Ambition, Revolution and Respect

"The Imaginary Life of August G" presented for four weekends at the New CASA 0101 Theater, Apri 20 - May 13

By Miguel Ortega-Garcia
Published on LatinoLA: April 13, 2012

Ambition, Revolution and Respect

Casa 0101 Theater is presenting their most ambitious play since their grand opening back in September of 2011 with a 31-member cast in the American Premiere of "The Imaginary Life of August G." Not since "Zoot Suit" has a play had as many Latino actors in one production, with a total of 22 playing various non-race specific roles.

I sat down with Josefina Lopez, the artistic director of Casa 0101 Theater, to talk about the challenges of putting on this theatrical and artistic extravaganza in the heart of Boyle Heights.

Miguel Ortega-Garcia: Why did you choose to present this high production value show in the barrio? Normally you'd expect to see such a show at the Music Center for three times the amount of your ticket prices.

Josefina Lopez: Casa 0101 Theater is committed to doing high quality theater that is accessible to everyone, including working class communities because we believe the arts and theater is a human right meant for everyone, not just those who can afford it. This is our most costly production because it's a period piece, although timeless, with beautiful costumes and there is singing, dancing, fighting and a live band on stage.

We had to hire a professional choreographer, costume designer, fight choreographer, musical director, video designer and projectionist, but our ticket prices don't reflect that. Our community deserves to see an amazing show for a low price so they too can be inspired and feel like they had a night out on the town in their own neighborhood.

M O-G: Why did you choose to present a French play to a Latino audience? Aren't there enough Latino playwrights looking to get their first chance to get produced?

J L: We want to tell Latino stories, whether they take place in the barrio or in other realms of the imagination that transcend race or ethnicity. My husband, Emmanuel Deleage, the Executive Director of Casa 0101, is French American and personally knows Armand Gatti, the French playwright who wrote August G. He translated the play into English and feels a personal connection to the play, which he sees as extremely relevant to the Latino community.

He worked diligently to expand Casa 0101 Theater from being a 50-seat theater to a state-of-the-art 99-seat theater so that he could present this large production. I am committed to giving Latino playwrights opportunities all year round, but I also feel that we must present plays relevant to the Latino community whether they are written by Latinos or not.

M O-G: Who is Armand Gatti and why should we care about his work?

J L: I first met Gatti when I went with Emmanuel to Paris and heard him lecture. Although I could barely understand a word of French, I saw an 80- year-old man who was so passionate and alive that I could tell he was an extraordinary human being. Armand Gatti is a well-known writer in France who participated in the resistance during World War II and was put in a concentration camp. He escaped from the concentration camp and to this day he continues to fight for the human spirit and the dignity of man. His work is truly poetic, inspiring and universal. By seeing August G, Latino immigrants will understand that our plight is universal and Chicanos will see that our desire for revolution and respect is also a universal desire of oppressed groups throughout the world.

M O-G: What were the challenges in working with such a huge cast?

J L: Very few people know just how challenging and expensive it is to put on a production with 31 actors. Our wonderful director Emmanuel Deleage had the difficult task of putting on this amazing production with very little resources. When you see our beautiful production you won't see how much creativity it took to make this show happen. Maybe you will be left in awe just by seeing 31actors on stage all at once working their choreography to make it all seem effortless. Since the show will probably just break even we had to decide that inspiring our community would be the goal of this production and worth the tremendous effort.

M O-G: Who are the leads in the show?

J L: Seraf?¡n Falc??n, Mario Martinez, Alex Miramontes, Claudia Duran, Verona Masongsong and Patrick Riviere. It's a story with many stories and many leads, too many to name. Seraf?¡n Falc??n, plays August G. at age 46 and leads the main story line told in flashbacks.

M O-G: It's a complex storyline, layered, and surreal; how would you describe the show?

J L: A garbage man on strike gets hit on the head and his life flashes before his eyes as he lays in a coma on the verge of death trying to decide if the revolution and his life amounted to something. That's the plot line, but the story is about the many selves of August G. retelling his life story from their different points of view of memory as it tries to make sense of a working class life rich with emotion, desire and experience.

M O-G: What show are you presenting next?

J L: Our next play is "Trio Los Machos," a Latino "Bromance," a love letter to Latino men, and an homage to my father which deals with the Bracero Program and tells the story of a guitar Trio in the likes of Trio Los Panchos who met during the Bracero program and have had a 50 year friendship. It's a comedy with music, a delightful walk through memory lane for those who grew up listening to Los Panchos.

The American Premiere of "The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August G." will be presented in the new Casa 0101 Theater; 2102 E. First Street; Los Angeles, CA 90033 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m., April 20 ÔÇô May 13, 2012. Tickets are $20 for General Admission, $17 for Students, Seniors and Groups of 10 or more, and $15 for Boyle Heights residents with identification.

For tickets, please call the Casa 0101 Theater Box Office at 323-263-7684, E-mail tickets@casa0101.org or buy online at www.casa0101.org.

This production is sponsored in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, California Arts Council, www.ArtsWorks.org (the official blog of the National Endowment for the Arts), California ART LVR, the French Consulate of Los Angeles, Metro and Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

(l to r) Patrick Riviere, Dee Smith, Alex Miramontes and Seraf?¡n Falc??n. Photo by Ed Krieger

About Miguel Ortega-Garcia:
Miguel Ortega-Garcia is an LA-based producer/playwright.
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