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

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Toronto’s Alameda Theatre Company’s 2013 De Colores Festival of New Works is a celebration of Latin theatre in Canada showcasing new works in development

For the first time I found myself at Theatre Direct Studios for Alameda Theatre Company’s 2013 De Colores Festival of New Works. The space, for anyone else who hasn’t been there, is a beautiful cozy theatre in the Wychwood Barns, well suited for the intimacy of the evenings’ readings.

De Colores Festival is dedicated to providing a safe place for Latin American Canadian writers to develop new works. Each night of the festival a new script or two are read along with a short work by the Nueva Voz Youth Ensemble. On Thursday, Have You Lost Something? by Flavia Hevia, and Solaz by Jefferson Guzman were presented.

Nueva Voz Youth Ensemble opened the evening for us. They are a group of young people who over the past few months have been mentored by Alameda Theatre Company. Their devised piece looked at who they are as Latino Youth living in Canada. It was really nice to see this next generation of young artists proudly take ownership of who they are. Being an English speaking person I did not quite understand the Spanish parts, but it did not matter because their intentions were clear and charming.

Hevia’s main artistic practice is visual arts, but her work in set and lighting design comes through very strongly in Have You Lost Something? Even though it was a play reading it was oblivious that she had considered the visual content of the work. Puppets, books, phantoms, and a small scale wind machine all made an appearance.

Have You Lost Something? is loosely based on the writings of Roberto Bolaño and as such is quite abstract. At first I was confused by the characters and the timeline of the story, knowing it was an excerpt I was unsure if scenes had been cut or if I could not catch up with what was happening. My show partner commented on the main character, each time he met someone new he had the same shocked response. By the end of the excerpt Hevia’s writing had become more comfortable and the characters more familiar. Once I had seen the ending of the play, the context of the opening acts made more sense.

The following work was Guzman’s Solaz. This one was at the complete opposite end of the theatre spectrum with a cast of seven with actors playing multiple roles. Solaz is a hefty realist play about a poor family struggling to deal with tragedy. We were read acts two through four of five, and that was a dense three acts.

Solaz is described as being the story of Yolanda, the mother of the family, yet she seemed secondary to the over powerful father, Carlos. Even though she had three children, most of her dialogue was about coping with Carlos and his pain. The play’s drive seemed to be a reaction to his actions. Though stated to be about Yolanda, I doubt Solaz would pass the Bechdel test.

The De Colores Festival is an important part of developing the Canadian Latin American voice in the theatre scene. The work that I saw proves Alameda’s commitment to developing good theatre, pushing the boundaries of what the Latin American voice means, and diversity of theatrical form.

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Photo provided by the company