Theater with a Social Message 'Hard, Strong' Characters in Latest Production of Spanish Language Theater

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

Theater with a Social Message 'Hard, Strong' Characters in Latest Production of Spanish Language Theater


Byline: Elena Ferrarin eferrarin@reflejos.com

Rosario Vargas falls in love each time she plays a new character onstage.

Every time, she also knows there is more love to come.

"Every time we tackle a piece, for me in particular that moment is a great love, she said. "But I can never say its my last love."

Vargas is the founder and artistic director of Aguijon Theater, the only local theater specifically dedicated to performing bilingual and Spanish-language works. Located in the west side of the city, the small, intimate theater stages about three productions per year.

Currently, Aguijon is playing "Hasta Los Gorriones Dejan Su Nido" ("Even Sparrows Leave Their Nests"), an adaptation of Tennessee Williams one-act play "The Strangest Kind of Romance." The play is a snapshot in the life of a Mexican immigrant who comes to Chicago from California in search of work. He rents a room from an Argentine landlady whose sick husband is bedridden and who showers the immigrant with unwelcome advances.

Disconnected from everyone and feeling like a shell of his old self, the immigrant pours all his yearning for human contact onto an alley cat, whom he names Valentina.

Vargas plays the character of the landladys sister-in-law, a hard-edge woman who is going blind after years of hard work in the dry cleaning business. Filled with rage and loneliness, she goes on drunken rants against the injustices of the world, but also, touchingly, shows the most compassion and understanding for the immigrants condition.

"These hard, strong characters, like alcoholics and people who have a lot of problems, are always challenges for actors," Vargas said. "Among all her words, (my character) says a lot of truths."

Theater is, first and foremost, social commentary, and choosing to perform theater in Spanish in an English-speaking country can even be seen as a political choice, said Vargas, who established Aguijon Theater in 1989.

"As the Latino population grows, there are different kinds of people who come (to the theater)," she said. "At first there werent that many people interested, but now there are even people who speak English and are interested in Spanish-language theater, and people who want to learn Spanish."

During the last two decades, the productions of Aguijon have included "El Despojamiento," by Argentine Griselda Gambaro, "El Sol Subterraneo" by Colombian Jairo Anibal Nino; "La Chunga" by Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, and "La Lujuria Segun Ramiro" by Uruguayan Dino Armas.

"There are a lot of immigrants in todays day and people in general who dont know our own culture because of lack of education," said longtime Aguijon actress Alba Guerra, a native of Argentina. "Through theater you can learn a lot of things."

Guerra, who in the current play has the role of the landlady, said that she has acted both in English and in Spanish, but she feels she is at her best when she acts in her native language. "It is not easy to make it in this profession," said Guerra, who also performs as a tango singer at different venues in Chicago. "But I feel very good about what I do. I feel a lot of responsibility to do it right. …

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