I received an invitation from Spanish pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo to attend a private screening of a new film documentary about the composer Enrique “Enric” Granados (1867-1916) at the Juilliard School in New York City. The film is entitled “El amor y la muerte: Historia de Enrique Granados “ and is directed by Arantxa Aguirre. The […]
I also reviewed this play, so I wanted to link it to my blog. This way readers can read both and perhaps get a discussion going.
The Take Away
- Every Latinx person in Philadelphia should be proud to know that our city is an artistic playground for plays like Las Mujeres
- Latinas deserve more opportunities to share their stories and the stories of the incredible womxn that came before them
- Power Street created a great sense of community
In My Pockets
I was first introduced to Power Street through Erlina, the playwright of Las Mujeres, while the two of us were working on a project together. I was really impressed with She Wores Those Shoes and Erlina’s voice as a playwright. As a Latino, I was particularly looking forward to seeing Latinx theatre, since, let’s be real, there ain’t that much in Philly no matter what these trendy “diversity panels” say.
Since I’m unloading my pockets, I also need to admit that I’m a bad Latino for not knowing Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz…
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If you are in the Frederick, Maryland area, check it out!
The morning is loud and busy as children rush into the playground eager to see their friends, high up on the hill in the Albaicin, the old moorish neighborhood. An owl´s hooting keeps a constant pulse amidst the children´s exuberant laughter and high pitched chatter. An occasional patter of feet running and the sweet whistle of another bird provide some counterpoint. Dropping off children, moms and other passerbys speak in low hushed tones, as they begin their day.
After the siesta, later in the day, I walk around the Albaicin, on the way to the Corte Inglés department store, located in the more modern part of Granada. Gingerly descending the ¨Cuesta de María de la miel¨(Honey Mary) I hear the sounds of a guitar in the distance. There are many ¨cuestas¨, steep hill paths in the Albaicin. At the next landing I encountered a man playing the guitar. I think the piece was Spanish Romance. I dropped a one euro coin in his cup and listened discretely from across the street as he plucked expertly.
I kept walking down the hill finally reaching the Gran Via. Now there would be easy walking, no more cuestas! While on Calle de la Virgen, behind the Corte Ingles, I caught the Pachabel Canon by a string quartet: 2 violins, a guitar and a cello:
The short street has a pedestrian walkway between two roads for cars. Each end opens up to a plaza with its own fountain. With gushing water bookending this tree lined avenue at sunset, listening to the music, the effect was just simply sublime. Little children strolling by with their mothers spontaneously broke into dance–whether making ´flores´ with their hands flamenco style, or swinging each other around by the arms. The look of delight on their faces as they approached the group and heard the music was unmistakenly touching and heartwarming.
On the way out after shopping, the group was still there playing something else, surrounded by a small crowd. I rushed past this time as I had decided to walk up to the Mirador San Nicolás and it was getting dark. I figured I could save a couple of euro, burn some calories and save some time by walking back, instead of waiting for the little red bus at Plaza Nueva, which was bound to be crowded at the end of the workday–no seats available!
Starting my ascent at the base of the Albaicín, I passed by store after store. Unfortunately, I was moving slowly since I was behind a couple carrying some type of fence up the hill. This was an amazing feat in itself considering the path was about 5 feet wide and teeming with people. The tiny stores overflowed with Moroccan items: lamps, prayer rugs, slippers and scarves, teas and other souvenirs. Teterías (tea houses) awaited tourists who were brave enough to taste strange food with their hands and smoke a hookah. The new stands, or sits, of women in traditional dress offering henna tatoos clogged the path too. They had replaced the ubiquitous male vendors who would sell a sign or card with your name written in Arabic.
Beyond this marketplace, a trio sat on the steps on a plaza and played some upbeat folk music. They had their CDs out for sale too. There was quite a large crowd listening and offering support. And 20 metres up the hill another guitarist sat on a ledge tuning…
Darkness set in as I trudged up La cuesta de María de la miel, my breaths heavy yet rhythmic. I had left my bedroom window open–perfect to hear the soothing flow of water from the fountain in the patio next door.
Two women, Inez Korff and Liliana Ruiz, in traditional black dresses dance the fiery flamenco. No music is even necessary because their feet beat the rhythm in a precise yet complex zapateo. Later, the guitar and drums, played by Blane and Donna Bostock, join in—their soulful and passionate sounds make a grand match with the dance, to bring out the duende, first theorized by Federico Garcia Lorca, Andalucía’s native son. The flamenco comes from Spain, specifically Andalucía, from the “Roma” people, los gitanos, or more universally known as “the gypsies.” In her new play, Azul, Tanaquil Márquez weaves flamenco dance, movement, Spanish music and multilingual spoken dialogue into a collage of Pablo Picasso’s life before he became famous. Azul, presented by La Fábrica at The Drake Theatre in Philadelphia, is also directed by Márquez, and the score is composed by Blane Bostock.
Márquez dives into the reason or motivation for Picasso’s “Blue Period,” hence the title, which means blue in Spanish. Azul is a play packed with the love affairs, friendships, and eccentricities of Picasso’s early life. His painting “La Vie” (the life), is the point of departure and also the cohesive element connecting the music, dance and the scenes. Two of the characters, Carles, Picasso’s best friend, and Germaine, a woman they were both involved with and who both tried to kill, are seen as subjects of the painting “La Vie” in Azul. Picasso’s blue period is characterized by an emotional despondency, triggered by the death of his best friend. In this phase of his life, his art was seen at the time by collectors as “depressing” and not “sellable” due to the subjects and the limited palette.
Azul is an ambitious and epic work, more than two hours long. It requires much attention from the viewer, since the characters speak Spanish, French and English. There is a poem recited in Catalan by Carles too. Picasso at least translates it into Spanish in the scene.Márquez (in her writing) and the cast handle the languages expertly—they flow naturally and effortlessly. As a fluent speaker of Spanish and English, and a former student of French, following the language shifts was not a problem for me, but I imagine for monolingual English speakers, especially those without much knowledge of Picasso’s life or work, it could be challenging. In that case, Azul would offer a completely different experience.
Nevertheless there is enough going on with the music, dance and movement to captivate even the monolingual audience member. Particularly strong are the scenes in the second act which incorporate dance, choreographed by Liliana Ruiz: when Picasso visits the woman’s prison and the bullfight/dance with Germaine. Both captured the respective moods and communicated the message without words.
Márquez also directs the extremely talented ensemble of performers. As Picasso, Zach Aguilar, is a very likeable protagonist, perhaps much more than Picasso himself and he delivers well in both Spanish and English. He has a commanding stage presence that reflects the charisma that Picasso probably had in real life. Paloma Irizarry as Odette, was a sweet and sympathetic lover, and she also displayed versatility as the other “positive” women in Pablo’s life, Nina, Conchita and Fernande. I was impressed by her natural quality in both French and Spanish.
As Germaine, Sol Madariaga was cruel and brazen. Madariaga excels as the villian, displaying a calm unfeeling exterior at times, and then bursting into a rage. She was the one who rejected Carles, and later engages in a dysfunctional and obsessive relationship with Picasso. Germaine was appropriately over the top, aggressive and irritating. She was the perfect contrast to Odette, and she was the menace loved and hated by Carles and Picasso. Germaine is depicted as a negative influence on both men, yet she appears as a subject of “La Vie.” As Carles Casagemas and Max Jacob, friends of Picasso, Cameron Del Grosso, shows tremendous acting range. Carles comes across as a fragile yet romantic and sincere artist, while Max is confident and much more in control. Inez Korff, Yajaira Paredes, Veronica Ponce de Leon Placencia and Liliana Ruiz round out the cast and deserve extra praise for dancing and playing both male and female characters convincingly. Dramatic and effective lighting was designed by Alyssandra Dochtery and costumes by David Reese Hutchison.
Azul is definitely a “must-see” for artists and lovers of Picasso’s art, if only to commiserate in the representation of his struggles. It provides background information about his life and his creative inspiration. It shows onstage the dilemma of “how do I sell my art and still be true to my own self/voice” that all artists face at one point or another. Flamenco aficionados will enjoy the dancing, and Spanish speakers will appreciate the opportunity to attend theatre in the language in Philadelphia.
Hopefully we will be seeing more of La Fábrica and of works by up and coming playwright, Tanaquil Marquéz. Azul plays through Sunday August 29 at the Drake Theatre in Philadelphia. For tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/azul-tickets-35309378301
For more information about La Fábrica: https://www.facebook.com/LaFabricaTheater
To read a review about Azul in DCMetro Theater Arts: DC Metro Theater Arts
Read my review about this exciting show and company at: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2017/05/06/review-fronteras-door-desert-almanac-dance-circus-theatre-fringearts/
To read my review of this performance, Feb. 17, 2017, please go to: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2017/02/18/review-bale-folclorico-da-bahia-merriam-theater/
The African American Museum in Philadelphia hosted the exhibition “Drapetomania” in February and March of 2016, on two floors, in its Galleries No. 3 and 4. The museum’s vertical space and multiple floors, lends itself to smaller and less traditional exhibitions.
Grupo Antillano’s mission was to highlight Afro-Cuban influences in the participating artists’ work. There are works by more or less twenty Cuban artists featured in the exhibition, although not all of them were active members of Grupo Antillano. However, their works are in the spirit of the group since they focus on Afro-Cuban culture and images. The most well known artist included is Manuel Mendive, whose work is internationally famous.
There are different types of media represented, such as sculpture, video, oil/acrylic on canvas, and mixed media. The most striking piece, in my opinion, is Resurrección , by Rafael Quenedit Morales, the founder of Grupo Antillano. It is a sculpture, and one of the first pieces one sees on entering Gallery 3. At first it appears to be a very typical sculpture of the Latin American colonial period: an angel in front of a wood cross. However, on further examination one notices that this angel has a bi-colored face–white and red, and that its wings are red, white and blue. In addition, it carries a scepter that appears to be topped with a symbol from an Afro-Cuban religion.
Adelaida Herrera Valdés uses old shutters in her piece, Vecinos. Discolored receipts and letters are stuck in the slats. http://www.queloides-exhibit.com/grupo-antillano/grupo-antillano_artistas_adelaida.html There is a connection with the neighbor, but at the same time these worn down shutters may remind the viewer of the weariness and difficulty of life in Cuba.
Some of the artists, such as Leandro Soto and Juan Roberto Diago, reference Afro-Cuban religion in their titles: Los juguetes de Elegguá and Yo soy monte. In Los juguetes de Elegguá (2012), Leandro Soto (b. 1956 Cienfuegos), uses 2 large canvasses in red and black. There are many items recognizable in this compendium of toys for Elegguá, one of the orishas, or divinities in regla de ocha, an Afro-Cuban religion. These toys in the painting include: elephants, bells, clovers, keys, cups, boats, machetes, candles, cars, hearts, chalice, shells, spades, buildings, clubs, paths and roads. Elegguá is considered a messenger and has many roads. One reason he is important is because he connects the other orishas with humans.
In Yo soy monte, Juan Roberto Diago evokes the idea of el monte. Although the English translation in the museum is “I am mountain”, el monte in Afro-Cuban culture has referred to wilderness or the clearing in the forest, specifically the place where religious rites can occur, or historically, a refuge. For more about Mr. Diago, visit http://havana-cultura.com/en/visual-arts/juan-roberto-diago
Perhaps the most politically charged piece in the exhibition is La suerte del mayoral (The Overseer’s Luck) by Santiago Rodriguez Olazabal (2012). This painting has only three colors, white, black and red. A man is tied to a tree, rendered in black charcoal, and red paint splurts from his chest. View the painting on this site: http://www.afrocubaweb.com/grupo-antillano/pages/N.%20Olazabal-%20La%20suerte%20del%20mayoral.html
The African American Museum in Philadelphia is to be commended for bringing this exhibition to Philadelphia. There are very few opportunities to see so much Cuban art at once in the United States. In light of the recent attempts to reestablish trade and travel with Cuba, hopefully this will not be the last exhibition of Cuban art in the area, and is a sign of more interaction between the U.S. and Cuban artistic communities.
The African Museum in Philadelphia is located in Old City, and open from Thursday through Sunday. http://www.aampmuseum.org/