Technology has made it relatively easy to experience film and music created throughout the world. But live theater is not nearly as accessible. It might be that all the world’s a stage, but, without regular travel to New York, Edinburgh, Bogotá, and Tokyo, residents of San Antonio see few of the world’s stages. In previous years, AtticRep has offered a partial remedy to theatrical provincialism by importing troupes from Austria, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland. This year, AtticRep’s third International Fest of Theatre offers productions from India, the United States and Mexico.
Roberto Prestigiacomo, artistic director of AtticRep and impresario of the festival, explains that he originally intended to include a fourth production, from a fourth country – Italy. Teatro Potlach was scheduled to present its version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, the company was touring in Tehran and the Trump administration’s restrictive policies prevented them from obtaining a visa to come to the United States. The politically charged issue of immigration figures prominently in two of the three productions that will be on stage at the Tobin Center’s Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater. Two of the three are world premieres; the other is making its debut in the United States.
The festival kicks off on June 8 and 9 with Snapshots of a Fervid Sunrise, a play by Mahesh Dattani that dramatizes how two adolescents each choose a different path to challenge injustice in their beloved India. Directed by Dushyanth Dunashekar, it is a production of Crea-Shakthi, a company based in Chennai. Prestigiacomo is intent on establishing local connections with his visiting troupes, so performances of Snapshots will be supplemented by Dhanasri Thillana — a reconception of classical Indian dance choreographed by Aarthi Karthic and performed by Karthic and Madhavi Subramaniam, students of Kausi Subramaniam, who choreographed part of AtticRep’s 2015 production From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off.
On June 10 and 11, the stage at the Tobin will become a family’s porch, given over to On the Porch with the Lavens, a musical history of a talented singing clan, from its origins in Holland to success in the United States. “Rachel Laven was a student of mine at Trinity University,” Prestigiacomo, who directs the production, recalls. Performing their own blues, folk, and country songs, Andreas and Jana Laven and children, Rachel and Niko, will recount some of the challenges the family has faced and overcome. “They are,” says Prestigiacomo, “a positive story of immigration.”
More bittersweet are the immigration stories in Through the Wall: A Traves del Muro, scheduled for June 16, 17, and 18. Playwright Regina Moya, who grew up in Mexico City and lives in San Antonio, began by interviewing Mexican immigrants who crossed the border illegally. She translated transcripts of their stories into English and shaped them into dramatic form. “I am an immigrant myself,” notes Prestigiacomo, who directs Through the Wall and feels especially troubled by how immigrants are maligned and criminalized. “They follow the archetypal journey of the hero,” he contends. “When they come here, they do all they can to respect the laws and contribute to the country.”
The set for Through the Wall was designed by renowned Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero. In coordination with the theater festival, the Instituto Cultural de México will, from June 15-August 27, host the exhibition “El Vuelo y Su Semilla,” a set of installation pieces by Romero that reflect on the objects that immigrants carry with them during their treacherous journeys across the border. On June 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a storytelling session titled “When People Migrate” and featuring Carolina Quiroga-Stultz will also take place at the Mexican Cultural Institute. And on June 14 from 6-8 p.m, it will hold a panel discussion, led by Consul General Reyna Mendivil, titled “Moving Forward: Five Approaches to the Migration Phenomenon.”
“For the past 10 years,” Prestigiacomo notes, “AtticRep has mounted 46 productions, 36 of them new to San Antonio, 13 of them world premieres.” During that time, the company has also performed abroad, in India, Italy, Hungary, and Taiwan. “To grow artistically,” its artistic director insists, “we need to mix our creative juices with people who have different experiences. We need to bring them here and go there.”
To accomplish that, AtticRep will no longer schedule traditional theatrical seasons but will concentrate its work on festivals, here and abroad. San Antonio can no longer count on AtticRep throughout the year for some of the city’s most exciting and accomplished dramatic art. Disappointment has to be tempered by a realization that the company is taking its talents to the world and importing the world’s talents to San Antonio.