Monday, March 3, 2014

Report on HOLA After The Curtain: THE HAPPIEST SONG PLAYS LAST

On Thursday, February 27, 2014, the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) held an HOLA After The Curtain event for the Second Stage Theatre production of The Happiest Song Plays Last. The event took place immediately after the performance and the moderator was Louis Perego Moreno (Tío Louie). The play was written by Tony Award nominee and HOLA Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes and directed by Tony Award winner Rubén Santiago Hudson. Perego Moreno interviewed Hudes and actors from the production, which included Anthony Chisholm, HOLA Award winner Tony Plana, Armando RiescoAnnapurna Sriram and HOLA Award winner Lauren Vélez. (Director Santiago Hudson, actor Dariush Kashani and Grammy nominated composer Nelson González were unavailable for the event.)

Tío Louie first spoke with playwright Hudes on how a play about a Gulf War veteran-turned-actor called Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue became the first part of what is now dubbed The Elliot Trilogy. The second play, Water By The Spoonful, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making her the first Latina (and second Latino after Nilo Cruz) to win the prize. (The play also won an HOLA Award for playwriting.) With the third and final installment of the trilogy, Hudes set out to make a musically-infused, unabashed nostalgic story. 

He also spoke to actors Chisholm, Plana, Riesco, Sriram and Vélez regarding their feelings about the production. Plana said he knew he had to be in the play after reading a monologue of his character. Vélez remarked on how in a particular scene she connects with González and the other two musicians who were up to that point in the background of the play. Their connection at that point in the play (no spoilers here) helps her deliver a blistering monologue. Sriram tapped into her biracial heritage (she is half-Indian), enabling to easily understand the themes of Hudes's play. Chisholm, like Santiago Hudson an alum of the works of August Wilson, recalled that just as in the oeuvre of Wilson, this play deals with a neighborhood and a family in the broadest sense of the word. With the use of music (referred to as "another character in the play" by Chisholm), a play cycle and a Pennsylvania setting (The Elliot Trilogy takes place mostly in Philadelphia, while August Wilson's plays take place in Pittsburgh), the trilogy resembles Wilson's The Pittsburgh Cycle, but with a Latino family at its core (Wilson received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama for his plays).

Riesco, as protagonist Elliot, has the unique honor of being the only actor to premiere in all three productions. He said being able to work on this character over the past seven years (when the first play in the trilogy premiered) has been a blessing and that similarly to Elliot and Sriram's character Shar in the play, he is about to embark on a new chapter in his life– fatherhood. His wife, actress Shirley Rumierk, is expecting their first child in a few months. Riesco was also extremely grateful to Hudes for believing in him and casting "this Irish-looking Puerto Rican" in the role of his lifetime thus far. Several of the actors remarked on the beauty of making theater is that one is able to create something new with every performance. Practically everyone on the panel praised Santiago Hudson with his directing duties and how he was able to seamlessly put together musicians with actors in a drama.

HOLA would like to thank Seth Shepsle, Laura DiLorenzo and the rest of the staff of Second Stage Theatre, Tío Louie, Anthony Ruiz, Quiara Alegría Hudes and the actors of the production Water By The Spoonful for making this event such a success.

[Photos on this blog were taken by ARuiz Photography and Alphabeta Photography, respectively. To see more photos from this event, click here.]

1 comment:

Tio Louie said...

Great and very uplifting experience interviewing the stellar Director, Quiara Alegria Hudes and a brilliant & moving cast. I got so much about the behind-the-scenes shaping the play, the actors' execution in their particular roles, as well about each and everyone's craft as an artist and its relation to the real world ~ fascinating discussion and a great third play in a trilogy!