New Latino Theater in Philadelphia: A Interview with Tana Márquez of “La Fábrica”

PASSPORT FRINGE GUIDE FINAL

Photo by Alfonso Rey

Those who read my blog and those who know me personally,  know that I have a passion for theater in Spanish, from the great works of the Spanish Baroque and Golden Age and zarzuela, to contemporary Latin American and Latino plays.  I have had the pleasure of attending Bodas de sangre and also Azul, bilingual productions that were performed in Philadelphia. Tanaquil Márquez was instrumental in both of them (as well as others).  I caught up with Tana and these are her exact words to questions I had about her involvement in bilingual theater in Philadelphia.

Deslumbrar: Tell me about the history of La Fábrica and your role in it. Why was this company created? What productions have you done so far?

– La Fábrica is a very new company, not even a year old yet! After Yajaira and I finished The Duende Cycle, a project I worked on with Eliana Fabiyi for the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, we formed a great friendship, which shared the love of bilingual theater. From there we worked on a show called Ni tan Divas ni tan Muertas by Indira Páez, which was produced three times around the city. Shortly after we created La Fábrica. Yajaira and I who both work as Artistic Directors and Producing Managers for the company. We felt like there a void that needed to be filled for the growing local Latinx community. There was such a beautiful response from the audience who saw Duende and Divas in their native language (Spanish) that we felt compelled to really establish something here in the city. By producing strong and bold bilingual theatre, we hope to be a vehicle for social communion and positive change in Philadelphia. Our past shows include Azul, which was written and directed by me, exploring Picasso’s blue period through live Flamenco music and dance; and A 2,50 la Cuba Libre, written and directed by Ibrahim Guerra about 5 ficheras working in a bar. Both shows were revived in the winter, with the help of Jose Aviles directing A 2,50 la Cuba Libre in February.

Deslumbrar: La Fábrica has a production in the upcoming Fringe Festival (September 2018) in Philadelphia, called PASSPORT, by Gustavo Ott from Venezuela. Why this play?

-PASSPORT is current, important and poetic, diving into the question of immigration and exposing the mechanics of language and power. It is a very NOW show that we hope will captivate the audience, while raising awareness of our current immigration crisis.

LA OFICIAL FINAL

Photos by Alfonso Rey

 

EL SOLDADO

Deslumbrar: What future projects do you have in mind for La Fábrica?

-Definitely more Lorca! We want to explore Tanyo Saracho and Stephen Adly Guirgis as well as the theme of immigration. Yajaira and I are also developing a one act on the more comical side called Tu Gringa, Yo Chama. This is definitely a must see. It mixes the American and Venezuelan culture and humor very well, also anytime Yajaira opens her mouth she is hilarious.

Deslumbrar: Are you looking for sponsors, donors, actors, or production staff? How can those interested contact you? 

We are always looking to grow our team! Specifically, for PASSPORT we have teamed up with Free Migration Project, an organization whose mission is to support immigrant communities and to advocate for the right of all decent people to freely migrate. You can donate to support both companies here https://freemigrationproject.org/la-fabrica/. We are also hosting a fundraiser on Thursday, August 16 from 8-11pm at La Fusion Lounge, 1136 S 11th st. It is a Latin Dance-A-Thon, will be a very fun time with amazing prizes!

LatinDance-ThonFunDraiser

For anyone who is interested in what we do and how they can be a part of it please email info@lafabricatheater.com.

La Fábrica is looking for your continuous support, in whichever form you can give, so that bilingual theatre can be a fixture in Philadelphia, allowing Spanish and English voices to speak and Spanish and English ears to hear in a constant communal dialogue.

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Electroacoustic Music in Philadelphia: Live/Wire Ensemble & Opera Company

Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company, performing at Temple University, presented an innovative festival of electroacoustic premieres to a packed audience on July 29, 2018. The Festival, which opened on July 26, btought to Pressler Hall at Temple University, a program including,  Radiance  (Jon Paul Maysee), The Sun Gate (Carlos Johns-Dávila) and Pacamambo (Zack Settel). Each of these three works utilized technology in a distinct way. Besides showcasing computer orchestration, amplification and visual projections, these pieces also complemented each other in their inspiration and narratives. (Check Deslumbrar for interviews with the composers last week)

Radiance, which featured bassoonist Dominic Panunto, is based on Christian scripture passages: (Genesis 1:2), (1 Kings 17), (Luke 9:28-36), (Revelation 21:19) and (Exodus 34:35). Lighting effects were generated by the bassoon which were filtered through a computer program. Most of this composition consisted of long sustained notes played by the bassoonist, with corresponding flashes of colored lights in discs and a large space on the ceiling above the musician. For both Radiance and The Sun Gate, performed in the orchestra practice room, the audience was invited to sit on three sides, either on chairs or on the floor. In Radiance, the sole instrumentalist and the visual projection were the center of attention.

In contrast, the audience seemed to become part of the performance of The Sun Gate. There was a lot going on and so much to watch in this piece. The mirrors, projections, and 360 degree camera, bounced images on the walls AND on the people sitting on the floor or in chairs, who surrounded the “stage” where the dancers and musicians performed. Two flexible and engaging dancers, Morgaine A. De Leonardis and Elisa Hernandez, starred as the Incan gods Viracocha and Inti. In addition to the movements they did on the floor, I also found myself watching their shadows on the wall, which intersected with the geometric patterns that were projected. This created another depiction or layer of the story, which had been carefully researched and based on Incan mythology. I interviewed Carlos beforehand, so I was excited to hear and see him play the Quenacho flute that he had purchased in Perú. The flute provided a sense of authenticity to the piece, and I would have liked to have heard more of it. The melody played on the piano near the end recalled Andean tonality and reminded me somewhat of indigenous music I’d heard played on panflutes in the past. This mix of the European and indigenous is key to Carlos’ approach and inspiration. The world created in sound and image (human and geometric) was definitely creative and otherworldly and something I would like to experience again now that I know what to expect. I felt teased by the actual live music included in The Sun Gate and wanted to hear more. The colorful moving geometric patterns, the live dancing and the careful positioning of real roses on the floor were entrancing.  Vishaal Ravikumar (Lighting/Projections Designer) and Sarah Celona (Set Designer) are to be commended for their work on this multifaceted production.  Here is a clip from its New York premiere:

Pacamambo rounded out the trio with another spiritual narrative, this one about death and the afterlife. This comtemporary opera focuses on a young girl Julie (Carly Baron) and how she handles the death of her beloved Grandma “Marie-Marie” (Gillian Booth). Other parts were sung by Max Avery Vitagliano (The Psychiatrist), Andrew Shaw (Le Chien) and Julia Bokunewicz, (La Lune). Isaac Dae Young was the Music Director/Conductor, Carolyn McDemus (Assistant Music Director), and Jon Paul Mayse handled the electronics. Pacamambo utilized computer technology in a more subtle way than the other pieces. It consisted of additional instrumental parts and harmonies. These were programmed by the composer and passed on to the Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company to use in their performance. Since I also sing opera, I try to avoid reviewing operas and singers (conflict of interest) but I must say that the conductor and cast were astounding in their commitment to render this score and their performances were exquisite. Pacamambo was sung in French and they never missed a beat. It was obvious to any musician in the audience, that this was a challenging score  but the cast and conductor handled it with aplomb. The subject as well was quite a departure from traditional Western European grand opera and I was impressed that these young singers held their own in a genre that they probably have not had much experience in (since it is not mainstream) or regularly performed in opera companies or conservatories. The chamber environment suits it well and the audience recognized the dedication and skill of the cast and production crew with a standing ovation.

In my opinion, the score should be revised a bit, cut and pared down, swapping some of the “rap” for a more lyrical accompanied recitative. The “rap” idea was fun at first, since it was different, but the composer definitely could write some harmonies and melodies, and did that well in Act 9. The constant raps tended to slow down the action. The story itself is compelling and although it is a short opera, of only 1 hour, the lack of dramatic tension and release in the music, as well as dynamic and tempi changes, made it drag in some places.  That was not the fault of the singers or the conductor. A revision of course, is a task for the composer, not the singers or conductor, to consider.

All in all, Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company is to be congratulated for taking a risk and staging three relatively new electroacoustic works to an enthusiastic Philadelphia audience. I welcome your comments and discussions about these performances! Please write something if you were there at one of the performances and want to contribute your thoughts. 

For more information on Jon Paul Mayse, please visit: https://jonpaulmayse.com/
To more on Carlos Johns-Dávila: https://www.newperuvian.net/

 

The Sun Gate: A Reimagining of the Peruvian Inti Raymi Festival

In elementary school most of us learned about the Incas, the indigenous people who Spanish “conquistadores” encountered in what today is called “Perú” in South America. Every year visitors from around the world travel to Machu-Picchu in the Peruvian mountains (the Andes) to hike and experience these famous ruins. Some people go for the adventurous trekking, some for cultural reasons, and others consider it a spiritual pilgrimage.

Machu Picchu, Peru


Peru still fascinates. The legends of the Incas remain prominent in the contemporary globalized and fast world, passed down through their descendants. Some even speak their language, quechua. Imagine being able to experience an Inca festival, recreated for the 21st century, right here in Philadelphia?

From July 26-29, 2018, Live/Wire Opera Company presents three works: Radiance, Pacamambo and The Sun Gate. (See my previous interview with Jon Mayse for a general overview of the evening). Earlier this week I spoke with Peruvian-American composer, Carlos Johns-Dávila, about his piece, The Sun Gate. Following is a summary of our interview:

Deslumbrar: Carlos, thank you for agreeing to speak with me about your piece, The Sun Gate. First, I’d like to know a little about your background and inspirations. How did you get started in music?

Carlos: So far I have had essentially two revelations about music. The first was when my mom took me for my first piano lesson at age 6. The second was when I applied to Interlochen for boarding school. I ended up attending for my last two years of high school, which really exposed me to completely new contexts for music and culture. There was some, but not much in my hometown. Anyway, I applied to Interlochen initially as a piano performance major. However, the level of competition is very high and I realized I might be over my head. Nevertheless I went to the audition, and eventually was offered admission as a composer! I had been dabbling in composition as a child and in my lessons I kept intentionally tweaking the piano scores (when I played them), to the dismay of my piano teacher. It wasn’t conscious then, but those were early indications of my composition talents. Right before I applied to Interlochen, I had won a competition for piano composition held by York Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania.

Later I attended Temple University in music composition and there I was exposed to electronic music. There I met Jon Mayse who is artistic director of Live/Wire and also a composer. What I like about it is that I can be original with electronic composition and blend it with acoustic instruments. Because my Peruvian ancestry is important to me and inspires me creatively, mixing the archaic and the contemporary is appealing. It reflects me: “What does it mean to be a Peruvian yet living in the United States?”

Deslumbrar: What is The Sun Gate about?

Carlos: This will be the second production of The Sun Gate. I set out to do one large scale production each year. I wanted to focus on myth, religion and ritual. The premiere was at Areté Gallery in Brooklyn, NY on June 9, 2018, curated by Melinda Faylor.

IMG-3183

The Sun Gate. At the premiere on June 9, 2018, Areté Gallery.

The Inti (Sun) Raymi (Festival) is the solstice for the Incas. It usually occurs in June, which is summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern. This festival is enacted in Perú but it is not the same as what the Incas did—that was lost in colonial times. What I’m doing, and what is done now in Peru is based on the writings of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who lived from 1539-1616.


(Video trailer of Inti Raymi Festival in Cuzco)

The performance includes two dancers, a 360 camera, the Quenacho flute and computer. Visual arts and dance have inspired me over the years. My Peruvian roots and composers like Eric Satie and John Cage have too. I appreciate these composers’ work because of its unique combination of strategy and artistry. Their pieces are captivating with depth.

Deslumbrar: Thank you for the interview. I look forward to attending the performance.

Check out more about Carlos on his website, https://www.newperuvian.net/ where you can see photos, videos and music samples.

For more information and tickets to the performance by Live/Wire Opera Company, July 26-29, 2018 at Temple University,

visit:  https://pepper-daffodil.squarespace.com/livewire/ 

Electroacoustic Music Extravangaza at Temple University, July 26-29 in Philadelphia!

Recently, I conducted an interview via e-mail with Jon Mayse, composer and artistic director of Live/Wire about the upcoming show, “Pacamambo/The Sun Gate/Radiance” on July 26-29, 2018. I’ve recently learned through interviews with Jon and his colleague, Carlos Johns-Dávila, that this type of music is a blend of computer generated music and acoustic (traditional) instruments. This program struck me as unique and also very fitting for Deslumbrar, because of  The Sun Gate written by a Peruvian-American composer.
Deslumbrar:  How did the Live/ Wire Opera Company get started? What kinds of productions do you do?
Jon Mayse: Live/Wire started because I saw so many great electroacoustic works that weren’t getting performed, so I figured I’d simply do them with friends. I ran the idea of doing an electroacoustic opera by Isaac Young, the Opera Company Music Director, who somehow convinced me that it was possible for us to do (which was a total lie! I am waaaay too busy!). Initially, we wanted to do a major festival with guest artists, workshops, panels, etc and promote it with solo house shows or gallery shows. Then we saw how much that cost, so we scaled back to just an opera, Pacamambo, and some installations, Sun Gate and Radiance. This is our first production, but we have programs set up for solo sets with bassoon, trombone, organ, and piano that we would love to get performed in the future!
Deslumbrar:  How did you get started in music?  Tell me about your composition process and inspiration.
Jon Mayse: I was originally a blues guitarist, but I got into “classical” music a few years ago, then got into electronic music when I was a member of the Boyer Electroacoustic Ensemble Project (BEEP) at Temple University. My process differs from project to project. For Radiance, there has been a lot of programming, so I haven’t sat down and written any music out. Instead, the bassoonist (Dominic Panunto) has some general guidelines (techniques, gestures, sounds) that he will realize on his own. My faith is my main inspiration. Radiance depicts different moments in scripture in which God’s presence is made manifest. Musically, I tend to use lots of extended techniques on instruments (such as bassoon playing multiple notes or cellists using the cello as a percussion instrument). I’m also inspired by visual artists, such as Olafur Eliasson and Cai Guo Qiang, and sound artists like Samson Young.

Deslumbrar:  There is an upcoming performance of three music works at Temple University this month. Tell me about these works and your role in this event.
Jon Mayse:So, the works are an opera, Pacamambo by Zack Settel, and two multimedia works, The Sun Gate by Carlos Johns-Davila, and Radiance, by myself.
Pacamambo explores grief, friendship, and innocence through the story of a young girl, Julie, who is found in a basement with her dog and the body of her grandmother. Through discussions with a psychologist and dreams/flashbacks, we learn Julie is waiting to confront Death and about a fictional afterlife called Pacamambo, in which everyone is with their loved ones. The opera is wonderfully vibrant, with great rhythmic action and a French language rap.
Here is a clip from a performance of PACAMAMBO by another opera company:

The Sun Gate, by Carlos Johns-Davila, is a modern realization of an Incan Sunrise Festival, Inti Raymi. Viracocha, the Goddess of Creation, walks among the animals on the Celestial River, realizes dawn is coming and wakes the Sun, Inti. The work is for Quenacho (a South American flute) which is played by Carlos, two dancers, and projected lights. The two dancers depict the Sun and the Moon. I’ve only seen some footage from the premier in June, which only made me more excited to see it in person!
Radiance is for Bassoon, Live Electronics, and Lights. The piece depicts various scenes from the Bible in which God’s presence is revealed, from the Spirit coming over the Deep to the reveal of New Jerusalem in Revelations. Four speaker/light stations react to the bassoon, creating an expressive, spatialized dynamic. For example, a crescendo from the bassoonist, Dom, will be matched by brighter lights or maybe by subtle hue changes.
Overall, I am doing the administrative, marketing, technology, and financial work for the Opera Company and the Ensemble. For the opera performance, I am performing the electronic parts. I also wrote the music and electronic part for Radiance.
Deslumbrar:  Congratulations to Jon, who has been accepted to the Royal Academy of Music in London to pursue his master’s degree! He plans to create a “portable version” of Radiance and work on some commissions.  To follow this emerging composer’s career check out his website at: https://jonpaulmayse.com/
Coming up next is a detailed interview with Carlos Johns-Dávila, the composer of The Sun Gate.
Purchase tickets for this musical event (July 26-29 at Temple University) online. For more information check out the website, and Facebook.