Feature: Teatro Vivo’s ‘Cuento Navideño’ brings Latina perspective to Dickens Christmas classic

Yvonne Flores and Mary Alice Carnes in 'Cuento Navideño: Bah Humbug in the Barrio'

With a twist to the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Teatro Vivo brings us the return of the adaptation Cuento Navideño: Bah Humbug in the Barrio! at the Long Center for Performing Arts from Dec. 6 to Dec. 16.

Written and directed by the founder of Teatro Vivo, Rupert Reyes, Cuento Navideño: Bah Humbug in the Barrio! brings the Dickens classic to life with a comedic Latin perspective as well as a feminine one.

“[A Christmas Carol] is still one of the most produced plays around Christmas time,” Reyes said. “In fact, so much that it’s kind of lost its luster.”

The idea to write such a play started while Reyes was very young, but it developed throughout the years of speaking with many different people.

“I wanted to make a play that would take a female focus, a feminine focus on life and stuff,” Reyes said. “What would happen if a woman did the same thing a man did, you know like Ebenezer Scrooge?”

In the play, Abuelita C., as she is known by her grandnephews and grandnieces, tells her story after she learns that her grandnephew is being bullied at school for being Latino and is being called derogatory terms such as “wetback” and “beaner.”

“Really, what she does is recount her own story, but as a fiction,” Reyes said. “She tells the story of this woman named Evangelina Cruz, which is actually her real name. They know her as Abuelita C., the ‘C’ being Cruz, and her real name is Evangelina Cruz and so she tells her story of this woman that becomes obsessed with being successful, obsessed with making lots of money, and forgets everything else in her life.”

A surprise visit from the ghost of her former business partner takes Evangelina on a ride to examine her choices closely. The script of the play follows A Christmas Carol very closely and the central theme of the play is still the same as the original.

Playwright Rupert Reyes of Teatro Vivo

“For me the central theme is unconditional love,” Reyes said. “We always say, why are we here? What is the meaning of life? And I think that it’s a very simple thing, that we here are struggling to try to learn unconditional love.”

According to Reyes, the Teatro Vivos plays are not targeting Latino audiences, but broader audiences. They also purposefully make their plays as inclusive as possible and those that have never been exposed to the Latino culture will encounter the culture through their plays.

“You’re going to gain insight,” Reyes said. “You’re going to hear Spanish, but you’re not going to be excluded from what is happening. Our plays really are for everybody.”

One of the primary goals Reyes has is to make sure the story is clear and for the audience experience to be unique. He wants all the elements to come together and to be understood.

“I’ve worked with a lot of directors and they try to pose their vision of the play, but I try to pretend that I’m the audience, and what is it that I’m seeing,” Reyes said. “I really try to put myself in that perspective—I am the audience’s eye.”

Teatro Vivo was founded in 2000 by Rupert Reyes and his wife, JoAnn Reyes, and is one of the only bilingual theatre companies in the state of Texas and it incorporates themes related to social issues.

“I founded Theatre Vivo because we wanted to keep doing theatre that sort of went to the common places, the non-traditional audience that I think will manage to be trapped into the theatre because they see their story, they see their faces, they see their familia [family] on the stage,” Reyes said.

In their almost 13 years, they have produced more than 24 full-length productions and have collaborated with several arts organizations. Locally, they have received numerous nominations and have done several theatre workshops for the under-served populations in the community.

“We’re not the only Latino theatre company, but we’re one of the few theatre companies that plays to such a broad audience,” Reyes said. “There are people that come in from West Austin; we have people that drive all the way from San Antonio and the Valley to see our plays because it’s a unique style of theatre—very unique bilingual theatre.”

Cuento Navideño: Bah Humbug in the Barrio! will take place at the Rollins Theatre at the Long Center for the Performing Arts from Dec. 6 to 16. Times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for students. For further information and to buy tickets, visit the Teatro Vivo or the Long Center website.

Estefania de Leon

Estefania was born and raised a true Austinite. She graduated from Crockett High School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Courier for three years, and is currently studying journalism at the University of Texas. She enjoys blogging, photography, and anything Owl City.

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