“jj’s arcade” Among Best Family Theater in Austin
by Nicole Villalpando
Teamed up with Teatro Vivo and playwright and University of Texas alum José Casas, Zach reaffirms it’s commitment to doing bilingual theater that all children in Central Texas can see themselves within and can be understood by Spanish and non-Spanish speakers. It’s also the first time that Zach is working at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center’s theater.
In his real world, he is living with his grieving father Mario (Mario Ramirez), who doesn’t know how to talk to his son or to handle it when Joaquín is suspended from school for fighting or the fact that Joaquín is failing because he struggles with reading. The adults in the audience will know that Joaquín has dyslexia and hasn’t received the intervention services he should be getting at school.
The story tells of sixth-grade student José Joaquín Hernandez (played by Diego Rodríguez and Alessandro Sánchez. We saw Alessandro at the performance we reviewed). Joaquín is a kid who loves to live in his dream world, which is illustrated by a fog machine and a video screen that shows us his universe. In his imagination, his mother (Martinique Duchene-Phillips), who died three months before, is still with him. He builds her a castle that looks like the Minecraft castles many in the audience build in their spare time. In his imagination, he can tell stories and words make sense to him.
When he spends time in his father’s auto repair shop during his suspension, Joaquín turns cardboard boxes into arcade games. The kids in our school audience loved each time a new game would appear. They stood in their seats to better see the game. They loved watching the characters play the games and the suspense of waiting to see if the game would work and just how many tickets the character will win.
Of course, the character that got the biggest laughs from our audiences was the sidekick, Oscar (Ben Bazán). Oscar works in Mario’s shop and is encouraging Joaquín all along the way. While Mario wants Joaquín to concentrate on school so Joaquín won’t have to work as hard as he does, Oscar can’t wait to see what game Joaquín will come up with next.
Oscar helps Joaquín record a video for his arcade to help the kids at school believe him that he really does have an arcade. Oscar takes that commercial and gets it posted on Facebook. Of course, magic happens and a line forms around the block to play JJ’s Arcade.
In between is a lesson on how fathers and sons communicate with each other, how a father’s need for his son to be tough ignores the pain his son is feeling. It’s also a lesson in different learning styles and using your imagination.
Zach, Teatro Vivo and Casas created magic on that stage. Their characters reflect our community and feel real with real life problems. At its core, there is such heart in this play. Your kids will love it not for all that messaging. They’ll love it because Oscar is hysterical, Joaquín creates cool games and the video screen animation is how they increasingly think of their imaginations: ones that involve building castles in Minecraft and Lego-like blocks.
Casas has created a play, nurtured by Austin talent, that hopefully other theaters around the country will pick up. And while, Zach’s education department is funded by better-known stories like “Elephant &Piggie: We’re In a Play” and “Charlotte’s Web”, my hope is that the public audiences take a chance on plays like “JJ’s Arcade.”
Published on austin360 on April 12, 2017
AUSTIN: Cinderella’s stepsisters make fun of her for a lot of reasons, but speaking Spanish is a new one. In ZACH Theatre’s Cenicienta, cultural heritage becomes a point of teasing for the beleaguered title character.
“We found that many of today’s youth, specifically Latino youth, are Cinderella-like in that they have many obstacles to overcome in order to succeed,” says playwright Rupert Reyes, who is also the artistic director of Teatro Vivo, which is coproducing the show. Cenicienta runs April 17–May 29 on ZACH’s Whisenhunt Stage.
In this adapted version for young audiences, Cenicienta lives in her stepsisters’ basement, and when she is not invited to their party upstairs, she starts telling the traditional story of Cinderella using found-object puppetry. Director Caroline Reck is also the artistic director of Glass Half Full Theatre, which specializes in works designed to inspire social change, often using puppets and everyday items to create stage illusions.
“A set of kitchen funnels become the stepmother and sisters; a cloth napkin becomes the character of Cinderella; and Cenicienta takes on the role of the fairy-godmother and the confidant of the puppet Cinderella,” explains Reck. “As she interacts with the audience as storyteller and the objects as puppeteer, Cenicienta regains the confidence to confront her stepfamily and make changes to resolve the inequity in her own life.”
The show is part of ZACH’s education initiative, in which the theatre produces bilingual plays for more than 50,000 students, 60 percent of whom are Latino/a.
“It is important for us to tell stories that represent them and their lives,” notes education director Nat Miller. “We chose Cinderella to explore the theme of empowerment—the empowerment of a young girl who finds the confidence to overcome a difficult situation.”
Teatro Vivo presents a bilingual romantic comedy, Vecinos (Neighbors) written by Austin playwright Rupert Reyes. Reyes is most noted for the popular Petra plays; Petra’s Pecado, Petra’s Cuento and Petra’s Sueño.
Performances are July 31 – August 17, 2014 Thurs – Sat. 8pm Sunday 2pm
Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River Street Austin TX 78701
Free parking is available to audience members at the center. Tickets are available online at http://vecinos.bpt.me or at the cultural center 1 hour before the performance. Tickets $20 – $14 Thursdays are “pay what you wish”
Don Roberto is a feisty 70-year-old widower and colorful barrio icon who chooses to spend his days watching TV and threatening to scare off the young graffiti taggers with his antiquated gun that has no bullets. His routine rapidly changes when a new neighbor moves in across the hall. Seventy-year-old Doña Maria catches his eye and they become more than vecinos (neighbors).
¡Ay caramba! Is it love senior citizen-style? You can bet the sparks will fly, especially when their adult children find out that there is romance in the air.
You won’t want to miss this heartwarming romantic bilingual comedy that begs the question, is it ever too late to fall in love?
The cast for this production includes Rupert Reyes (Pinkolandia, Mariachi Girl), Alejandra Murga (Mariachi Girl, Rosita’s Day of the Dead), Karinna Perez-Cantu (La Víctima, LatinLatino Comedy Project) and Mario Ramirez (Cuento Navideño, Mariachi Girl).
Vecinos is performed in a unique bilingual presentation style (a blend of both Spanish and English) that Teatro Vivo is most noted for producing. Don’t miss this heartwarming bilingual comedy for the entire Austin community.
Teatro Vivo presents fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival
Teatro Vivo presents the fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival (ALNPF) in collaboration with ScriptWorks. Everyone is invited to enjoy these three evenings of staged readings of new Latino plays. Performances take place at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, May 8-10, 8 p.m. General Admission is “pay what you wish” Reserved seats are $15 for each evening. An ALNPF Festival Pass is available for all three evenings for $40. Visit teatrovivo.org for information. Read more >>
Teatro Vivo celebrates holiday season with cultural Dickens twist
Teatro Vivo returns with the 2012 production of Cuento Navideño: Bah Humbug in the Barrio, a bilingual holiday comedy, at the Long Center for the Performing Arts Dec. 6 -16. This year’s production brings back beloved characters from last year’s production and offers new surprises! Written and directed by Rupert Reyes and inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Cuento Navideño (A Christmas Story) takes place on Christmas Eve in a modern, urban Latino community. Read more >>
Teatro Vivo brings laughs and fun with the Mexcentric’s Pulga Nation
Teatro Vivo kicks off 2013 with Pulga Nation, a new full-length sketch comedy show performed by comedy troupe Mexcentrics at Salvage Vanguard Theater March 7-9. Showcasing a vibrant cast in a series of original sketches, Pulga Nation offers a hilarious look at the Latino phenomenon known as La Pulga (the flea market). Comedy veteran writers Omar Gallaga and Raul Garza crafted Pulga Nation much in the style of its namesake, relying on a tart mix of English, Spanish and Spanglish. They fearlessly skewer Latinos’ mysterious attraction to the pulga’s organ meats, religious articles, outdated electronics and quinceañera dresses. Read more >>
In The News
Camina una milla en sus zapatos entre dos patrias (Ahorasi.com)
Durante tres fines de semana, del 8 al 24 de agosto, tendrás la oportunidad de asistir a la producción de Walk a Mile in his Zapatos: Confessions of a Mexpatriate (Ponte en su lugar: Confesiones de un Mexpatriado), una obra uni-personal del dramaturgo Raúl Garza, con la actuación de Mical Trejo en el rol de Samuel, un hombre que se embarca en un viaje por México en busca del significado de la vida y el descubrimiento de lo que significa realmente ser un méxicoamericano. Continue reading >>
“Confessions of a Mexpatriarte” Q&A with Raul Garza (The Austin Chronicle)
Raul Garza has given audiences fantastical tours of Austin and a Texas border town in his plays Fantasmaville and Cura, and even led them on an excursion into “Texaco,” a futuristic no-man’s-land carved out of what we know as the southern part of our state, in Dos Pocitos. Now, the award-winning playwright has arranged a trip across the border and deep into the Mexican Interior. Confessions of a Mexpatriate follows a modern-day, media-minded Mexican-American who wants to unplug from his American side and connect with his Mexican roots in the land of his ancestors. Continue reading >>
Art scene, Aug. 4: Picks for the coming week (Austin American Statesman)
A trifecta of indie theater talent combine forces to present a comedic look at culture soul searching. The latest from National Latino Playwriting Award-winning playwright Raul Garza, “Confessions of a Mexpatriate” is a one-man play featuring award-winning actor Mical Trejo as a seriously American media-saturated man embarking on trip across Mexico, during which he comes to embrace the beauty of the culture and what Mexico means to Mexican-Americans. Continue reading >>
Teatro Vivo Presents Confessions of a Mexpatriarte (CultureMap Austin)
This new Teatro Vivo production portrays the struggle of straddling two homelands. Mexpatriate takes the audience on the adventure of one heavily American media-saturated man embarking on a passage across Mexico, in which he comes to embrace the beauty of the culture and what Mexico means to Mexican-Americans. This comedic look at dual cultural identities comes from playwright Raul Garza and is directed by Ken Webster, along with Mical Trejo in the role of the Mexpatriate. Continue reading >>
Feature Dos Pocitos August 2011 (KUT)