Have you ever watched a film and been deeply and profoundly moved, or read a book that changed your perspective? That is the type of impact that the play El Nogalar, written by Tanya Saracho, is having upon audiences everywhere.
El Nogalardelves into the complexities that Mexico is facing due to the drug war. “It is topical and what is happening right now. If you take a glass and you put it on that area and look inside, everyone is being affected by that,” said Saracho.
The play artfully weaves through the intricacies of the Mexican caste system and how the drug war is affecting each person’s role within the societal unit. Saracho does this in such a poignant way that the viewer is able to see and feel each character’s point of view in a personal way. The pain and sorrow that is felt by the characters becomes universal where everyone, Latino or Non-Latino, can relate.
The play was inspired by Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. The name “El Nogalar” reflects what is grown in Mexico – Pecans. Saracho said,”My mom picked the name…, she said, ’Look it up on your internet. It can’t be cherries. We don’t grow cherries!’”
The name wasn’t the only twist that Saracho added; she made the cast mostly females. She likes to expose, “Life from the point of view of women. “ She continued with, “Talking about Latina women and Mexican women and complicating their image is important to me. It is also important to me to change their stereotype.”
Her vision of bringing light to the woman’s perspective began before being commissioned by Chicago’s Teatro Vista to write El Nogalar. Twelve years ago Saracho formed an all-women’s company entitled Teatro Luna. “When we formed Teatro Luna, we were called man haters in the press… My writing has been criticized for that. There are enough plays for men,” said Saracho. She contests claims of being exclusive by saying, “It is not exclusive. It is inclusive. I am including the female voice.”
The female voice is not the only theme expressed in her writing. Saracho passionately explains, “I’m obsessed with class– if we are speaking thematically. I’m obsessed by how we (Latinos) are seen as the immigrant in the U.S., and I’m obsessed with gender.” This would not seem surprising as she was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, but grew up in the adjoining border towns of Reynoso, Mexico and McAllen, Texas. She was entrenched in both cultures learning both languages. She was educated in the U.S. She attended high school in Texas and went on to Boston University to graduate in theater studies.
At Boston University her writing skills flourished. She put up three plays for the student festival. This, however, was not the beginning of her story telling. “I was the one who entertained the sisters and I was always a story teller. I liked to terrify them with “La Llorona”, a legend of a wailing women,” she laughs contagiously, and continues, “I used to tell jokes. Now I don’t even know one joke… My grandparents would put me on the table and you would either dance or tell a poem or a joke.”
There seems to be no limit to her storytelling and incredible talent. In fact, El Nogalar is actually the first in a trilogy that Saracho has written. Song of the Disappeared is the next play in the series. It takes place on the Texas side of the border where the crime element has now infiltrated. The last installment of the trilogy is entitled Nights. The characters have been kidnapped and stay alive by telling stories like in the book: Thousand Nights and One Night.
El Nogalar is so moving that it truly is a must see. Saracho’s soulful writing leaves a profound impact on viewers. This play has put her on the radar, and is only the beginning to a brilliant career. Saracho is definitely someone to watch for in the future.
When I walked into the backyard of a house in East LA it was a classic fish out of water scenario. Everybody there seemed to have a great passion for Latino theatre, a passion (by the simple nature of my ethnicity) my heart does not possess. As a white male born in the mid-eighties, racial prejudice is not something that has heavily impacted my life. However, the more food shared and the more conversations that developed, the more I felt connected with their spirit.
Luis Alfaro and Tanya Saracho
The reason people were gathered at a house in East Los Angeles was to hear from feminist, Latina playwright Tanya Saracho. Born in Sinaloa, Mexico, Saracho moved to Texas in 1989. But it was in Chicago where she really made her mark. Fresh out of college, the young actress soon became frustrated with the limited potential of acting roles she was able to play. It seemed that her “type” was confined to play Latina stereotypes, such as the Mexican housemaid. Armed with her outgoing, infectious personality combined with her desire to play more substantial characters, Ms. Saracho co-founded Teatro Luna, a Chicago-based, Latina theatre ensemble. And it was with this company of women that she started writing.
Respected Chicano playwright and recipient of the 1997 MacArthur Genius Grant, Luis Alfaro conducted an informal (yet informative) interview with Saracho. What was compelling was how unpretentious and friendly the entire event was. The concept of interviewing somebody naturally puts that person on a pedestal. Yet the guest of honor was so down-to-Earth, it was much more conversational and relaxed than any ‘Q & A’ I had ever attended. Both humble and confident, Alfaro and Saracho sitting on a sofa and talking candidly about their beliefs and experiences was a rare pleasure.
Responsible for putting on this wonderful event was Individual Artist Collective. IAC is a new arts group dedicated to ensuring that any conversation about theatre is not a practice excluding certain groups. In other words, they stand for diversity in discussion of theatre. The collective was formed for similar reasons that Tanya Saracho started writing; there was an immediate need for it. Living in the City of Angels, there is not a day that goes by I am not somehow influenced by Latino culture. But when I turn on the TV or go to the movies or see a play, their presence is lacking, to say the least. When considering race, it’s strange that these mediums are often the first to mention an issue, but the last to build a significant foundation for progress.
"El Nogalar" at the Fountain Theatre
El Nogalar (“The Pecan Orchard”), Tanya Saracho’s loose adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, premiered on the West Coast January 28th at The Fountain Theatre. “When I was in school, I felt that Chekhov was the most Latino playwright I came across” said Saracho before talking about her hesitations in moving to Los Angeles. She described herself as “too much of a Chicago girl.” While she’s not completely committed to transplanting herself to the West Coast, it’s nice to have her here for now. On behalf of Southern California, I would like to welcome Tanya Saracho and wish her all the fortunes she deserves. Salud!
El Nogalar Now Playing to March 11 (323) 663-1525 More Info
If Anton Chekhov were Latino, playwright Tanya Saracho would have him covered. El Nogalar, her Mexico-set spin on the Russian classic The Cherry Orchard, comes to the Fountain Theatre by way of Chicago.
Saracho wrote the play in 2004 while performing as an actor in Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad, at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. The LA-based Alfaro was then in the last year of his co-direction of Center Theatre Group’s Latino Theatre Initiative. At his urging, Saracho took the story she had in mind and went to work.
“I feel like when I met Luis, that’s when everything happened,” says Saracho. “He actually took me aside and said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you need to get serious about this writing thing.’ Because it’s not that I wasn’t serious. I had my own company [Teatro Luna] and we devised work, so we did ensemble-built performance. But as a playwright, I hadn’t written any plays by myself. But he was like, ‘You can do this.’”
With Alfaro on her side, Saracho told herself: “If El Maestro can do it, let me try it.” Alfaro has continued his guidance on the play, serving as the dramaturg for the Fountain production.
As an actor, director, and playwright, Saracho was able to remain hands-on throughout the development of her play. “All my three passions – they let me do all three things, which is very Chicago” — where theater artists tend to be hyphenates, she says. “They’re not one thing or another and it’s respected. It [prevents] pigeonholing yourself.”
The small Chicago company Teatro Vista commissioned El Nogalarin 2005. But Teatro Vista and the Goodman have a history of collaborations, and soon the Goodman expressed interest in it.
Saracho felt somewhat intimidated by the Goodman label. “I was like, ‘No, no. It’s the Goodman. The Goodman should not read my play.’” But at the same time, “it was really more than encouraging. It was like the seal. ‘Here you go.’ I mean people read plays and that doesn’t happen. Nice things like that keep happening. It just opened a lot of doors.”
The Goodman, which produces Latino Theatre Festivals every two or three years, “totally watched me and let me kind of do anything and just provided a stage. [That] was the biggest thing.”
Despite the encouragement Saracho received, she originally held back some of the play’s content. That was made clear at a reading of the first draft.
“I thought it was terrible. In the first version, I was really afraid of the crime element. I just adjusted it. It wasn’t as overt as it is now,” says Saracho. “I was like – when I first heard it – ‘What am I doing? Why am I a coward right now? I’m being a coward.’ ”
After some much needed character development and a little soul searching, El Nogalar was on its way. It received a staged reading at the 2010 Latino Theatre Festival, with the premiere following in spring 2011, produced by Teatro Vista and presented by the Goodman, at the Goodman.
“When I started Teatro Luna in 2000, our [Latino] audience was not used to going to the theater. We went to concerts, we went to dance, but theater was not where we put our disposable income as Latinos and the Mexican community,” says Saracho. “They would go see comedy but not theater. So, it took us a while to kind of nurture [them], and now they follow me to stuff and they also watch out for other [playwrights]. The movement took about 10 years and now we’ve trained the audience, [saying] ‘Look, this could be awesome.’”
Sabina Zuniga Varela, Justin Huen
Saracho was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, but moved with her family to McAllen, Texas — near the Rio Grande — in 1989. She majored in theater studies at Boston University. El Nogalar traces its roots to Chekhov, whom Saracho named as one of the few writers she identified with while in college.
“I’ve always talked about at cocktail parties and to anyone who would listen – ‘You know, Chekhov is basically Latino.’ In college, he was the most Latino playwright I came across, which is a bad thing — that I didn’t get exposed to Latino playwrights in college, because I was just identifying with any old Russian,” says Saracho. “The women, I identified [with them]. They resonated. They seemed familiar. They seemed Latin American. They’re full, rich, passionate, confident, flawed, complicated and they’re highly emotional. Highly flawed but really deep.”
El Nogalar tells the story of the Galvan family in northern Mexico, who have come home to claim their pecan orchard (“el nogalar”) after 15 years. Maite, the family’s matriarch, and her daughters return after squandering the family’s savings only to find the orchard overgrown, only two servants, and the land taken over by local drug cartels.
Director Laurie Woolery, who is also associate artistic director of Cornerstone Theater, speaks up. “How easy the land can be taken from people in Mexico and Central America is really, for me, what resonated because I know my tia and mother as immigrants – when they came her to the United States – it was all about [buying] land. Buy land. Own land here. Because in Mexico [and] Central America, it can be taken away from you. Even if you own it, it can be taken away. For me, what resonated about this piece is investment in the land, in the earth, where you plan yourself, where your family can grow up out of.”
The play also has present-day implications, especially in light of current conditions in Mexico and the large Latino population in Southern California. According to Saracho, characters like Dunia, the female servant desperately trying to help the Galvan women, represent people currently surviving in Mexico.
But the play as a whole makes a political statement, she adds. “It is always a political act to put brown bodies on stage. And we don’t think about it because we [Latino playwrights] are used to putting brown bodies on stage. I’m so excited that we’re putting five brown bodies on the stage.”
“I’m going to call the Fountain a mainstream theater because it’s not a Latino space or a [African-American] space,” Saracho says. “To have us here, I feel like it’s representing more than just these people. It’s representing a community, obviously not speaking for, but to have those actors. And Latina females – Latina director, Latina writer, a Latina stage manager. There’s something political about that, without seeing the play, but because of that I think it’s important.”
The all-Latino cast consists of Sabina Suniga Varela (Dunia), Yetta Gottesman (Maite Galvan), Isabelle Ortega (Valeria Galvan), Diana Romo (Anita Galvan), and Justin Huen (Lopez) with Frederica Nascimento designing sets and Lonnie Rafael Alcarez designing lighting.
Diana Romo, Yeyya Gottesman, Isabelle Ortega
“I think our Latino community here in Los Angeles is really diverse,” says Woolery, “and one thing that I really applaud the Fountain for is wanting to expand the diversity of their season by putting El Nogalarin. I’m excited for the Fountain audience to be able to experience something different. Even within that Latino cast there’s diversity in it. I know that the play is very specifically placed in Mexico, but I love that the casting was inclusive and I’m just hopeful that people are going to come out and see it and support it. I think it’s an incredibly beautiful play.”
Woolery adds that “what’s exciting about playwriting specifically right now is the new voices that are coming out. I mean, who would have ever thought wrestling would make it onto the stages of the theater world [in Kristoffer Diaz’sThe Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity] and be up for one of the top prizes in the country? And I think that gives me great hope for theater in general because so much of what you hear [is] it’s such a struggle to keep a theater open and running and people coming because movie tickets are $15. So, you’ll spend that but will you spend $15 on a play?…How do we encourage people to keep coming back and having that experience?”
In LA, more than in many cities, notes Woolery, “Geography is a challenge, because “for us to go out and support each other’s work…sometimes just getting across town will take an hour. But I think there is a spirit of people wanting Latino theater to be successful. So, I’m hoping not the just the regular Latino audience but others who don’t necessarily feel that theater is for them will come and see El Nogalar and that there’s an accessibility for audiences to be able to come and feel like their story’s on stage. That there is a place for them in the theater world, that their stories can exist and have value.”
Saracho points out the growing struggle between the theater experience and the virtual experience.
“We just don’t sit and witness and experience the full experience [outside theaters],” she says. “The person coughing – that is part of the experience. The person unwrapping the [wrapper], the actor that kind of flubbed a line. All that is live theater. [Film] is so perfect for you on the screens. It’s all cut up for you – cut, paste, and done for you, all the thinking. But in this, you’re going to see some cellulite, you’re going see some split ends. Do you know what I mean? It’s real people up there.”
El Nogalar Jan 28 – March 11 (323) 663-1525 More Info
Though Tanya Saracho is 35 and has lived in the United States since she was 12, she still isn’t a citizen, holding only a green card. Deeply grateful to the United States for the life she’s lived here so far, she finds the citizenship process now administered by the Department of Homeland Security a bit daunting.
Born in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, she grew up in the adjoining border towns of Reynoso, Mexico, and McAllen, Texas; her father still works on the Mexican side. Saracho has been tentatively crossing borders ever since, including literary borders — among contemporary Latino literature, classical Spanish plays and even Russian classics.
Hollywood’s Fountain Theatre is presenting her play El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard), based on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, starting this week. (The play premiered last year in a joint production between Teatro Vista and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.)
“When I was in school, I didn’t get exposed to Latino playwrights,” Saracho explains. “I got exposed to [Spanish classical author] Lope de Vega, but not the modern ones. When they introduced Chekhov, we read The Cherry Orchard. I kept saying, ‘Oh my God, this guy is Latino. The women, the way they lamented, the way they whined, it seemed very Latino to me.”
Saracho moved to Chicago because of its reputation as a serious theater town, and there she formed her own company, Teatro Luna, where she mostly performed solo shows. At one point, she says, “I said, ‘In this company, we’re going to adapt The Cherry Orchard to Latino.’ ” Eventually the more established Teatro Vista company got involved and helped make it happen.
Diana Romo, Yetta Gottesman, Isabelle Ortega in "El Nogalar"
In her adaptation, she says, “I got rid of the dudes. I never understood what the dudes did. The first version was all women. Lopahkin can’t touch the women because of the class thing,” referring to the grandson of a serf kept at a distance by the play’s aristocrats as “vulgar.” “So I consigned him to monologues.”
But it was the maid, Dunyasha, who became the playwright’s obsession — “how she became a survivor,” Saracho says, after having been jilted by the servant Yasha, who doesn’t appear in Saracho’s version. “Yasha could have been a coke-head, I guess, but I cut out all the men.”
The play is in English, but peppered with Spanish and Spanglish. “Nobody’s going to miss a thing,” she says.
The bank doesn’t foreclose on the orchard, as it does in Chekhov’s play. Rather, a drug cartel causes the family to part with the property.
Saracho plans to stay in L.A. for a while, thanks to a literary agent and the hope of another border crossing — from theater to TV and film.
West Coast Premiere of “El Nogalar” at the Fountain Theatre
by Brandon R. Garcia
Tanya Saracho might have had the chance to write for a TV series on a major cable channel three years ago.
Producers there had heard all about the McHi graduate’s auspicious work in the Chicago theater scene (a commission for the Steppenwolf Theater Companyhere, a cover article in TimeOutChicagothere) and they were eager to talk to her.
No one could believe it when she turned them down.
“I was like, ‘No, I don’t do that. I’m not ready, thanks,’” Saracho, 35, said. “I was still figuring stuff out. My writing needed to be more muscular. But everyone was like ‘you’re an idiot, you’re an idiot!’”
Everyone, that is, except her señora — her tarot card reader.
“My señora told me, ‘Don’t worry … it will come back around again.’”
Last week, Saracho left McAllen-Miller International Airport after a holiday stay in the Valley on a plane bound for Los Angeles, where she’ll be for at least the next few months.
"El Nogalar" at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles
She now has a manager, a TV writing agent … and a meeting to talk about writing for TV a series.
On that same major cable channel.
With the same producers she turned down four years ago.
“I’m ready now,” she laughed. “I’m ready now.”
Born in Sinaloa, Saracho grew up mostly in Reynosa and McAllen. Her theater career got its start in the rigorous drama department at McHi under teacher JohnFarr, whose iron fist provided a “formative” experience for Saracho and classmate RaúlCastillo, another McAllen grad on the rise in the entertainment industry.
“Mr. Farr was super mean and awful and a little bit abusive,” she said. “But he trained us so well for this industry … which is mean, sad and abusive.”
Saracho graduated from Boston University and has lived in Chicago ever since.
Saracho’s diverse body of work is very much a reflection of who she is, where she comes from and what she has seen.
KitaYFernanda is about the daugther of a wealthy family in Sharyland — and the daughter of their maid, who is the same age.
ElNogalar is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s TheCherryOrchard— but instead of turn-of-the-century Russia, the play takes place on a ranch in present-day Nuevo León. It’s the first in a trilogy of plays dealing with the Drug War’s devastating effect on Mexican families.
Though still in progress, the second story hits even closer to home.
Son of the Disappeared is about “a family dealing with a son who hasn’t shown up home in 48 hours on the border,” she said. “That’s not just, ‘He went partying and he’s been gone for 48 hours.’ Now you have to worry.”
Saracho has seen the grisly consequences of speaking the truth about the warinMexico, which has claimed about 50,000 lives since conflicts escalated in 2006.
“It’s not a story with no consequence,” she said. “This is life and death stuff here on the border.”
She felt that fear first-hand when Mexican media reprinted her New York Times article with the inaccurate headline “Saracho escribe obra de narcos” (“Saracho writes play about narco-traffickers”). She makes clear that her subjects are not those who are fighting the war, but rather those who are not.
“I’m very torn,” she said. “I have family members that are not safe … and then I’m up here (in Chicago) looking at it safe and giving opinions.”
“I feel such guilt about this. But somebody has to write about it, because people don’t know about it. It will rot inside me if I don’t get it out.”
“On the road” driving the streets of Los Angeles
Chicago is Tanya Saracho’s home. She’s lived there longer than she lived in Mexico or the Valley, and she proudly calls herself a “Chicago girl.”
“I crave the community (there),” she said. “Casting directors respect you. The weather keeps me honest.”
Voice–actinggigs and commissions have allowed her to thrive in the Windy City. But when change is in the wind, she knows she has to follow it.
Back in the Valley, Saracho seeks out those old familiar feelings — friends, family, even the food.
“Every time when I get off the plane, my mom knows to go straight to Whataburger,” she said. “I could live here again.”
She’s thought about moving back, maybe to work on a novel she’s been wanting to write.
But that would be living in the past. Tomorrow is in the west.
“McAllen lives in my heart and in my head,” she said. “But I’ve got to give it a go in L.A.”
EL Nogalar at the Fountain Jan 21 – March 11 (323) 663-1525More Info
IN reviewing the ebullient play “Kita y Fernanda” in 2008, a Chicago critic called its young author, Tanya Saracho, “the Chicana Chekhov” for her deft blend of comedy and drama. It’s hardly surprising, then, that her loose adaptation of Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard,” titled “El Nogalar,” is set against the bloody backdrop of Mexico’s drug wars.
But the story behind Ms. Saracho’s rise from scrappy storefront theaters to national stature is, like the playwright herself, more complicated than that clever, alliterative epithet would suggest.
For starters, though Ms. Saracho happily accepted the Chekhov comparison, she doesn’t identify as Chicana — a self-assigned term associated with a particular West Coast Mexican-American sensibility. She doesn’t even consider herself Mexican-American. A native of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa and raised mostly in the border towns of Reynosa, Mexico, and McAllen, Tex., Ms. Saracho, 34, is a green-card-carrying Mexican citizen living in the United States still torn about joining the country she’s called home since 1989.
Her long-standing ambivalence isn’t just a matter of paperwork; literal and figurative borders fire Ms. Saracho’s best writing. The title characters of the autobiographical “Kita y Fernanda” are the daughters of the live-in maid and the woman of the house, respectively, who grow up together over treacherous fault lines of class and language. In 2009’s “Our Lady of the Underpass” Ms. Saracho turned a series of interviews with a diverse group of Chicagoans into a suite of monologues about an image of the Virgin Mary allegedly sighted on a concrete wall under the Kennedy Expressway.
And in “El Nogalar,” which translates as “The Pecan Orchard,” Ms. Saracho has set Chekhov’s final play amid the violence that has enveloped Mexico’s northern states.
“Every time we go home, it’s all we talk about, because it’s all there is,” Ms. Saracho said. “Right now we’re held hostage by this thing. It’s so complicated that it has no name, but we all know what we’re talking about.”
She was talking at a cocktail party, “and I was like, ‘The most Latino playwright I encountered in college was Chekhov,’ and then someone took me up on it,” said Ms. Saracho, whose conversation spills out in digressive torrents that might brand her as a fresa, the Mexican version of a Valley Girl, but for the heady subject matter.
According to Cecilie Keenan, who is directed the world premiere at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, what links “The Cherry Orchard” to “El Nogalar” is the jarring spectacle of reverse migration.
“I asked Tanya: ‘What about the fact that our economy’s kind of tanking now? Aren’t rich Mexicans going back home because there’s nothing to do here?’ ” Ms. Keenan said. “And she was like, ‘You know, they are.’ ” So the return of Chekhov’s debt-ridden Madame Ranevsky from Paris to her soon-to-be-auctioned Russian estate becomes, in Ms. Saracho’s play, the story of Señora Maite, alighting obliviously at her family home in northeastern Mexico, where nothing so gentle as an auction threatens the property.
In Ms. Saracho’s compressed time frame the local drug mafia steadily tightens its grip over a few urgent days, compared with the fateful ebbing summer of “The Cherry Orchard.” And, in a marked departure from Chekhov’s famous dictum that a gun shown in a play’s first act must be fired in the second, “El Nogalar” features this sassy stage direction: “Lopez goes for his piece. Yes, old boy is packing, O.K.? But just don’t make a big deal out of it ever. This is just what the men do now.”
Like many young theater artists Ms. Saracho moved to Chicago for its reputation as a no-nonsense stage town and helped form a small company, Teatro Luna, to create work — in her case, frank, funny monologues inspired by her own experiences. But her ambition and achievement quickly outpaced the solo format. The way she tells it, she was plucked from a happy fringe career by the city’s larger institutions; the way others tell it, her potential practically forced them to act.
“She’s the first really viable local Latino playwright we’ve had,” said Henry Godinez, a co-founder of Teatro Vista, who joined the Goodman’s artistic staff in 1996 and has remained a bridge between the two companies. In 2008, with the encouragement of mentors like Mr. Godinez, Ms. Saracho had assignments from Chicago’s two biggest theaters: “Our Lady of the Underpass,” which the Goodman commissioned and Teatro Vista produced, and an adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’s “House on Mango Street” for Steppenwolf TheaterCompany.
With these gains in profile came some wrenching transitions. She quit Teatro Luna a year ago, a decision that still clearly pains her. And she’s now working on plays that will feature no Latino characters: a commission from About Face, Chicago’s gay-oriented theater, for a play about the transgender Civil War soldier Albert Cashier, for which Ms. Saracho received a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a commission from Steppenwolf to write a play for its mostly white acting ensemble.
Tanya Saracho and playwright Luis Alfaro, serving as dramaturg on the Fountain production.
“Tanya is now facing the idea that she’s going to have a national role,” said Polly Carl, Steppenwolf’s director of artistic development. “She realizes the unfortunate, in a way, responsibility she is taking on. No playwright should have to take on the voice of a people. What we’re telling her is that she can write about anything.”
What Ms. Saracho seems destined to write about, no matter the place, is socioeconomic class. Raised comfortably in an upper-middle-class family, she said she didn’t confront prejudice against Mexicans — or the troubling notion that she was exempt because of her privilege and her fair skin — until she moved to Chicago. In part that’s why Ms. Saracho has beefed up the role of the social-climbing character of Dunyasha in “Cherry Orchard,” renamed Dunia in her play.
“Dunyasha became my obsession,” Ms. Saracho confessed. “Dunyasha wants to be white, and we have that whole race shame in Mexico. You don’t even say it. It just is. When you see who’s serving who, who’s in power, it’s evident. I don’t look at it when I’m down there, but when I look at it with binoculars from up here, I do.”
El Nogalar Fountain Theatre Jan 21-March 11 (323) 663-1525 More Info
Tanya Saracho’s tale of humor and heartache in a changing Mexico
Director Laurie Wooleryand dramaturg Luis Alfaro team up on an explosive tale of humor and heartache in a changing Mexico. The West Coast premiereof El Nogalar (“The Pecan Orchard”) by Tanya Saracho opens at The Fountain Theatre on January 28, with low-priced previews beginning January 21.
When the Galvan family returns home to Mexico after years in the U.S., they must come to terms with encroaching drug cartels, economic upheaval and a new class order. Inspired by The Cherry Orchard, Saracho makes Chekhov’s classic story her own, instilling it with a thrilling sense of immediacy. The deeply felt story of changing times and class divide is vividly portrayed using a mix of English, Spanish, Spanglish and Espanglés – but audiences will have no trouble understanding Saracho’s funny and complex characters.
Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela), the Galvan family’s housekeeper, watches Maité Galvan (Yetta Gottesman) and her daughters Valeria (Isabelle Ortega) and Anita (Diana Romo) spend their wealth and risk losing their home and beloved pecan orchard to a drug cartel. Despite warnings from Lopez (Justin Huen), Maité disregards her declining fortune as stubbornly as she ignores the sinister capos simmering at her doorstep.
“When I was in school, I felt that Chekhov was the most Latino playwright I came across.” explained Saracho in an interview. “I thought, ‘I know this dude, his characters. These women are my aunts, my cousins.’ ”
“This play humanizes what we’re reading in the news everyday,” says Woolery. “These women are from an old family, wealthy landowners with political connections. But in this new Mexico, class is turned on its ear.”
El Nogalar was developed in a staged reading during the Goodman Theatre’s Latino Theatre Festival, and premiered at the Goodman in 2011, produced and commissioned by Chicago’s Teatro Vista where Saracho is a resident playwright. American Theatre Magazine published the script in the July/August 2011 issue along with an interview with Saracho, who has been dubbed “a major playwriting talent” by the Chicago Tribune and a playwright “of national stature” by The New York Times.
El NogalarPreviews Jan 21 – 27, Opens Jan 28 323 663-1525 More Info
Our upcoming production of the west coast premiere of El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard) by Tanya Saracho is set in modern day Mexico. Directed by Laurie Woolery, the play will be performed on an open, stylized, multi-use set where the various locations of the story — both interior and exterior — can all magically take place. It is the job of our talented and award-winning set designer Frederica Nascimento (Opus) to make it happen on the Fountain stage.
A sneak peak at the design model for the El Nogalar set:
Cool, eh? Wait til you see the finished set! Beautiful and magical …
Set designer Frederica Nascimento works in theatre, opera, dance and film. Recipient of numerous awards, received her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts/ NYU with the J. S. Seidman Graduating Award for Excellence in Design. Graduated from Superior School of Theatre and Cinema, IFICT Theatre Institute, and Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University of Lisbon. A scholar with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Luso-American Foundation and a member of the Portuguese Architects Association. Directors worked with include José Álvaro Morais, Manoel de Oliveira, Wim Wenders, Pina Bausch, Robert Wilson, Jane Campion, Rogério de Carvalho, João Canijo, Nuno M. Cardoso, Ruben Polendo, Annie Kaufman, Will Pomerantz, Julia Frodahl, Heather Woodbury, Phyllis Nagy, Chris Fields, Simon Levy, Ron Sossi, Ken Barnett, Larry Biederman, among others. Collaborates with Johannes Wieland Dance Company in NY and is a Usual Suspect for the New York Theatre Workshop.