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The Boston Globe

Still Making The Escena


June 3, 2004
Copyright ©2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Thirteen years ago, Nelida Torres and her friends gathered for a Sunday brunch. During the conversation, they discovered they had far more in common than their order of cafe con leche. They had all been bitten by the acting bug, and they were all concerned about losing their grip on the Spanish language.

"It was time to give ourselves the performances we really wanted to see but couldn't find anywhere in Boston," says Torres. So they formed their own theater troupe: Escena Latina (or "Latin Scene"), founded with the mission of providing theater in Spanish for Boston audiences.

From apartment living rooms to the Footlight Club, Escena Latina has produced more than 20 plays in Spanish since its founding, and on June 17-19 the troupe will present "Trilogia de Voces Mundanas" ("Voices of the Common Folk Trilogy"), a group of works that explore the everyday details of Latin life.

The trilogy begins with "Lenguas," a fragment of the Sam Shepard play "Tongues." The second part is "Angelito Pena," by Julio Chavez, the story of four roommates who assist a friend who is preparing for a contest that involves standing still for 24 hours. The final section is "Las Masas son Crasas" ("The Masses are Asses"), by Pedro Pietri, a humorous look at a snobbish Puerto Rican couple in Paris who gradually reveal a thought-provoking secret.

Although a written English translation will be provided at the entrance upon request, the trilogy is performed in Spanish. For Torres, who was born in Puerto Rico, the humor and purpose behind Latin American plays are lost in English translations. "Most of the plays we choose are representative of Latin culture, so we do them in Spanish," she says, noting that Escena Latina performances generally attract a significant number of people for whom Spanish is not their first language.

Since that brunch 13 years ago, most of Escena Latina's founding members have relocated, but the troupe continues to thrive with new talent. Current members include actors who are both professional (Torres, Giovanna Negretti, Claudia Diaz, and Maria Silvina Persino) and budding (Rebeca Rivera, Frances Colon, Jose Sanchez, Andrea Sequeira, Cynthia Paris, and Juan P. Paniagua).

Escena Latina performs "Trilogia de Voces Mundanas" at the Actors Workshop, 327 Summer St., Boston. Performances are June 17-18 at 8 p.m., and June 19 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, students $12. 21+. 617-524-5371.

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