Cielito Lindo, written by Stephany Cavazos, debuted at the Austin Latino New Play Festival on May 8, 2014.
Cielito Lindo follows the story of Florencia “Sky,” a Latina schoolgirl growing up in Texas during the mid to late 20th Century. For Skye, school is not only a place for learning— it is a scary place wrought with bullies who make fun of her Latina roots, the center point of this harassment being her name. While school is a war zone for Skye, her home acts as a safe haven and fantasy due to her grandparents’ retelling of their love story from years past. One day, after a long night full of storytelling, a new boy, Dylan, becomes a student at the elementary and befriends Sky. Sky and Dylan become the new targets for the three bullies, which acts as a catalyst for Sky to question her identity and turn her back on Dylan. After a heart-to-heart conversation with Abuelo Efren while fishing, Skye quickly realizes that she would never change who she is or who she befriends just to please the so-called popular friends at school.
Cielito Lindo is a play that intertwines the struggle of growing up Latina, the nostalgic and familiar love story of two individuals, and the blessings that come with true friendship.
By: Nikki Dulay
With the fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival happening in just a few days, we wanted to spotlight one of the playwrights, third year theatre and dance major at The University of Texas at Austin Stephany Cavazos, and find out more about her show, Cielito Lindo.
Cavazos first heard about Teatro Vivo from friends who have participated in the festival in the past and from the company’s past productions. However, it was her playwriting professor Kirk Lyn who encouraged her to submit her play into the festival this year.
Cielito Lindo focuses on 9-year-old Flarenicia Valdez, also known as Sky. Sky struggles with her identity and what kind of person she wants to become after dealing with bullies at her school. With the help of her friends and family, she is able to overcome this identity crisis in her life.
The storyline for the play was loosely based on Cavazos’s personal life. The play was inspired by events from her family and childhood in San Antonio, Texas.
“This play started out as a sharing of Latina experiences between me and my friend Andrea in direct response to events that had happened in our lives,” says Cavazos. “As a Latina who has yet to ever play or be involved in a Latino production, I felt like I was missing out on a piece of my personal identity since my type doesn’t read ‘Hispanic.’”
Out of all the characters in the play, Cavazos best relates to the kids of the story. She has experienced everything that her characters have gone through: dealing with bullies, standing up to bullies and even being the bully.
During the writing process, Cavazos enjoyed reliving her childhood. She loved adding a dramatic flair to her past and writing about her grandparents. However, there were parts that she loved that did not make it to the final cut of the script. She drafted at least seven versions of the show that only helped to make it better in the end.
While writing this play and preparing for this festival have helped Cavazos grow personally, she hopes to showcase her piece to a broad audience in order to help the community, regardless of ethnicity, grow together as a whole. She firmly believes that presenting these identity issues through theatre is the best way to discuss it.
“There is a main message about bullying explicitly stated in the play, but deeper than that, I want the message that the audience takes away to be [that] you only have one life to live and this is how God made you,” expresses Cavazos. “You can spend your life hiding from yourself, or you can learn to love yourself for who you are.”
Lastly, Cavazos shared advice for future playwrights and students pursuing to be a playwright.
“Find what your passion is and write about it. It becomes a rewarding [and] emotional process that is like no other.”
Cielito Lindo premieres on Thursday, May 8 at 8 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
By Monica Rodriguez
Culture, arts, and heritage make us who we are. Teatro Vivo brings these things to life. Driven by the power of theater, Teatro Vivo is focused on raising cultural awareness. Since its opening in 2000, Teatro Vivo has brought to life more than 35 full-length productions, has collaborated with other arts organizations around the Austin area, and has held various theatre workshops to help teach the power of theater to underprivileged communities. By being one of the only bilingual Latino theater organizations in Texas, Teatro Vivo gives Austin another reason for being unique.
Corazón y alma, heart and soul, are two things Teatro Vivo uses to reflect their mission to produce culturally relevant Latino theatre that addresses critical social issues. As a passionate Latino community, Teatro Vivo is a new kind of theater based on the culture, history, and mythology of the Latino experience. Their work shares stories that bridge culture gaps and connect generations together with passionate witness to human experience while exploring age-old themes and modern dilemmas.
By Katherine Fan
Teatro Vivo is excited to be presenting the fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival (ALNPF), in collaboration with ScriptWorks, from May 8 -10 at 8 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
A three night theater event, ALNPF brings together playwrights and audience members to discuss new workshop productions about the Latino experience. Each night will feature a new staged reading of a production, followed by an audience discussion session with the playwright and director.
For our audience members accustomed to one-way conversations at the theater, ALNPF brings a new and engaging experience. Exploring cross-cultural topics, modern dilemmas and timeless themes with Latino roots, our three productions aim to push and challenge the theatric envelope for audience members.
Teatro Vivo is delighted to be able to bring this event to the Austin Latino community again and welcomes all audiences! General Admission will be “pay as you wish” while reserved seats will be $15 each night. An ALNPF Pass will also be available for all three evenings for $40.
We are thrilled to be presenting the following works of three great playwrights from our Austin Latino community on these nights:
Thursday, May 8 (8 p.m.): Cielito Lindo by Stephany Cavazos
Cielito Lindo is a bilingual (Spanish-English) play that focuses on 9-year-old Florencia (Sky) Valdez who is raised with her brother by her two grandparents (Abuelos). Sky is struggling with bullies at her school who in turn make her question her identity and the kind of person she wants to become.
Friday, May 9 (8 p.m.): Luchadora by Alvaro Saar Rios
The discovery of a wrestling mask prompts Lupita, a Wisconsin grandmother, to share her tale about growing up in 1950‘s Texas. Within her tale, Lupita anticipates seeing a World Championship match until she discovers her ailing father is one of the wrestlers. Concerned about her father’s safety, Lupita trains “in secret” to be a wrestler but finds difficulty keeping her secret from her friends and, most importantly, her father.
Saturday, May 10 (8 p.m.): EL by Raul Garza
Aspiring writer Emi Castillo chronicles the struggles of her Mexican immigrant family as they survive in the shadows of Chicago’s El, and their family’s Él – the unseen husband and father who abandoned them years ago. English, Spanish, Catholicism, artistic expression, and truth are forced to coexist in the Castillo’s small Logan Square apartment, with humorous and poignant consequences.
Post by: Katherine Fan
For the final week of “Pulga Time Machine”, we interviewed Teatro Vivo’s very own Selena – actress Minerva Villa! Villa stars in “Pulga Time Machine” as the famous Tejano singer, in addition to sassy Karla, outspoken Maria, and Star, the hipster. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 2009 with a B.F.A. in acting, Villa moved to Austin where she later was cast in Teatro Vivo’s “Cuento Navideño” in 2012. Elementary school science teacher by day, and Tejano superstar by night, we caught up with the talented actress on her experience with “Pulga Time Machine.”
Of all the colorful characters you played in “Pulga Time Machine,” who was your favorite and why?
It is so incredibly difficult to choose between all of these amazing characters I get to play! Playing Karla I get to be this real “cabrona” that I’m not in real life, Maria is just crazy and loud…which I kind of am in real life, Star is so much fun I cannot even begin to explain it, and, of course, there’s Selena. How can anyone pick when the amazing writers have created such wonderful characters?
Which skit from the performance do you like the most and why?
I think the skit performances that I enjoy the most are the ones that involve the hipsters, Star and Whitley. Working with Nate has been so much fun and we really bounce off each other. The characters themselves say such ridiculous things that it’s fun to say. It’s always been a little bit difficult to keep a straight face – especially when the audience is roaring with laughter. Hipsters are “so hot” right now.
In your opinion, how does “Pulga Time Machine” best capture or portray the Latino culture?
I think it’s a really good opportunity for audiences to get a nice little taste of Latino culture even though we poke fun of ourselves. I really enjoy the way we are able to talk about some pretty serious topics and yet make them laugh-worthy. When I first read the parts with “La Virgen” I thought to myself, “Woah, there is a really important message here.” I think audiences walk away with that but still laugh all the way through. Another thing I love is that I’m able to recognize several different cultural moments from my childhood and life as a Latina and I LOVE that!
How did it feel to play the iconic Selena?
Talk about having big shoes to fill! When I got told I would be playing Selena I jumped up and down and screamed…that was followed immediately by me thinking “Oh, crap!” It has been tons of fun! Each night I go onstage dressed as her, I feel nervous about what people will think. She’s an icon in the Latino community and was my idol when I was growing up, so to be able to portray her is an honor! Also, I stopped eating bread and pasta for a month to fit into that jumpsuit – that’s dedication! I’m not sure how she was able to eat Doritos and pizza and never exercise…
What do YOU think the world would be like if Selena had lived?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with friends! I think she was definitely ahead of the game as far as fashion is concerned and I think she would still be right up front – move over, Lady Gaga! Also, I think her music still would have been a hit. The cast and I listen to her music backstage and we still rock out to it! Also…Jennifer who?
What is it like working with the Mexcentrics, and what can fans expect to see from them in the future?
Being a part of this group is absolutely amazing! It’s wonderful to get to work with such a talented group of people, and I’m not just talking about the actors! The writers are brilliant and I’m so thrilled to bring their work to life on stage. I still laugh at most of the jokes and I’ve heard them a ton of times. Hopefully in the future, fans will get to see even more hilarious sketch comedy! I’m hoping some of the Gran Pulga Proprietors will continue making appearances, but even if they don’t I know that whatever we do next will be well worth the wait!
What do you love most about Teatro Vivo?
I love the friendly atmosphere and the constant support. I think we’re all really there for each other and that is what anybody looks for in a theatre family and in a theatre company! I’m so lucky to get to work with Teatro Vivo and I’m so happy I auditioned for them back in 2012! Gracias por todo!
By: Dinah Lee Medrano
She was referred to as the “Queen of Tejano,” The “Mexican Madonna;” Selena Quintanilla-Perez was more than just a singer to the Tejano community, she was an inspiration and her music was a reminder of their roots. Tejano music is a sultry blend of traditional Mexican folk music with country-western and polka style sung in Spanish. There have been many popular and life-changing performers in this industry.
Selena began performing publicly when she was just nine years old. Her father started a family band that included her brother, Abraham, and her sister Suzette. Just eight years later, Selena would go on to win “Best Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Performer of the Year” at the Tejano Music Awards. In 1993, she won the Grammy Award for best Mexican-American album.
Selena had a sexy flair and unique stage presence. Her courage to cross over into English music was one that was unheard of, especially for a woman. She showed her fans her true colors and had a personality that kept her audience wanting more.
She was so loved by her community because she cared about more than just her singing career. She constantly spoke to middle and high schools about the importance of education, achieving goals and staying off drugs. Selena was also a spokesperson for D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to encourage kids to resist drugs.
Tragically, on March 31, 1995, Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar, the founder of her fan club. Saldivar was confronted by Selena for embezzling money and was going to be fired. The news of Selena’s death devastated the Latino community and her fans all over the world. Selena’s memory will continue to live on in the hearts of all her dedicated fans. Upon her passing, thousands of people gathered at vigils all over the country to honor her beautiful life and inspiration to others.
In “Pulga Time Machine,” our brand new comedy sketch show by the Mexcentrics, Rogelio and his crew go to desperate measures in order to try and save our beloved Tejano Queen. Will he succeed? Come to the next performance and find out!There are only three performances left, Feb. 27-March 1st, this Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Tickets are $20 for reserved seats, $16 for general admission, and $13 for students/seniors.
Pero en serio, what if we still had our beloved Selena? That is the question in a brand new sketch comedy show, “Pulga Time Machine,” from Austin’s very own Mexcentrics Troupe! With the comical creative expansion of last year’s sold out show, “Pulga Nation,” this clever production brings together los mejores award-winning alumni from Teatro Vivo and the Latino Comedy Project for a night full of Tex-Mex laughs that are sure to leave you with a pain in your side.
The world’s biggest Tejano music fan, Rogelio, headlines “Pulga Time Machine” as he travels through time in order to save the industry’s biggest star. The show will also feature hilarious new characters, including the Low Lowrider Drones, a rebellious Virgen de Guadalupe, and even Obamacare holdouts!
Also, be on the lookout for some of your favorite characters from last year’s production, “Pulga Nation”, as “Pulga Time Machine” will be a rich 7-layer dip through the pulga (“flea market” for our amigos que no hablan español) culture of the past, present, and future.
Sketch writers for this production include the likes of Omar Gallaga, Raul Garza, and Karinaa Perez. Performances will be held on February 13-March 1, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (601 River Street 78701). As an added bonus, free parking is available!
While we encourage everyone to come out, this production is definitely NOT for the whole family. Adult humor and language will be presented throughout, so only those who are ages 18 and up will be admitted.
We caught up with Teatro Vivo’s power couple, Artistic Director and Executive Director, Rupert and JoAnn Reyes to see what they are thankful for this year.
What is something that you really appreciate about the Teatro Vivo family?
Rupert– First, that there is a familia. It is a high water mark to know that artist feel that close and welcome to Teatro Vivo. We have folks just come and visit when we are not in productions. This is something that JoAnn and I both appreciate, being “Los Abuelos de Teatro in Austin.“
JoAnn– Being part of a community of artists who share the mission of Teatro Vivo. This is a blessing. A very wise person, I had the pleasure to call friend, once told me that ideally for your life to be happy, you may want for three things: Community, Creativity and Compensation. If you have 2 of the 3 you are very, very fortunate. Our Teatro Vivo family has the first 2 for sure!
Describe a Thanksgiving tradition that your family has.
Rupert– Ok we’re guilty. We are not vegetarian. One tradition is that JoAnn and I make the traditional turkey for the Reyes thanksgiving. We roast it slowly over night. JoAnn is the director and I’m the crew.
JoAnn– Yes! I concur.
What are you really thankful for this year?
Rupert– Lots. My health, the wonderful success of Teatro Vivo (I feel we are better known nationally now than ever), JoAnn, my children, grandchildren, supportive friends and fans, y my new scooter.
JoAnn– Agreed on all! Familia y las nietas… So sweet. I don’t have a scooter! I have a blossoming yoga practice and I recently was hired to be director of the school yoga program for Community Yoga Austin! Blessed!
Photo by: Brenda Tobar