Children’s theater is something very special! Playing to a young audience, one that is anxious to watch and recognizes dishonesty quickly makes the work of an actor and director an experience that they will remember for many years. Of great importance in putting on a production for children is being honest with them and communicating not to them, but with them.Glass Onion Theatre and Teatro Vista ( Theater with a View) are doing just that with their marvelous production of “The Magic Ofrenda”, a wonderful one hour experience for kids Kindergarten through Fifth Grade written by Christina Biggs with music and lyrics by Mike Descoteaux.
The story deals with an annual event in the lives of The Mexican Community, Dia de los Muertos ( The day of the dead) and takes us from Chicago to Mexico as young Anjelita ( the delightful Christina Nieves) is supposed to draw a picture of her departed Grandmother to bring to her Grandpa Juan ( Gustavo Mellado is a joy to watch on stage). Her problem, she can’t remember how her Grandma looked, thus she takes her pad and markers in the hopes that in Mexico, she will find her lost memories of the woman she adored. Her brother Mateo (deftly handled by Remy Ortiz), a wise-cracking Americanized teen joins her on this special trip. And what a trip it is! They fly on a plane and get into a bumpy taxi as they make their way to visit with Grandpa Juan. When they arrive, he is setting up the finishing touches on the Ofrenda. note: this is a cart that is filled with memories of the loved one and is brought to the cemetary with offerings to show their love and adoration.
The kids bring something with as well. Anjelita brings a doll of her favorite artist, Frida Kahlo and Mateo, a doll that is the replica of the dog they had when youngsters ( a dalmation). Grandpa leaves them alone at the cemetary with the Ofrenda and then the magic of the event takes over. With the items on the Ofrenda coming alive , the cemetary becomes a more animated space and as they watch the visions that are brought before them, Anjelita begins to see her grandmother, in her own face. The other cast members who truly make this show a work of art, directed by Ricardo Gutierrez are the strong Gabe Ruiz ( Father, Lobo, the dog and el Santo, the famous wrestler and more) and Mari Stratton ( mom,Aunt Flora,Frida and more)
As we take this trip, the audience is very involved- they learn the dances, the marches and some kids end up being in the show itself. The music is original with a Latin beat and the choreography by Jasmine Cardenas is cute, yet easy for the actors to teach to the kids. The audience that I sat with ( and participated with) loved every second of the show and boys and girls loved doing the Salsa dancing and marching. This was, fr many , their first theatrical experience- live, and because of a show like this, I have a feeling many of them will aquire the taste for live theater. One young lady behind me wanted to go one the stage and sing, but her mother held her back. After the show, the actors come out and answer questions for a few minutes which makes the experience all the more memorable.
This play, under the original name “El Dia de Los Muertos” had its start here in Chicago in 2007 and in 2008-2009 it went on to be doe in Arlington Heights ( Metropolis Theatre) and in Chicago ( Apollo) in 2009. The current production is being done in the theater at the National Museum of Mexican Art located in the Pilsen neighborhood at 1852 West 19th Street. The Museum is a Chicago treasure as well. This is a very limited production that many school are using as field trips, so seating may be limited. The performance dates and times are:
November 16th and 17th at 11 a.m. and November 17th at 9:30 a.m.
Tickets are a mere $5 and if you have a group, a whole bus load-$100 ( chaperone’s FREE)
For info call 773-217-8151 or visit www.glassoniontheatre.org
Perhaps you might want to bring this sterling production and a lesson in faith to your school or organization- call. I am sure they will work with you.