La Luna Nueva: A collision of tradition and innovation
By Julie Cortez, El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — Some things are old, some are new, and sometimes the old merges with new at Miracle Theatre Group’s fourth annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, more commonly — an poetically — known as La Luna Nueva.
El Centro Milagro will be alive with sounds, sights, movements, and words during this two-week “festival of Hispanic arts and culture from around the world,” beginning Sept. 14 and closing Sept. 29.
Miracle MainStage Artistic Director Olga Sanchez’s first shot at directing La Luna Nueva also represents her first attempt at helming such a long festival. Sixteen nights of performances allow for a rare diversity of disciplines, cultures, styles, languages, and perspectives.
“There’s a variety here of voices that I’m really excited about — and experiences,” Sanchez says.
The glow of La Luna Nueva illuminates diverse performers and works from throughout the Americas and Spain, bringing attention to innovators while also paying homage to the originators.
Perhaps the piece that best represents this blending of genres and old and new is “Flor y Canto” (Sept. 14, 7 p.m.). A performance by Aztec dancers Titlakawan will set the scene and tone for a staged reading of “A Dialogue of Flower and Song,” an English-language play by Cindy Williams Gutiérrez that revolves around the poet-king Tecayehuatzin and three female poets from pre-conquest Mexico, colonial New Spain, and the contemporary Mexican Diaspora. Gerardo Galderón will accompany the reading on pre-Columbian flutes, water drums, and rattles.
For Sanchez, “Flor y Canto” represents “a connection to roots … but it’s also about the higher thought: what are we getting from this?”
After missing the festival in years past due to rehearsals for Miracle’s annual Day of the Dead celebration, Sanchez has passed the directing reins for that show this year, allowing her not only to focus her creative energy on the massive undertaking of directing La Luna Nueva, but also to appreciate the festival as an audience member.
“I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the luxury … of seeing everything,” Sanchez says.
With 18 separate offerings on La Luna Nueva’s schedule, we don’t have the luxury of delving into all of them here — visit www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253 for full details — but El Hispanic News talked to a few of the creative individuals sharing their talents during this year’s festival.
El Último Coconut
Seattle performer Gerald Alejandro Ford takes on seven different roles — without any costume changes — in his one-man show, “El Último Coconut” (Sept. 24, 7 p.m.).
Coco, a World of Warcraft-obsessed “internet troll” who can’t seem to muster the same level of confidence and cockiness around his family and that he has online, is in search of his true identity.
Ford is not himself a gamer and does not consider the play to be autobiographical, but Coco’s aspirations and his family life are pretty familiar to the 25-year-old playwright/actor.
“I have been considered a ‘coconut,’ especially in my family — ‘white on the inside, brown on the outside,’” he says.
Ford calls “El Último Coconut” something of a bridge between stand-up comedy and theater that has drawn comparisons to the film “Real Women Have Curves” and the novel “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”
But, he insists, “It’s very much a Gerald Ford production. I don’t hold back as far as raunchy, adult humor. There’s not a lot of subtlety to me.”
Ford will also appear as Sancho Panza in the staged reading of “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza: Homeless in Seattle” on Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.
Alma y Azúcar
Through songs and stories from Celia Cruz’s life, the Seattle-based band Alma y Azúcar — featuring Alma Villegas (lead vocals), Ben Verdier piano, Ricardo Guity (congas and percussion), Jeff Volkman (bass), and Steve Mostovoy (trumpet) — will perform a tribute to “la reina de la salsa” (Sept. 22, 8 p.m.).
“I’m the soul, and the boys are the sugar,” Villegas says.
The singer/actress says she wishes she had a romantic story to share for how she began singing Cruz’s songs, but there’s a pretty simple explanation: “For some miraculous reason, her range is pretty much identical to my own.”
Villegas had been considering putting together a retrospective on Celia’s life, and La Luna Nueva affords her the opportunity to give it a try on a small scale before applying for grants to support a full-scale production.
“That’s the dream,” Villegas says.
Her more immediate hope is for her audience to have a good time, sing along with some of the coros, and — space allowing — “get up and shake it.”
¡La cosa está Pelú’a!
Pelú Theatre’s company of acrobats will share the day-to-day struggles of an immigrant day laborer in the language of circus — as well as Spanish and English — in “¡La cosa está Pelú’a!” on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
Pelú Artistic Director CarlosAlexis Cruz says he was inspired by conversations he’s had with day workers hired at another local theater — and by the backpacks they always have in tow.
“What do they carry them and why are they so attached to them?” he wondered.
Like Villegas, Cruz is hoping to use the experience at La Luna Nueva to gauge audience reaction and build a future “pure circus show” that adequately reflects the “daily grind of a day worker.”
“We’re in a very exploratory kind of space now,” Cruz says. “I think it’s going to be a fun way to expose some of these things to the audience.”
A collection of paintings by Renée Zangara, the “One Song” exhibition will be open an hour before every performance, for the entire run of the festival.
“The paintings are abstractions inspired by real time-and-space events — places I’ve been and things I’ve seen,” Zangara says. “I am aware of an energy that permeates and surrounds the Earth and I aim to apply paint in such a way that it reflects my awareness of this dynamic energy. Also, I believe this energy or vibration connects all things, and through it, all things are connected to a greater intelligence. This greater intelligence is sometimes referred to as the Universe; the literal translation of the word universe — uni verse — is one song. An aspect of La Luna Nueva is connection, what better place to exhibit One Song?”
Este artículo también está disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
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