New play taps into lives of Latinos
Norma Serna and Chris Acevedo star in "Cars and Quinceañeras." | Photo by TresSe Productions
‘Cars and Quinceañeras’
Clockwise Theatre, 221 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 25-Feb. 17
(800) 838-3006; www.clockwisetheatre.org
Updated: January 28, 2013 3:28PM
Ana dreams of having a lavish quinceañera.
That’s the traditional Latino celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, and Ana’s brother Luis, a high school senior and the man of the house, hopes to help fulfill Ana’s wish. But life has other plans for this Mexican-American family in “Cars and Quinceañeras,” when the young father figure learns that he is going to be a father.
Clockwise Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Susan Lieberman’s play, Jan. 25-Feb. 17.
The play grew out of Bridge, an outreach project that Wilmette resident Lieberman did with American Theater Company. The program sends teaching artists to three underserved Chicago high schools to run afterschool theater programs.
“Then a playwright comes in and comes up with a 30-minute play that has roles for everyone in the program,” Lieberman related. She was sent to Morton West High School in Berwyn.
“I interviewed the kids about their lives and there were all kinds of dramas going on,” Lieberman said. “But one girl really charmed me because I didn’t know that much about quinceañeras.”
The play was performed twice at Morton West and once at American Theater Company. Lieberman decided that the piece would work well as a theatre for young audiences production. “So I expanded it to an hour and did it as a Saturday Series reading at Chicago Dramatists, where I’m a resident playwright,” she said.
Madelyn Sergel, artistic director of Clockwise Theatre in Waukegan, was in the audience. “Forty-eight hours later, she sent me and the director an e-mail offering us a production and wanting me to expand the piece,” Lieberman said.
Sergel said that she attended that reading because she knew the playwright’s work and also because she was attracted to the description of the piece. “It had a couple of bullet points that I really wanted to hit,” she said. “It is based on the Latino family experience and we have a large Latino population in Lake County and Waukegan.”
Sergel was also intrigued by the play’s several strong women’s roles, “because we have some very strong actresses in the community that are Latina.”
The reading lived up to Sergel’s expectations. “I knew about halfway through that I wanted to produce it,” she said. “It was originally written for teenagers but I knew that Susan would have the skill to expand it into a mainstage production.”
Lieberman did extensive research on the traditions and history of quinceañeras, attending a couple of them and Googling the topic so many times, “I now get ads trying to sell me quince dresses,” she said.
The playwright decided to focus on the brother-sister dynamic when she learned that a brother is often the honor escort for his sister at her quinceañera. “The rest I made up,” Lieberman laughingly noted.
Lieberman is pleased with the cast selected for the show and with director Juan Castañeda, who was assistant director for the Chicago Dramatists’ staging. “If it’s not working, there’s probably a problem with the script,” said Lieberman, who has been doing extensive rewrites during the rehearsal process.
Lieberman’s impressive body of work includes “Arrangement for Two Violas” (Jeff Citation) and “Prairie Lights” (Jeff Nomination), plus regional Emmy nominations for WBBM-TV and WGN-TV teleplays. The Duke University graduate is literary manager of Chicago’s Raven Theatre.
Sergel is confident that the play will appeal to Clockwise audiences. “The themes of what is true maturity and what is growing up are very resonate for all of us,” she said. “And it’s a vibrant, exciting play.”