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Santa Fe theater groups team up on trilogy

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

From left: In “Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue” at Teatro Paraguas, Rudy Fernandez is George, Juliet Salazar is Ginny, Luca Pacheco is Elliot and Nikoa Salas is Pop. (Courtesy of Carrie Mccarthy)

History of sorts and certainly a milestone in local theater will be created when three Santa Fe production companies coordinate the staging of Pulitzer Prize playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes’ landmark “The Elliot Trilogy.”

The trio of plays, “Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue,” “Water by the Spoonful” and “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” follows the fortunes of Elliot Ortiz as he moves from teenage warrior to disillusioned, addicted veteran coping with post-traumatic stress syndrome to redemptive man who faces his demons.

Throughout the plays, a colorful group of family members weaves its way through Elliot’s life; reacting to his travails, comforting him in his time of trouble and helping him to recover his sense of self.

“It is a very rich story,” said Carrie McCarthy, who is doing publicity for the event. “In addition to the core story of productions by three of Santa Fe’s premier theater companies and the ever-increasing professionalism of theater in Santa Fe, there are also these elements: This is the first time that theaters in Santa Fe have collaborated in this way; it’s only the second time it has been produced to run consecutively and simultaneously – the first time was the summer in Los Angeles – and the playwright is a woman and all three plays are being directed by women.”

“Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue” opens Sept. 26, presented by Teatro Paraguas under director Alix Hudson. It’s followed by Pulitzer Prize-winning “Water by the Spoonful” staged by Ironweed Productions at the Teatro Paraguas Studio Space, with director Valli Marie Rivera, opening Oct. 3. “The Happiest Song Plays Last” starts up at the Santa Fe Playhouse, directed by Robyn Rikoon, on Oct 10.

In Ironweed Productions’ “Water by the Spoonful,” Cristina Vigil plays Yazmin and Juna Mendoza Solis is Elliot. BELOW: Roxanne Tapia plays Yaz in “The Happiest Song Plays Last” at the Santa Fe Playhouse. (Courtesy of Carrie McCarthy)

From Thursday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 13, the three productions will be playing concurrently, giving patrons the opportunity to binge watch the trilogy over the course of three days.

Each play also can be enjoyed as a stand-alone production and can seen over the course of a five-week span.

Seventeen actors, all from Santa Fe, are involved in telling the story that spans over four generations and 60 years.

The seed for the unique event began three years ago when Hudson was speaking with some colleagues about doing a series of related plays in coordination with other production companies.

And eventually it was decided to do “The Elliot Trilogy,” Hudson said.

“She’s tried and true,” she said of playwright Hudes. “She’s delightful and we absolutely adore her. What better trilogy to start with if we’re going talk about collaborative work? It seemed like a natural choice.”

The three directors and casting agents held a mass casting call for the roles of all three plays at once, working to establish a little continuity while still maintaining a certain independence.

For instance, following that casting experience, each of the directors went their own ways with the productions, with virtually no interaction in terms of play development.

Yes, there’s still that common theme and thread coursing through all three, Rikoon said.

“This is important as a means to recognize theater as a larger part of the community,” she said. “It’s bringing us together as producers, artists, directors, actors. It’s taking a really small marble and making it into a bouncy ball. Everything is growing. The more great minds that you can have collaborating, the better the product is going to be.”

The middle play, “Water by the Spoonful,” will be staged in the round in a black-box style with an intimate audience of about 50 people, with the house lights playing a big role in setting the mood, said Rivera, who like Hudes (and Elliot) is from Puerto Rico.

Roxanne Tapia plays Yaz in “The Happiest Song Plays Last” at the Santa Fe Playhouse. (Courtesy of Carrie McCarthy)

“It all ties in,” she said. “If you see the all the plays, you follow these characters, which is fascinating. That’s what ties it up. The Puerto Rican family thing and the women are very strong, and there’s his mother’s garden … . It’s there all the way through. There are some amazing points that we touch in common, specifically with the character and his immediate family.”

Snappy, witty and poignant, the prose is sparkling, at times lyrical and other times gritty, all designed to make viewers laugh and cry, and, most of all, think and reflect, Hudson said.

“I think people should definitely be mindful of what they’re doing the rest of the day,” she said. “There are moments of wonderful humor and moments of levity. There’s addiction and war and intergenerational war, redemption, humor and love.

“It’s life, right? It all feels absolutely real.”