Mother Road by Octavio Solis currently playing at the San Diego Repertory Theatre until October 31

An Exploration of Various Topics the Playwright Wanted to Unpack from His Perspective and Experience

The Cast of Mother Road at San Diego Repertory Theatre. Photo by Rich Soublet

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti
Playwright Octavio Solis was invited a few years back by The National Steinbeck Center to travel with other creatives just as the Jodes family did in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Along that trip through Route 66, Solis met and talked to people that inspired him to write a sort of sequel to the novel and title it Mother Road as Steinbeck called the route in his novel.

The piece itself is a total exploration of various topics that Solis wants to unpack from his perspective and experience, like Mexican immigrants and the new American generations, farmers, racism, reverse racism, inherited points of view as well as dated views of what the American family is and/or looks like. 

William Joad (played by Mark Murphey), a senior with terminal cancer, is the grandson of Tom Joad from Steinbeck’s novel, and he is in search of the last surviving descendant of the Joad family to bequeath the family farm in Oklahoma. William is shocked to find this descendant is Mexican- American man Martín Jodes (Richard Jessie Johnson). Solis also includes a few winks in the piece. For example, the last names "Joad" and "Jodes" are the same. Jodes is the Mexicanized version which is also a synonym to "piss off or screw" more or less.

As the men go from California to Oklahoma in this trampled voyage through Route 66 in Martín´s truck, they encounter police brutality against Martín -shocker- and added travelers like Martín´s cousin by choice, Mo (Yadira Correa). By choice because when Mo came out as gay to her family, they shut her out and Martín took her in. Mark Murphey originated the role of Joad and is reprising it in the SD Rep's incarnation. His work is pretty good, delivering a combination of southern flare with western type movies. Richard Jessie Johnson as justice seeker Martín, is mighty and also a bit trampled at times. Old Globe MFA Alumna, Yadira is funny and profound. Another message here with her role as an expert farmer is loyalty to the soil and decent, organic treatment of it. With the implied reference to pesticides used today across the board in American fields, Monsanto, and so on. 

The cast also includes Sandy Campbell, Javier Guerrero, Jason Heil, and Ruben Rubio in various roles. From good cop-bad cop to crop worker, to lawyer and landowners. All do a very good job matching up the different shades of each character. It is a tie for Campbell`s delivery as the town diner waitress Ivy, and sassy lesbian Officer Hamilton. Very enjoyable. Same for veteran Jason Heil, as greedy Roger, racist cop, and old school "Oki". I would've liked to see more like these from Ruben Rubio and Javier Guerrero, but it is a large cast after all.  

Cedric Lamar as the faithful and earth-loving James also brings a lot of flair to the scene. He too originated this role at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Celeste Lanuza as Martín´s great lost love Amelia is mighty, sweet, and has an angelical and educated singing voice that brings melody to the musical or chorus parts during the play. Just as Octavio wants to unpack all these layers into a two-hour piece, a lot goes on stage-wise as well, between an improvised moving truck that the cast pushes around to a diner and hotel with the same dynamic. The musical element is unjustified and honestly has no place there. Seems like it was integrated with a shoehorn almost.

Richard Jessie Johnson and Celeste Lanuza in Mother Road. Photo by Rich Soublet 
Directed by Sam Woodhouse and happy to see Vanessa Duron as Assistant Director, the creative team includes Charles Murdock in Scenic and Production Design. Costume Design by Jennifer Brawn Gittings, Lighting Design Chris Rynne, Music Composition & Sound Design by Paul James Pendergrast, Master Electrician is Ashley McFall, Production Manager Chelsea Smith, Stage Manager Shae Candelaria, Technical Director Sam Moore, Properties Supervisor is Zlatko Mitev, Dramaturgy by Danielle Ward and Rebecca Ojeda, Casting Director Kim Heil.

All in all, it is a well-performed piece, intelligently written, and shows the experience and desire of the playwright to tell the story. No doubt these stories need to keep being produced and told. Yes, immigration legal and illegal, racism, and a failed American system are a reality. However, regardless of the uniqueness of how this play, in particular, came to be, this continues to be part of an exhausted narrative. The Latin American and Hispanic communities are not a monolith. This is not a call-out, it is a kind reminder to all theatre companies that other wonderful stories like Karen Zacarias' Native Gardens, Caridad Svitch (who I met thanks to the Rep btw) In the time of the Butterflies, Fade by Tanya Saracho amongst many many others are out there. And let us not lose sight of Black Mexican by Rachel Lynett presented this year by the San Diego Rep's Latinx New Play Festival. Hopefully, we will see a production of that play very soon.

In the meantime, go and experience Mother Road for yourself and see what you think. The piece is currently running until October 31.

Important information: All patrons, including children, attending San Diego REP performances must either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 (at least 14 days have passed since the final dose), or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken in the prior 72-hours. 

Patrons are encouraged to submit this proof of vaccination or test prior to arriving to the performance. This may be done electronically through the BINDLE online system. https://sdrep.org/bindle.php 

All regardless of vaccination status must wear masks over their nose and mouth at all times while inside the venue.

Additionally, tickets will be emailed prior to each ticketed performance and will be available on your smartphone. 




Serious Topics like Adoption, Abandonment and a Sense of Belonging Make Up The Shutter Sisters

A piece by Mansa Ra, directed by Donya K. Washington.
At The Old Globe's reopened theatre in the round

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(from left) Terry Burrell as Mykal and Shana Wride as Michael in Shutter Sisters. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

The play is 80 minutes long but it really seemed like 35 because it is good and relatable. The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre is a gorgeous, intimate space and ideal to house this story. Two baby girls get put up for adoption on different sides of town. One baby is Black, the other is White and they're both named Michael but spell it differently.

The lights go on and both Michael (Shana Wride) and Mykal (Terry Burrell), are middle-aged women who have lived their lives and are recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly. There seems to have been a constant in the last 10+ years and that is, working in the shutter business. They have never met, but a death in one of the families digs out an old thread that reveals a connection.

(from left) Terry Burrell as Mykal and Shana Wride as Michael in Shutter Sisters. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
Both actresses are experienced and it shows, gifting the audience with moving lines. There is practically no dialogue between them as each one recounts individually and at their own time yet making a great synergy. Even though they are not "talking to each other", their combined energy creates room to allow an exchange. I would say that it is a reflection of Donya. K Washington's direction. Wilson Chin's set design is simple but very functional. There is a move taking place so there are cardboard boxes all around the stage that the actresses use as sitting stools. Those little details, like sitting down on a box, mark a pause that gives space for the other actress to talk. A few moments stood out, but there was one where it starts snowing. The prop used for the snow was packing peanuts. Released slowly, each peanut makes a subtle sound as it falls to the floor, when more start to fall, the unison simulates rain or snowdrops. I consider that to be a very touching moment within the piece and a very artistic one.

There are comedic moments as well but this is more of a serious piece with serious topics. Adoption, the sense of abandonment and belonging could be things people rather not talk about or maybeeven see on stage. This is a well-written and delicately told story, with pros and cons, exposing different scenarios that involve having a family, not having one, getting married, and getting divorced. Showing us that life is a series of infinite pros and cons with a dash of "what-ifs".

Shutter Sisters is currently playing until Sunday, November 7. Other creative team members for this production involve costume design by Kara Harmon, lighting design by Zach Murphy, sound design by Chris Lane, casting by Caparelliotis Casting, and production stage management by Marie Jahelka.

Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is required to enter the theatre as well as having your mask on COVERING NOSE AND MOUTH during the performance.

For more information on dates and showtimes please go to their website https://www.theoldglobe.org/ 

Shameless plug: listen to me talk about all the theatre I have seen so far during these season openers, in our wonderful podcast From Another Zero. 

LAMB'S Players Theatre in San Diego Welcomes Back Audiences with One Woman Show About Emily Dickinson

The Belle of Amherst is a Tour Through a Felt Recap of the American 19th Century Poet's Life with a Sweet Portrayal by Cynthia Gerber 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Cynthia Gerber as Emily Dickinson. Photo by J.T. MacMillan
It does not get any better than going to the lovely Coronado "Island" with its unique look and feel to enjoy an evening of theatre. LAMB's is back and celebrating its 50th year doing theatre with The Belle of Amherst written by William Luce and directed by Robert Smyth, is a one-person show about Emily Dickinson. Cynthia Gerber is very sweet and vivacious as the American poet. 

The scenic and lighting designs by Mike Buckley comprised of fall trees and a Victorian-looking living room accompanied by a faithful replica of Dickinson's desk, and Michael McKeon's projections of the family members for context, rounds out the piece and also that fall feels. The trees also give it a Massachusetts feel giving a wink to Dickinson's birthplace. The special touches are in the details, and what better place than live theatre to explore these creative options.

William Luce blends the poetry in the story as Gerber narrates Emily's day-to-day and surroundings. There is no fourth wall here; Robert Smyth's direction guides Cynthia in a dialogue with the audience. She goes from corner to corner of the stage utilizing all the space sharing Dickinson family details, making it a piece about history dressed with lines from the poetry. This is a creative and authentic concept. 

Gerber's energy goes beyond the stage showing how much she wanted to do this piece and that as an audience member, is appreciated.

Cynthia Gerber as Emily Dickinson. Photo by J.T. MacMillan

As with practically all plays now, in these face mask-wearing during performances times, there is no intermission, and 'Belle runs a little over 90 minutes. These one actor pieces can be hard and a tad tedious. 15-20 minutes less could have made it better.

The Belle of Amherst is currently playing until November 14. LAMB's Players stayed afloat during the pandemic thanks to the generous donations of patrons but they also continued to explore creative outlets with promotional merch and a recipe book by the artistic team and casts.

For more information on this as well as performance dates and times, go to their website: https://www.lambsplayers.org/ 



'Premeditation’, Latino Theatre Company's play turned podcast is an absolute hoot

Written by Evelina Fernández, the six-episode incarnation will have audiences hooked throughout October with new episodes releasing every Friday

Evelina Fernández and Lucy Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Latino Theater Company
A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Premeditation debuted in 2014. Spinning it into an audio format was definitely a good choice. A comedy seasoned with a sprinkle of murder involving two middle-aged couples that reflect on married life, the old glories, and fizzled romance. 

Latino Theater Company artistic director José Luis Valenzuela directed the hilarious troupe starring Fernandez alongside Sal Lopez, Geoffrey Rivas, and Lucy Rodriguez. Aside from the dialogues, each character also narrates either a description of what is about to happen or something from the past for context. The voices pass through that microphone crisp and emanating all the emotions whether it is anger, nostalgia, or just plain annoyance.

Geoffrey Rivas and Sal Lopez. Photo courtesy of Latino Theater Company
Fernández's writing is not only good but darn accurate in many ways. The words and phrases in Spanish included in this audio spin, give it that Mexican 50s radio novela touch with Chicano flare that makes it even greater.

As always, I do not want to give it away. But I can assure you, hardly any woman likes to be called señora. Nor do we like to see husband's chones lying around.

The other added value is that each episode is between 15 and 18 minutes long. Listeners will go through them like a breeze and be left wanting more.

This effort of adapting a staged piece into a podcast is creative and smart. Looking forward to more innovative proposals from The Latino Theatre Company.

The first three episodes of Premeditation are available now. Episode Four drops on Friday, Oct. 15; Episode Five on Friday, Oct. 22; and Episode Six on Friday, Oct. 29.

Check them out at  www.latinotheaterco.org/premeditation 

Shameless plug: listen to me talk to awesome artists and the arts in our wonderful podcast From Another Zero. The latest episode is "Disability Thinking Twice with Valerie Salgado".

New Village Arts, North County’s cultural hub, celebrates its 20th anniversary with the announcement of a season of plays that includes two world premieres, and a residency at Oceanside Theatre Company while the renovation of its home theatre in the heart of Carlsbad Village is completed.
New Village Arts venue rendering courtesy of New Village Arts

The 20th Anniversary Season includes two world premieres, beginning in November 2021 with 1222 OCEANFRONT: A BLACK FAMILY CHRISTMAS, a new holiday musical written by prominent San Diego arts leader and playwright Dea Hurston and devised by Frankie Alicea-Ford, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, Milena (Sellers) Phillips, and Dea Hurston, centering on the family holiday experience in a humorous and touching way. The other world premiere, DESERT ROCK GARDEN, marks the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Japanese-American internment camps, telling the story of a young orphan and an older immigrant who forge a friendship in the Topaz Relocation Center during World War II. A co-production with Oceanside Theatre Company of a musical to be announced soon and the beloved classic SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN round out the season. 

Two of the four plays will be presented at Oceanside Theatre Company, where New Village Arts is in residence while its home theatre, at 2787 State Street in Carlsbad Village, is undergoing an extensive renovation funded by THE NEXT STAGE, a $2.5 million fundraising campaign with major support from The Conrad Prebys Foundation and The Sahm Family Foundation.

“What an honor and a thrill it is to announce our 20th Anniversary Season after this very long year and a half being away from our indoor home,”
says Kristianne Kurner, founder and executive artistic director.
“Like everyone else, we’ve spent the last year reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. For over 20 years, New Village Arts has been presenting theater that has surprised, entertained and enlivened our community. And our future is brighter than ever.”

New Village Arts 20th Anniversary Season 2021–22

Dea Hurston debuts Holiday Musical at New Village Arts
1222 OCEANFRONT: A BLACK FAMILY CHRISTMAS

WORLD PREMIERE HOLIDAY MUSICAL
Previews: November 19–26, 2021 
Performances: November 27–December 26, 2021
Venue: New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad
Written by Dea Hurston 
Created and Devised by Frankie Alicea-Ford, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, Milena (Sellers) Phillips, and Dea Hurston
Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Original Music by Milena (Sellers) Phillips
Music Adaptation and Direction by John-Mark McGaha

Dorothy Black invites you to join her and her family for Christmas Eve at 1222 Oceanfront. The festive evening features all family traditions including an abundance of delicious food, dancing, skits, and the singing of new, original holiday songs mixed with reimagined carols. And lots of love, because it’s family. The evening may also include a bit of drama, because, well—it’s family. But seriously, how much drama can there be on Christmas Eve? 

DESERT ROCK GARDEN

WORLD PREMIERE PLAY

Previews: January 21–28, 2022 
Performances: January 29–February 20, 2022 
Venue: Oceanside Theatre Company, Sunshine Brooks Theater, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside
Written by Roy Sekigahama
Directed by Albert Park

DESERT ROCK GARDEN is a fictionalized historical story of a young orphan and an older immigrant who forge a friendship in the Topaz Relocation Center during World War II. Originally produced as part of NVA’s Final Draft New Play Festival, DESERT ROCK GARDEN is an unforgettable story of persistence and the importance of art in the most difficult of times. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and California Civil Liberties, DESERT ROCK GARDEN will be presented during the 80th Anniversary of Executive Order 1066, with which President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II, now known as the Day of Remembrance.

MUSICAL TBA

Co-production with Oceanside Theatre Company
Previews: March 18–25, 2022
Performances: March 26–May 1, 2022 
Venue: Oceanside Theatre Company at the Sunshine Brooks Theatre, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 

CLASSIC MUSICAL THEATRE
Previews: May 6–13, 2022
Performances: May 14–June 26, 2022
Venue: Oceanside Theatre Company, Sunshine Brooks Theater, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside
Written by Betty Comdon, Adolph Green, Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Directed by AJ Knox

The “Greatest Movie Musical of All Time” is faithfully and lovingly adapted by Broadway legends Betty Comden and Adolph Green, from their original award-winning screenplay. Each unforgettable scene, song and dance is accounted for, including the show-stopping title number, complete with an onstage rainstorm! Hilarious situations, snappy dialogue, and a hit-parade score of Hollywood standards make SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN the perfect entertainment for any fan of the golden age of movie musicals.

New Village Arts venue rendering courtesy of New Village Arts

This season is about family,” says Kristianne Kurner. “It’s about the family you are born into as well as the family that you make. It’s about those people who you know will show up for you no matter what. The ones that help you get through the rough times and celebrate the good times.”

Performance Days and Times 
New this season! Wednesday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Tickets and Subscriptions

Single tickets for the 2021–22 season range from $30–$59, or $27 for previews.
Discounts are available for seniors, military, and students, and for groups of ten or more.

Season Passes for all four shows are $175.

Details, season passes, and tickets: www.newvillagearts.org.

 

COVID Safety Protocols
Audience safety is our primary concern. All NVA staff, performers, ushers, crew, and volunteers are fully vaccinated.  

Throughout this season all guests need to have a photo ID and either their physical CDC vaccination card, a picture of their vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record, until further notice. There must be at least 14 days elapsed from the date of the second dose for Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Any unvaccinated person must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of the performance date. Masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, for all indoor performances, events and activities.

New Village Arts venue rendering courtesy of New Village Arts
About New Village Arts

Celebrating 20 years of award-winning professional theatre, thrilling and unique visual arts, and thriving education and outreach programs, New Village Arts (NVA) has truly become the cultural hub of North County San Diego.

NVA attracts more than 20,000 patrons each year to experience professional theatre, currently presented outdoors at The Flower Fields. In addition to full seasons of plays and musicals featuring some of the best artistic talent in Southern California, NVA hosts talkback discussions and other supplementary events designed to create conversation and cultivate community. NVA offers robust theatre programs in partnership with local schools and strongly believes that theatre and arts experiences should be accessible to ALL people, becoming a recognized leader in equity, diversity, and inclusion in San Diego. NVA has been fortunate to receive support from the City of Carlsbad and other local businesses, who recognize the importance of a resident professional theatre company as a crucial component of an inclusive and creative community. In turn NVA prioritizes serving its community by presenting works that respect its diversity, engaging every citizen with relevant and inspiring stories.

New Village Arts is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization listed under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS.

Shameless plug: listen to me talk to awesome artists and the arts in our wonderful podcast From Another Zero. The latest episode is "Disability Thinking Twice with Valerie Salgado".