have to fall in love with it. 

What would your three-line pitch of this play be?

TInterview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front wo people meet in an Uber and what happens will change the course of both of their lives. Middle of the World means you can’t be in two places at once - you have to choose. And when you choose, it means giving something up.

Besides Cherl Umana who’s reprising her role of Victoria, have you worked with any of Middle of the World’s cast or creatives before?

With the exception of Jennifer Pollono, who is joining the cast for the Rogue Machine production (and who I’ve also worked with before), the rest of the cast and designers are the same team from Boise. Christian Telesmar, Dan Lin and Leandro Cano all joined us in Boise for the World Premiere. This is very much a collaboration between Rogue Machine and Boise Contemporary Theatre which I hope is just the beginning of a relationship between the two companies.

What criteria of a play do you as artistic director of Rogue Machine look for to produce?

The question sounds to me like “What is a Rogue Machine play?” We’re always asking that as we read things. First of all, we only produce new plays, so it needs to be a world or Los Angeles premiere. Also, over the years Rogue Machine has gained the reputation for producing plays that are somewhat more risky and dangerous. That perhaps spark difficult conversations. I sometimes read a play that I think is good, but that just doesn’t seem like it’s for us.  Is it saying something we haven’t heard before? Is it treading ground that we haven’t seen before? Again, it’s hard to quantify. It’s a feeling. But when that play comes along that gives us that feeling, we know. Right or wrong, good or bad - we need to do this.

Interview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front Any plays out there you’re dying to get your directorial hands on?

Oh, so many...

Do you have any of your upcoming season’s slots filled?

Yes. We now have two spaces at the Matrix theatre in Hollywood on which we produce; on our MainStage, following Middle of the World, we’ll be presenting the L.A. premiere of a lovely two-hander about the relationship between a young widower and his late husband’s teenaged son called Monsters of the American Cinema by Christian St Croix. On our immersive Henry Murray Stage, we’re next producing The Birthday Party: A Theatrical Catastrophe, a very funny solo show written and performed by Nick Ullett about his experience as a member of the cast of a famously ill fated production of Pinter’s play. And in the fall we’ll be presenting our third production of a play by Tim Venable (The Beautiful People, Baby Foot), the dark comedy Adolescent Salvation. More to be announced later.

What’s in the near future for Guillermo Cienfuegos?

Interview: Guillermo Cienfuegos' Never in the MIDDLE OF THE WORLD - Always in Front After Middle of the World open,s I’ll be directing George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance at A Noise Within. I had a wonderful time directing Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing there last season and am grateful to be asked back for more fun with a great play and a great company.

Thank you again, Guillermo! I look forward to experiencing your Middle of the World.

For tickets to Middle of the World through March 4, 2024; click on the button below:




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