GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Co-Founder & Producing Artistic Director Hugo Medrano unveils GALA’s new 2015-2016 season.
Joel: How long have you been at GALA and how has the vision you had when you began GALA changed or evolved?
Hugo: I co-founded the organization in 1976 and I have been its Producing Artistic director since then. Our mission remains the same: to preserve and promote Latino arts and cultures by producing classical and contemporary Hispanic plays, musicals, and children’s theatre; presenting Latino/multicultural performers, dancers, musicians and poets from the United States and abroad; making quality bilingual theatre education accessible to Latino youth; and building awareness of the richness and diversity of Hispanic performing art forms among the non-Spanish-speaking public.
Since Columbia Heights has evolved and is being gentrified, how has this effected your audience?
Our audience has grown, changed and diversified along with the development of Columbia Heights, and GALA has contributed much to the cultural landscape and international flavor of the area. We are focused on meeting the needs of our community today, developing new artistic networks and exchanges, commissioning new work, and hosting and presenting artists of different disciplines from across the United States, the Americas, and Spain.
What are you doing to get the word out about your new season to the new residents of your neighborhood?
I think we have a strong presence in our neighborhood. The Tívoli has historical and sentimental interest for the community and people know about the varied artistic activity that GALA provides through information disseminated using the marquee, posters at the Giant elevator, flyers at neighborhood businesses, and word of mouth. There are also many events by other groups at the theatre, each one attracting a different segment of the community-at-large that enhances knowledge about and interest in our programs.
Take me through your exciting 2015-2016 season.
Our Anniversary Season is a journey through GALA’s theatrical adventure of the last 40 years. We revisit some of our most outstanding playwrights, engage some of our best actors, and work with directors of GALA’s most memorable productions.
In September José Luis Arellano (from Spain) will mount a volatile and very contemporary YERMA (by GALA favorite Federico García Lorca, as adapted by Fernando J. López.
February 2016 will bring another of Gustavo Ott’s Washington premieres, SEÑORITA Y MADAME: The Secret War of Elizabeth Arden & Helena Rubinstein, about the two icons of beauty and marketing who forever changed how we see and present ourselves, directed by Venezuelan Consuelo Trum.
In April 2016 comes our ambitious theatrical adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s magnificent novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, staged by New York’s acclaimed Latino director José Zayas, in his third staging at GALA.
Finally, José Carrasquillo, GALA’director par excellence, will helm the season’s last production: El Paso Blue, a southwestern take on the Oedipus Rex story by the exceptionally talented Chicano playwright Octavio Solis.
You begin the season with YERMA by Frederico Garcia Lorca. When was the play written and what is it about?
The play, written in 1934, is about a woman in a rural Andalucía named Yerma, which means barren, who cannot conceive. Her husband does not care much about having a family, but her desire is so strong that with the passage of time it poisons/consumes her mind and body to the point of total desperation. The author called the play “a tragic poem, and indeed the language of the work, although not totally in verse, is pure poetry.
Introduce us to your cast and tell us what impresses you most about their performances.
The lead character is played by Mabel del Pozo, an exceptional actress from Madrid, who imbues Yerma with gutsinesss and visceral emotions.
Juan is performed by Eric Robledo, a Mexican actor from New York who is very physical and projects beautifully the sternness of a peasant trapped by prejudice and society’s codes of conduct.
Iker Lastra, a young and strong Spanish guest actor plays Victor, the shepherd, with a mixture of earnest innocence and sensuality.
Chilean actress Natalia Miranda-Guzmán is María, Yerma’s confidant and a young mother uncertain about motherhood and her own needs as a woman.
Our wonderful Luz Nicolas performs the role of Dolores and is a pleasure to watch her sinister composition of a witch doctor and an experienced matchmaker.
Introduce us to Director José Luis Arellano. What has he brought to this production that impresses you the most? How would you describe his style of directing?
Arellano is a young and very creative director from Madrid. He has worked as an assistant to many seasoned and acclaimed Spanish directors like Gerardo Vera and Josep María Maestres, and he is the Artistic Director of La Joven Compañía (The Young Company), an independent theatre group that has attracted the attention of young audiences across Spain. His directing is very sharp, precise, extracting raw emotions from his actors and moving them in rigorous dramatic patterns. Although faithful to García Lorca’s text, López’s adaptation reduces the number of characters to five, getting to the essence of the play: a loveless marriage, forbidden desires and an oppressive rural society that drive Yerma to kill her husband.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Yerma?
I would like them to leave the theater thinking about this woman who confronts her own demons, who explores her maternal instincts and role in society. Yerma opens the door to so many thoughts to women and to men and society in general. And, of course, there is the text, that poetic language that goes directly to the heart of the listener and describes so vividly the emotional turmoil of the characters.
What do you say to those theatregoers who do not speak Spanish and shy away from coming to GALA because they fear they will not understand the play?
Oh! I would tell them not to worry, that they will definitely understand the play. There are English surtitles projected onto two screens to guide the audience whenever they feel lost. But I would also suggest that they let the actors immerse them into the emotions of the characters (they are very expressive), and to use the surtitles to make sure their understanding is correct.
Why is it so important to support Hispanic Theatre in the DC Metro area?
I believe GALA brings a different theater perspective to DC audiences. We introduce the works of playwrights from Latin America and Spain, which reflect unique ideas, styles and the social, political and cultural histories of their countries. GALA is also a recognized and esteemed institution at a national level and Washington has a vibrant and growing Hispanic population with rich heritages and artistic expressions that deserve the appreciation and support of theatre audiences.
How would you describe GALA’s 2015-2016 season?
In !VIVA LOS 40!, you will know what you will see, but each play will still surprise you.