Review: De Colores Festival of New Works (Alameda Theatre Company)

Alameda Theatre’s De Colores Festival stages readings of new works to keep your eyes peeled for

Wychwood Barns, up near St. Clair West, was home to the De Colores Festival of New Works this year.

The festival – held on October 11th and 12th – features work-in-progress by Latino-Canadians. I had the privilege of attending Thursday night.

The venue is a marvel of repurposed space. Wychwood Barns used to be where streetcars were held.

Pushing open the front door, a visitor is in a huge covered space. To take a guess, it’s easily as wide as a streetcar is long, and stretches about as long as a football field.

It’s – surprisingly, refreshingly – vacant. Off to either side are studios and offices. And near the end, a theatre.

Beyond the ordinary-sized door to the latter, is a seemingly sky-high space, with a few padded benches that are steeply raked. So the playing area is galactic in scale.

This is where two works went up as staged readings: Arrested by Jose Arias, and; La Danza del Venado by Ari Belathar.

Arrested was performed by Santiago Garcia, Rosalba Martinni, Sebastian Marczak, Kevin Whelan, and Jessica Zepeda.

Although it deals with highly specific experiences including coming-out-of-the-closet, immigrating to Canada from El Salvador, and acquiring HIV/AIDS, Arias with dramaturge Erica Kopyto, explores all this with such illuminating clarity, I found myself totally engrossed.

Plus, the cast is a highly likable, talented assemblage. They gave just the right amount of tenderness to the text, while – as per a staged reading – neither indulging in emotional dramatization nor wavering from a recitation that is even in tempo.

La Danza del Venado by journalist and poet Ari Belathar had me laughing. Something I wasn’t expecting from a work in which a group of Mexicans cross illegally into the U.S.

But there are many light rejoinders and moments of childish innocence – two of the characters are kids – to add buoyancy to its serious subject.

The story follows their passage across a precarious desert. Moon-like in its extremes and topology, by the end of the work, it left me with a vivid impression of Hell.

La Danza del Venado featured performances by Rolando Alvarez Giacoman, Gilda Monreal, Edsson Morales, Julio Espina, Mayahuel Tecozautla, and Francisco Trujilo.

Alameda Theatre, which is behind the De Colores festival, is planning a full production of La Danza del Venado next year. It’s a show I’ll keep my eyes peeled for!