Last night I had an exciting opportunity to observe and photograph a group of local actors rehearse a short play called "Hechos Guadalupanos" at Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in Watsonville, CA. The title translates to Guadalupe Facts and is being adapted and directed by Adrian Torres, a co-worker of mine at Mariposa's Art. Adrian is a local actor and director and has worked with Teatro Campesino and jointly with Watsonville High School and Pajaro Valley High School directing such plays as "Zoot Suit".
Saint Patrick's invited Adrian to bring in something "different" for their annual Guadalupe play. His version of "Las Apariciones" is new to the church and will breathe refreshed life into the traditional story of how the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to a Mexican native, named Juan Diego. With lighting, music, special effects, and passionate actors, this Mexican origin story takes place at a time when the Spanish were establishing themselves as the dominant culture, and indigenous groups were trying to find a way to practice their traditions within a changing cultural landscape.
During the rehearsal I found the actors and musicians passionate, present, and engaging. I found myself with chills and goosebumps in between shooting the rehearsal, especially during a particularly dark moment for Juan Diego just before the final apparitions. After a small preview of lights and special effects, I'm looking forward to seeing everything together during the actual performance. Adrian and his production team are dedicated to this play and it shows. Before rehearsal he told me,
This is a labor of love. We're not doing this because we're getting paid. We're doing this because we love this work and because Watsonville needs this.
The director, actors, and crew have had a lot of obstacles to overcome, trying to schedule rehearsal time around mass, choir rehearsal and other church events, as well as dealing with an old electrical system, and quite limited funding. They are borrowing sound and lighting equipment from friends and finding or making costumes from what is available. Adrian described it as "making a dollar out of fifteen cents."
Despite, and probably in spite of these challenges "Las Apariciones" will go beyond your everyday church pageant. This production is a beautiful example of Watsonville arts and culture, whose roots and history are brought from Mexico and reinforced by community members who value traditional storytelling and performing arts, with an infusion of modern understanding.
If you go: The play is free and all performances are at Saint Patrick's Church, 721 Main St (the big brick church with the steeple, you can't miss it). The play is in Spanish and between 30-45 minutes long. The schedule I received has the following dates and times, though some may change without notice. I will try to post updated information here as I receive it. Friday December 7, 8pm. Saturday December 8, 8:30pm. Tuesday December 11, 7pm. Wednesday, December 12, 8pm.
Logistics: Parking lot and street parking around the church. Show up early, but note that there may be a mass or rosary just prior to the start time.