HOUSTON, Texas — The after-party for opening night of QUIXOTE NUEVO at The Alley Theatre is the perfect metaphor for the love that great art can create when its presented right and when it respects our community.
That night was my third time seeing the play written by Octavio Solis and running through February 9.
I saw the dress rehearsal, I saw a preview, and I was there with the crowd to experience opening night, and I was thrilled again. I was laughing at lines I already knew but were delivered with different timing, new lighting, more flurry behind the actor. And, even though I clearly was not crying, there was weeping in my general vicinity each night.
The aesthetic pleasure sinks in with the set, the brilliant Texas sky in the background, the thumping Texas sounds in your ears, the beautiful Tejanas and Tejanos on stage uttering the beautiful prose we recognize.
And. I. Could. Profoundly. Relate. Emilio Delgado, who stars in the play, performs his heart out, adding so many nuances each time. I know he is proud of his work on SESAME STREET, and perhaps some nostalgia erupts when he first lights up center stage, but for me he breaks that mold with this performance. Or, perhaps now I understand why we all related to him so much as Luis back in the day. He not only looks like us, sounds like us, he is a damn great actor.
For folks who are not Latino, don’t worry, it’s not like it was in college for me where I had to look up all of the references that I could not get or fall behind. Folks of all backgrounds will vibe to the artistic party on stage.
But for me, as a Chicano, watching Latinx actors under the guidance of Latina director KJ Sanchez interpret the work of Texan Octavio Solis updating and transforming the seminal work of Cervantes-it truly was profound.
I did not want the intellectual adrenaline to wear off, so I’m glad there was a party afterward.
No, it was a pachanga.
Imagine audience members-which included a ton of Latinos-dancing with the cast in The Alley Theatre as one of the actors from the play was spinning. Let that sink in. Juan Manuel Amador, who plays Manny Diaz, our Sancho Panza, is also a deejay. So imagine a playlist covering cumbias, pop, Tejano, rap, salsa, with virtuoso flair. Houston, Tejas, was monopolizing the muses that evening.
At the height of the experimental theater, the goal was to “smash the fourth wall.” This play tears down walls in the play and tears down the walls of the theater that keep out the Latino community.
Rob Melrose, Artistic Director of The Alley Theatre, deserves special thanks for looking for QUIXOTE NUEVO and inviting Octavio Solis and KJ Sanchez to employ all their genius and every single resource of The Alley to thrill our imaginations and hearts.
The Alley worked hard on stage and off to make our Latino community feel at home. You will experience that in the script, but behind the scenes, there are Latino musical composers, designers, and even voice and dialect coach Robert Martinez. These elements are essential to investing in an authentic representation of our community. But The Alley coupled that with authentic community outreach by creating a Latino advisory board, hiring a Latino community engagement manager, and partnering with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say. Add up all that, and you have one awesome party.
The lesson for all mainstream theaters is do us justice, treat us right, respect our intellect and the community will love you back.
And of course, the writing has everything to do with it, too.
Mainstream organizations often get scared to work with our community because they don’t know what to call us, and the folks they assemble to figure use out will probably get into an argument about which identity terms will or won’t work.
QUIXOTE NUEVO creates the template to understand us.
This play features Latinx actors from various backgrounds ranging from El Salvador, Puerto Rico, to Mexico who then play Tejanos and Chicanos who live on the border and speak English, Spanish, and Spanglish as coached by a Chicano voice and dialect coach, as directed by a Latina-who is also a professor at The University of Texas-and brilliantly interprets the script written by a Chicano playwright who first wrote at least two straight forward adaptations of DON QUIXOTE.
That’s all it takes, that’s all we demand to love us right, so we can love you right back.
Tony Diaz is a writer, activist, professor and media personality. More at TonyDiaz.net. He tweets from @Librotraficante.
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