BWW Interview: Flor De Liz Perez in EL COQUI ESPECTACULAR AND THE BOTTLE OF DOOM: A SUPERHERO PLAY at TRT
Two River Theater (TRT), under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst will present El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom: A Superhero Play. The world-premiere play by Matt Barbot, directed by José Zaya will begin performances in Two River's Marion Huber Theater on Saturday, January 6 and run through Sunday, February 4.
Employing deft use of the superhero/comic book genre, El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom explores questions of individual and national identity-including what it means to be "Latino" or "not Latino enough"-in contemporary America. The play tells the story of Alex, an unemployed young comic book artist still wrestling with the death of his father, a policeman, in the line of duty. Adrift in his career and his life, he decides to see what it's like to be a superhero, and begins to dress up as his creation El Coquí Espectacular (a Puerto Rican superhero who gets his power from a vejigante carnival mask and his name from a tree frog) and fight crime in his neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Meanwhile, his responsible older brother Joe is encouraging Alex to join him at his advertising agency, where Joe works selling sugary soda to Latino consumers. When Joe is fired from a project, the two, with the help of a young photographer named Yesica, hatch a plan: to debut El Coquí at the Puerto Rican Day Parade and prove themselves to the world.
The cast of El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom includes Gabriel Diego Hernández as El Chupacabra/Junior, Olivia Negrón as Patricia, Flor De Liz Perez as Yesica, Cesar J. Rosado as Joe, and Bradley Tejeda as Alex.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Flor De Liz Perez about her career and the upcoming show at TRT.
Flor De Liz Perez international credits include The Motherf**ker with the Hat (National Theatre, London). Off-Broadway: Dolphins and Sharks (Labyrinth Theater); Seven Spots on the Sun(Rattlestick Theater/The Sol Project); Comedy of Errors, Pericles (The Public); Sense and Sensibility (Bedlam); Los Monólogos de la Vagina (Westside Theatre); In the Time of the Butterflies (Repertorio Español). Selected Regional: Good Men Wanted(NY Stage & Film/Vassar College); The House that will not Stand (Berkeley Rep/Yale Rep); A Christmas Carol (Hartford Stage); Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Two River Theater); In the Continuum, Pride and Prejudice, Nicholas Nickleby (PlayMakers Rep). Film: Big Exit (in post-production), The House That Jack Built. TV: Blue Bloods, Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Elementary (CBS).
Tell us a little about the very first role you ever played.
The very first roles I played on a stage (that I can remember!) were in elementary school...it was a piranha and a ballerina (ah, the start of a character actress!) in a piece called Did You Know...? about the origins and facts of some fun things, like how the the sandwich was invented, how much a piranha could eat, etc.
What inspired you to pursue a career in theater?
My mother was very big on telling and reading stories when I was growing up, and she always took my friends, my brother and I to different shows in the city. She's a big advocate of the arts, so my love for the theater really began with her. As I kept growing, I began to appreciate more and more the power of imagination, of play, of words, of the transformative energy of stories but wasn't sure about a career in theater . When I got to college, I had the opportunity to study abroad with a conservatory program in London. It was there that I decided I would pursue acting, inspired by my teachers there who were amazing citizen-artists. I knew that it would be hard, but also endlessly fascinating and gratifying to work in the theater--to continually be exploring the human experience and sharing that journey with others.
We'd love to know a little about your theatrical education and how it has influenced your career.
I attended Bucknell University in PA and started my theatrical training there with wonderful teachers, studying theatre history, acting, and dance, among other subjects. After spending a semester at the London Dramatic Academy under Richard Digby Day, I came back and spoke with my mentor at BU, Robert Gainer, who encouraged me to apply to grad school. That's not always necessarily the next best step for someone, but we decided that it was for me. I wanted to go deeper in studying the craft and didn't feel I was ready to hit the pavement yet! I was accepted at UNC-Chapel Hill and went for their 3 year MFA program (under Ray Dooley), in association with PlayMakers Repertory Company (then under the direction of Joseph Haj). Those years there helped me dig even further into voice, body, speech, technique, and I felt that each teacher was very invested in me personally, as a woman and actress. UNC also offered the opportunity to study at the Guthrie for their wonderful summer training program (then under Ken Washington +). By working with PlayMakers, I also got the chance to work with established directors and actors from the NY theatre scene, which helped expand my community once I got the city; I didn't feel like I didn't know anyone professionally. After showcase, I signed with my agency, Cornerstone Talent, and have been with them ever since. All along the way, I've learned valuable things from each teacher, each mentor, each colleague, about professionalism, building sincere relationships, taking up your space as a woman in the world, finding honesty in your work, what it takes to do this for the long haul, creating a life you're proud of, of which your work is a part. I'm grateful for each person I've worked with along the way.
We are impressed by the wide variety of roles you have played. What are some of your favorites?
I've been very blessed to have worked on some great material with incredible artists.
One of my favorites is definitely Marina in Shakespeare's Pericles for The Public Theater's Mobile Unit (directed by Rob Melrose). I love her innocence and fierce intelligence. She is very secure in who she is as a young woman and ready to fight for what she believes in. And sharing that story about losing and finding one's family and love with our Mobile Unit audiences was very special.
Other favorites include: Veronica in Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**er with the Hat (directed by Indhu Rubasingham at the National Theatre) and Mónica in Martín Zimmerman's Seven Spots on the Sun (directed by Weyni Mengesha at Rattlestick Theater).
Tell us about some of the challenges of your role as Yesica in the upcoming Two River Theater show?
It's been a wonderful room to work in--our director (Jose Zayas) has been great about creating an open and playful space and it's been amazing to have our writer (Matt Barbot) in the room so we can have in-depth conversations about our characters' journeys. It's been great to explore the comic book super hero genre from the inside and build Yesica's identity as the sidekick. It's a fun challenge to find her strength and spine as an artist but also her quirk.
What would you like audiences to know about El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom?
It's a fantastic hero's journey--we follow Alex in his search for identity and acceptance in the face of his changing neighborhood, getting to meet some great characters (and watch some awesome fights!) along the way. We've got a wonderful cast and a stellar artistic team and are excited to share this story!
Tell us a little about your experience working at Two River Theater.
I love coming back to Two River Theater. I first worked here 6 years ago, in Madeleine George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wandering New England, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. I've returned to see shows over the years, and each time it felt like coming back home.
It's been exciting to see the different seasons selected and to watch the community building and outreach initiatives that take place with each show. TRT definitely lives their mission of not only cultivating the work and artists that come here, but also expanding their audiences.
And the feeling of respect amongst colleagues permeates the halls. You get the sense that it's a solid team that's coming together from all departments to support the work happening in the theater. Everyone from the artistic staff to the building maintenance team is very welcoming. It's great to be back.
Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW readers to know.
Come check out the show and be sure to catch a ride around town on the El Coqui Mobile! Hop around town to Red Bank's many restaurants, bars and shops in this luxury scooter, fully equipped for the winter with heated seats and weather-proof flaps. It will be seen throughout Red Bank with our show's artwork and hashtag #SpotTheFrog starting mid-December through February 4.
Ready to scoot when you are, just text the Scooter Dudes at 732.784.3011 with your name, Red Bank location, number of riders, pickup time and destination and your ride will be ready in 10-15 minutes!
Two River Theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue in Red Bank. Ticket prices for El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom: A Superhero Play range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available by visiting www.tworivertheater.org or by calling 732.345.1400.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flor De Liz Perez