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Festival aims to cultivate NM stories

JoJo Sena de Tarnoff, Anna María Gonzales and María Cristina López are shown in a scene from “When the Stars Trembled in Río Puerco.” (Courtesy of Carla GarcÍa)

JoJo Sena de Tarnoff, Anna María Gonzales and María Cristina López are shown in a scene from “When the Stars Trembled in Río Puerco.” (Courtesy of Carla GarcÍa)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is rich in its culture and holds on to its stories for generations.

This is the reason the National Hispanic Cultural Center has teamed up with local theater companies to create “Siembra!”

The series, which also is the only Latino theater festival in the state, opens on Thursday, Sept. 25, and will run through May 2015. It will present various works by the different theater companies.

Kicking off “Siembra!” will be “When the Stars Trembled in Río Puerco.” It is an oral history play that premiered earlier this year to sold-out audiences in Santa Fe.

The play is put on by Teatro Paraguas and is based on stories of viejitos of the Río Puerco valley that were collected and edited by New Mexico folk historian Nasario García. It has been adapted and directed by Santa Fe playwright Shebana Coelho.

Coelho says she was drawn to García’s stories because they sound like monologues.

She says he has written many books of these stories and the play is based on the first one, which was written in 1987.

“I started to adapt it and had a clear vision for it,” she says. “You want to see the vision come to life.”

As Coelho began to work on the play, it began coming together. After the first table read, the project moved faster and faster.

Then it debuted earlier this year in Santa Fe.

During that time, Coelho decided to put more of a multimedia element into the play. She began working on a documentary to show during the play.

“I’ve got a lot done but there’s still more to do,” she says. “I want to make a full-length documentary that tells these stories. Right now we have vignettes broadcast onto a screen. I’m still raising funds for this project and I hope to have it out in a year.”

Coelho said there also will be a special video presentation and Q&A session, “The Real Río Puerco,” which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, also at NHCC’s Journal Theatre.

This is an opportunity for audiences to go behind the scenes of the stage play and see documentary footage of the real Río Puerco valley and hear stories by García about the ranching families and viejitos who made it their home.

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