The songbook of Grammy Award winners David Hidalgo sand Louie Pérez of Los Lobos drives Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, a multimedia play with music by Theresa Chavez, Louie Pérez and Rose Portillo that takes its title from the group's 1985 rocker "Evangeline." Chavez and Portillo co-direct the world premiere production for About Productions, opening at the Bootleg Theater tonight, May 12 for a limited, three-week engagement through May 27. Low-priced previews take place May 3-11.
Evangeline...a devoted daughter by day, a Hollywood go-go dancer by night. A journey of self discovery by a young Chicana, whose neighborhood roots and make-believe world collide when she experiences the West Side art scene and the music of the Sunset Strip, is set against the 1968 student walkouts in East L.A. and the fight for equal education and civil rights. Songs written by Hidalgo and Pérez are drawn from their 40-year catalogue, marking the first time the songbook will be part of an original production. Songs including "Good Morning, Aztlán," "River of Fools," "The Neighborhood" and "Revolution" will be played live on stage by East L.A. band Ollin with featured vocalist CAVA (Claudia Gonzalez-Tenorio). Musical direction is by Ollin's Scott Rodarte.
"David's and my approach to songwriting has always explored the possibilities of character and story," explains Pérez. "My lyrics have always come from a personal experience populated by people, places and things from the reality of growing up in a Mexican-American community. This production gives me an opportunity to expand my artistic horizons beyond a three-and-a-half-minute song and into a theatrical form, to see Evangeline in the flesh, immersed in a world of her own creative possibilities, inspired by the world around her."
David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez started writing music together when they were in high school, long before they became members of Los Lobos. Songs from both Los Lobos and off-shoot band Latin Playboys are incorporated. Newcomer Catherine Lidstone stars in the title role, with Karen Anzoategui as cousin Rita (her solo show Ser: L.A. vs. B.A., a Queer transnational tale, was seen at Macha, Hollywood Fringe, REDCAT, and recently selected as a finalist for the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival in N.Y.C.); Danielle Barbosa as her mom (Cesar and Ruben, El Portal Theater); and Jorge Diaz as brother Ray ("Eddie Vargas" in the upcoming feature Filly Brown with Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips). Also in the cast are Daniel Chacón playing multiple roles including Evangeline's politically radical boyfriend (Oedipus el Rey, Boston Court-LA Weekly Award, Best Ensemble; Visitors' Guide to Arivaca, Company of Angels; Spinning into Butter, LA Theatre Works); and Georgia Reed as Eva's dance club mentor (Last Summer At Bluefish Cove, Stella Adler Theatre).
About Productions has been developing Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe with Pérez for the past three years; the production at the Bootleg culminates a carefully orchestrated series of events leading up to the world premiere. Last winter, students from Monterey Continuation High School in East L.A. were invited to interview journalist Luis Torres, educator Paula Crisostomo, and artist Ofelia Esparza, each of whom had participated in the historic 1968 student walkouts, as part of About Productions' Young Theaterworks program; in March, professional actors performed 2011 Meets 1968 at Plaza de la Raza, staged readings of one act plays written by those student historians. In April, About Productions joined with 89.3 KPCC to present Civil Rights and Go Go Boots: A Groovy Evening of Theater, Live Music and Chicano History as part of the station's Crawford Family Forum, inviting the community to explore the late 1960s history of East L.A. through theatrical excerpts, live music inspired by the Go-Go Era, and a panel and public talk-back with professors Josh Kun, Alma Martinez and Victor Viesca. In June, About presented Stories & Songs, a one-night concert featuring Hidalgo and Pérez at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Finally, a unique in-gallery workshop of Evangeline was presented at the Autry National Center in October as part of the L.A. art initiative, Pacific Standard Time. At the Bootleg, About Productions will present two free weekday morning matinees for high school students, including highest-risk youth from East L.A. who participated in the 2011 and 2012 Young Theaterworks program. Also provided will be a study guide-a hands-on tool to inspire students and engage them in the civil rights history of Los Angeles. Following the world premiere production of Evangeline, a touring version featuring Hidalgo and Pérez will be readied for the 2013-14 season and will include special workshops conducted by the creative team (Chavez, Hidalgo, Pérez and Portillo).