Recommended Readings

One of the many roles of a dramaturg is to research the context of a play – historical background, time period, location, etc. – and then give that information to the director, actors, and designers on a show so that they understand the world of the show and can portray it accurately.  Often, the dramaturg writes notes that are printed in the program so that the audience has the information they need to understand the show. Of course, a dramaturg does much more research than is shared with the audience – a program can only be so big! Plus, the program notes are not supposed to be a semester-long course, they just provide some background information.
The Abuelas is set in modern-day Chicago, but there is historical context which helps to understand the situation the characters find themselves in. While it is not necessary to know everything about the war to understand The Abuelas, it can be interesting to learn more. So, if you want the same information that the dramaturg, Ryan McRee, found in his research and shared with the company of the show, you can check out come of the below books/articles.

 

1. Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior: A Firsthand Account of Atrocity by Horacio Verbitsky

2. “The Disappeared: The Triumph of Memory” by Mario Bendetti

3. Alfonsina Storni: Selected Poems by Alfonsina Storni (English) or (Spanish)

4. Information for Foreigners: Three Plays by Griselda Gambaro

Odyssey Artists’ Workshop 2019 Excerpts

In our Odyssey Artists’ Workshop, artists from Antaeus work with students to teach them creative writing, using the plays of William Shakespeare to explain the structural elements of non-fiction writing and theatre performance. The students craft and perform an original theater piece of their personal stories interwoven with selected characters and themes from Shakespeare’s plays. Below are excerpts from the 2019 culmination performance by the students from the William Tell Aggeler Opportunity High School.

 

ELIJAH

I am from a place that never stood still due to the constant looking to live efficiently.
I am from a place where walls could be bridges or bridges could be walls. I am from a time where laughing is my sword and my shield.
I am from a place where slowing down was not an option.
Where fear of the future was not valid.
I am from a place of constant change where I have to adapt.
I have walls around my bridges and bridges through my walls.
I adapt to people. I adapt to places. I adapt to dreams.
I am from where change is necessary and what keeps you alive.

 

MARCO HERNANDEZ

I am from a dark place where people call it the ghetto
and kids make fun of each other because they supposedly dress like gueros.
I am from a place where shots are fired and mostly everybody is known to be a liar
I am from where abortions happen because they are not ready to be parents
I am from a place where people overdose because they are bullied
I am from a place where Christmas doesn’t even exist for some kids
I am from a place where fathers don’t exist, the only father you’ll ever have is your mother
I am from a place where childhoods are ruined because of violence
I am from a place where you get judged a lot,
where you get beat up in the parking lot and people like to bark a lot
I am from a place where people get mad because you speak your mind
I am from a place where kids ditch school to get drunk or high
I am from a place of riots and there is never peace
I am from a place where there will be peace and silence, and soon there will be no more violence

ANTHONY

I’m from where you hear police sirens and gang members break the silence and people have to watch their back, so they won’t get packed.
I’m from where you have to hurry up for school
and be attended and hoping you won’t get suspended.
I’m from where people can’t really afford the price, So they take a chance and they roll dice,
but you gotta remember people aren’t nice.
I’m proud where I’m from, you don’t have to come, I ain’t from Oklahoma. Fool, I’m from Pomona.

MARCO

I’m from where police brutality is at its best.
I’m from where kids get cuffed for standing on the wrong corner.
From where kids get shot for wearing the wrong color.
I’m from where kids walk around with straps, cuz they fear for their safety. I’m from where parents don’t let their kids out,
cuz they live in the wrong hood or they scared of them getting snatched. I’m from the 818. Come visit, but remember to bring your vest.

DAVID

I am from the city, where the drug dealers is young as hell Guns clapping in the alley, and yo pops is drunk
Moms going to church, just to pray for luck
I keep the hammer on me, just to make my enemies run AKs and Dracos, let ’em spit like tongues

ANTON

I’m from where people look at you and think you’re from a gang but you’re not. I’m from where people say something about you because you’re fat.
I’m from where people go for the same thing,
something like the Rams or the Cubs or even the Dodgers.
I’m from where people sleep on the floor because they can’t trust no one. That’s where I’m from.

NOAH

I’m from the place where people sell drugs to buy stuff or support their family I’m from the place where guys hit women to their feelings out.
I’m from the place where as soon as the sun goes down the sirens start coming. I’m from where girls go to school to get drunk or high.
I’m from where gangs don’t care whether you live or die.

TYAON

I am from LA where baby-mommas don’t get custody of their kids, so they make new ones. I grew up in a good home, with one mother and no father.
I choose to go on the wrong path,
I chose the streets, because I didn’t love the love I was getting in my home.
I had a dysfunctional family, it was good on the outs, but worse on the inside. A year later when I chose the street life, I was homeless every day.
I done experience a lot of trauma to myself,
and all the trauma I was experiencing was killing all my close friends
and even killed one of my best friends, which was my grandma.
I missed her funeral because I wanted to be something that didn’t fit me. Four years later I’m thanking God for the position he put me in now, because now I’m loving the life I could have before I chose the street. Thank God and be blessed.

Meet the Artist- Seamus Dever

Meet Seamus Dever, one of two Antaeus Company Members appearing in our production of The Abuelas. Though his character Marty gets some much needed cooking lessons, Seamus himself can whip up some meals that just reading about will make your mouth water. 

Where did you grow up?

       – I grew up in Bullhead City, Arizona.

How did you get into theater?

      – When they needed children for the local high school plays, I was asked to participate. My first play was Cat on A Hot Tin Roof when I was six. 

Do you play a musical instrument? If not, is there one you would like to play? 

       – I play the piano.

Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

       – I make a flatbread taco made of Halloumi cheese and Marsala sauce that people seem to enjoy. It’s kind of an Indian and Greek mashup. 

Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

       – It’s ok. I prefer jazz. 

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

        – Cold wash only, Tumble Dry low  

What is one of your beloved family traditions?

       – We make some pretty authentic Irish food on St. Patrick’s Day. I make an Irish coffee from scratch. 

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – A surprise party on my 30th birthday

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – I probably share too much

What words do you live by?

       – “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we’ve started and know the place for the first time”

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

       – Satire

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – Grande Caramel Macchiato with an extra shot of espresso.

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

       – Somewhere in between 

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – I think it fits the definition, yes.

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – I have 70 year old roses that I somehow keep alive but I managed to kill a Bonsai Tree recently. 

Chimichurri Recipe

Celebrating the Argentinian heritage in The Abuelas with Company Member Marcelo Tubert. His recipe for the “Argentinian wonder sauce”- chimichurri – is an easy recipe for cooks of any level!

 

Chimichurri Sauce

 

Prep: 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

 

 

Directions:

  • Wash and dry and remove the leaves of the parsley (some stems are okay)
  • Medium chop the parsley. Place in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Peel and medium chop the garlic.
  • Finely chop the shallot.
  • Add garlic and shallot to the parsley.
  • Add olive oil, vinegar, and lemon to the mix.
  • Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Enjoy right away or allow the mixture to sit for several hours (not in the refrigerator) to allow the flavors to mix together.

 

*Chopping can be done either by hand or using a food processor. As Marcelo says, it is a rustic recipe, so the consistency is not exact. Similarly with the flavor – garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes can all be varied based upon your personal tastes. So add you flair to it!

 

 

 

Enjoy chimuchurri as a dip for bread or chips; drizzle it on french fries or a baked potato; marinate chicken or meat; pour over freshly grilled steaks. Use your imagination!

Meet the Artist- Denise Blasor

Meet Denise Blasor, playing “Soledad/ Midwife” in The Abuelas. Learn more about Denise, whose favorite New Year’s tradition includes throwing a bucket of water out the window.

Where did you grow up? 

       – I was born in Paris, France, raised in Italy and Puerto Rico of Puerto Rican parents

How did you get into theater?

       – Since I was a little girl I loved to perform. My sister and I would write little shows to entertain our parents, Then at 13 when we moved back to Puerto Rico I joined the Theatre forensics team and from then on I knew that was my calling.

Do you play a musical instrument?  If no, is there one you would like to play? 

       – I play The Kazoooooo (just kidding). I have a piano but I don’t really play it well. When I was young I played the flute. I would love to play the saxophone. 

Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well? 

       – I prepare wonderful pasta dishes. Pasta con carciofi…mmmmmm

Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest? 

       – Love them. Any opportunity I have to go see LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel conducting is heaven. I was raised listening to classical music Puccini, Chopin, Falla, Satie, Ravel, Beethoven, Verdi, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff. Gershwin, Bizet, Segovia and the fabulous less known women composers Louise Farrenc, Teresa Carreno, Julia Perry, Florence Price, Clara Schumann, Francesca Caccini, Hildegard of Bingen, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Ethel Smyth… 

If you came with a warning label, what would it say? 

       – Warning: May contain Nuts

What is one of your beloved family traditions?

       – The New Year traditions we have always done…Throwing a bucket filled with water out of the door/window at Midnight to welcome the new year and eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight- one for good luck in each month of the year.

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – Spending my birthday with my mother in Puerto Rico and watching the stars that night on her last year of life.

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – Hmmmmm…both

What words do you live by?

       – Live with integrity, live truthfully.

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

       – A mystery

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – I don’t go to Starbucks

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

       – Au Naturel

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – Is a pizza a pie?

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – I love my plants and my plants love me. I rescue plants people throw away.

Meet the Artist- Carolina Montenegro

Meet Carolina Montenegro, playing Beléne/ Woman in The Abuelas and find out whether her foray into acting was scheduling serendipity or snafu. 

Where did you grow up? 

       – In Southern California, along the LA/OC County border. 

Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

       – My rainbow bowls! I love colors  and so love using different colored foods and playing with textures and plating. Not only does it make for a nutritious meal, but my kitchen doubles as a much needed space for being creative.

Do you play a musical instrument? If no, is there one you would like to play?

       – Not at all. I wish I could play the drums. [insert air drum solo]

 Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

       – Love.

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – A plane ticket to see my family in Argentina. I generally see them every other year, but couldn’t afford the flight so hadn’t seen them in four and a half years. It was quite the sob fest of a surprise to say the least.

How did you get into theater?

       – My Kinesiology classes would fill up before it was my turn to sign up so I slowly found my way to the Theatre Department. 

 Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – Depends on the occasion.

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – A Rev Up Tea – The most caffeinated tea they have supposedly. 

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – You can make it one by cutting the wiener in half and putting it between two slices of bread. If anything, it’s the love child of the sandwich… and taco. 

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – I LOVE plants and learning about them! I’m not an expert by any means- a yellow thumb at best. 

Meet the Artist- David DeSantos

Meet David DeSantos, one of two Antaeus Company Members appearing in The Abuelas this fall.  He last appeared at Antaeus in Cloud 9  in 2016 (see him here.)  Get to know David, who has a very strong opinion on the importance of Dodger Dogs. 

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the San Fernando Valley

Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

I make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Do you play a musical instrument? If not, is there one you would like to play?

Nope.

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

PJs.

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

When I was seven years old my parents surprised me by taking me into Hollywood. As we were walking, we rounded a corner and came upon the Pantages and I saw Annie was playing. My parents walked me inside and surprised me: they had already gotten us front row seats.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

Dodger dogs are one of the four basic food groups.

Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

I love the symphony.

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

Caution: loves dogs more than people

How did you get into theater? 

Playing Grumpy in Snow White in my school play in the 4th Grade

What words do you live by?

Trust the process.

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

Dark comedy.

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

Single shot red eye.

Do you have a green thumb or are plants doomer under your care?

I have seven plants thriving in my home.

Meet the Artist- Luisina Quarleri

Meet Luisina Quarleri, who plays Gabriela, the Argentine concert cellist around whom The Abuelas centers. Luisina is fluent in Spanish, Italian, an English and though she does not actually play the cello, someone in her family does!

Where did you grow up?
       – I was born in Argentina and lived there till I was 3, then moved to Italy and lived there till about 9, and then moved to New York. 

How did you get into theater?
        – My parents are both artists so I grew up going to the theater. I started working in plays with them at age 4 in Italy, at L’Arena di Verona. We would all go to work together and it was amazing. 

What is one of your beloved family traditions?

       – We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, as all Argentines do, and have a big family dinner and then open presents at midnight. I could never wait until Christmas morning to open presents!

 Do you have a food/dish you are known for making really well?

       – I make a really great eggplant parmesan.
 Symphonic concerts: love or snoozefest?

       – Love! Classical music was always playing in my house growing up and I’d often go to concerts to hear my father play. 

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

       – Must feed frequently. 

What is the best birthday present you have ever received?

       – My dad and I have the same birthday, and a few years back I cut my honeymoon short to fly to NY to surprise him on our birthday. We hadn’t spent it together in 5 years, so being with him that year was extra special. 

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or keep your emotions hidden?

       – Definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. If something’s wrong you’ll see it on my face. I’m not good at hiding my feelings!! 

If your life were a TV show, what genre would it be?

       – Probably a dark humor dramedy from BBC. 

Do you play a musical instrument? If no, is there one you would like to play?

       – I sing, but my brother got the instrument talent gene. If I had to choose, I’d absolutely love to play the cello because that’s what my father plays and it’s such a beautiful instrument.

What words do you live by?

       – “Every passing minute is a chance to turn it all around”. It’s from the movie Vanilla Sky. It was my senior quote and I still believe it. 

What’s your go-to Starbucks order?

       – I don’t really go to Starbucks, but if I’m there I’ll get a chai latte with almond milk or a caramel macchiato if I feel like having something sweet. 

Pajamas or sleep in your clothes?

       – Both?! I have old clothes I designate as pjs.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

       – Most definitely not. A hot dog is a hot dog. 

Do you have a green thumb or do plants have no hope under your care?

       – I wish I did! I love plants and have many in my apartment, but my husband is the one who keeps them alive. 

A Platform to Tell Their Stories

Los Angeles is a beacon of arts and culture; but, despite the wealth of theater, film, and music in our backyard, for many in this community, access to the arts remains painfully out of reach. As Antaeans, the right to creative self-expression is at the core of our values, and our arts education program, The Antaeus Odyssey Artists’ Workshop, empowers students to share their stories. 

We’ve grown our program to four campuses serving a wide range of needs and circumstances. Every week, teaching artists work with students at nearby Herbert Hoover High School; young men at the Rancho San Antonio Boys Home – a  residential center serving court-ordered teen boys; young women attending the New Village Girls Academy after dropping out of traditional high school; and people of all ages who leave gang life to get a new start at Homeboy Industries. Participants often have a history of trauma, and for many, this is the first time they’ve been granted creative freedom and a platform to tell their stories. 

The results are profound. As one 15 year-old participant shared, “I got to get closer to my peers and let out stuff I was holding in for a while. And they don’t judge you. We’re all family here.” A 17 year-old student said, “There’s a lot of support from the teachers, no matter what you write. It’s easier to talk about, when you know someone went through the same thing.” 

Our adaptive curriculum pairs Shakespeare with rap and contemporary poetry, emphasizing social and emotional learning. Through writing, speaking, and improvisation, we show students the power of working as an ensemble, and inspire them to find their voice and speak their truth.

We share this with you today as a reminder that a gift to Antaeus supports more than the extraordinary work you see on our stage. The generosity of this community has allowed us to make a difference in the lives of 200 students this year, and we urgently need your help to keep this program going. 

The time to give is now! Please consider making a gift before the end of our fiscal year on August 31 so that we can continue this vitally important work.  

 

 

Who was Bertolt Brecht?

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht was born February 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Germany — a town of 90,000 people that is 40 miles northwest of Munich—to middle-class parents Berthold and Sophie Brecht. From youth, Brecht was notable for his confidence, intelligence, and ambition. He began medical studies at the University of Munich in 1917 in order to avoid conscription in World War I, but flaked on his medical courses and devoted his time to studying theater with Artur Kutscher, through him becoming a devout admirer of Frank Wedekind, whose expressionistic plays and ballads influenced a great deal of the young Brecht’s cabaret and coffeeshop experiments. In 1918, he wrote his first play, Baal, about an amoral Bohemian bard-balladeer who cruelly discards friends and lovers of both sexes. That same year, he began the anti-war drama Drums In the Night, which demonstrated Brecht’s disdain from a young age with war and the capitalist forces that benefited from it — partially motivated by the horrific things he saw working in a military hospital in Augsburg in 1918. Though he had a number of mistresses (some very high-profile celebrities) and children with various women, the most important woman in his life was actress Helene Wiegel, with whom he had two children, Stefan and Barbara. She was considered one of the finest German actresses of her time, and starred in Brecht’s The Mother (1932) and Mother Courage and Her Children (1940).

In 1924, Brecht moved to Berlin to work as an assistant dramaturg at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theatre and established himself as a proletariat intellectual, attracting many with his charisma and passion for anti-establishment principles. In 1926, he began a fuller study of Marxism, and wrote, “When I read Marx’s Capital, I understood my plays.” Then 1927 saw Brecht beginning some of his most important collaborations, those with director Erwin Piscator and composer Kurt Weill, who would become Brecht’s primary composer for the music in his later plays. He formulated a writers’ collective that involved Elizabeth Hauptmann and Weill, and it was this group that adapted John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera into The Threepenny Opera. This was Berlin’s biggest hit production of the 1920s and catapulted Brecht to worldwide fame. His works into the early 1930s began to stimulate serious opposition from the growing Nazi-sympathizing base of German spectators, and Brecht had to flee Germany in February of 1933 in order to avoid persecution.

Brecht had multiple artistic projects in Prague, Zurich, and Paris, but eventually he and Weigel settled down in Denmark until 1939, when the outbreak of war relocated the Brecht family first to Stockholm and then to Helsinki. During this time, Brecht was incredibly despondent, and although he stayed busy with high profile collaborations and celebrity guests to his home, he felt doubtful about his role as an artist in what he called the “dark times.” Despite a growing pessimism, 1941 saw the premiere of Mother Courage and Her Children, and Brecht started writing a number of his anti-Nazi dramas that would later bring him further acclaim. However, as he came to feel that his role as a writer was diminishing in the face of Hitler’s encroaching conquests, he sought asylum in the United States, and moved the family there in July of 1941. Although Brecht struggled to adapt to his new home in many ways, it served as an inspirational laboratory for some of his most important theatrical experiments.

Though he had a fundamental opposition to Hollywood practices and aesthetic, Brecht tried to find work as a screenwriter (to little success) and he largely relied on the generosity and patronage of friends to stay financially afloat. American critics viewed Brecht as either overly-intellectual and pretentious or a Communist subversive. His early American writing saw the completion of two works that he had begun in his European exile years, The Good Person of Szechwan and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, both of which were highly inspired by his new surroundings.

His next two plays, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Private Life of the Master Race were, according to Brecht, subtly more targeted toward an American middle-class audience, and American critics grew to appreciate his work more when they saw him as a pacifist playwright rather than one devoted to class struggle. Brecht wouldn’t see the 1947 opening of his last “American” play, Galileo, as he began to attract unwanted attention from the House Un-American Activities Committee, who suspected him part of a larger supposed Communist infiltration of Hollywood. He outwitted the committee and escaped prosecution (unlike other prominent members of the “Hollywood 19”), but soon after boarded a plane to Paris and relocated his family to Zurich, and in 1949 permanently settled in what was now known as “East Berlin.”

In East Berlin, Brecht founded The Berliner Ensemble, and though he continued to write, his primary focus became directing and teaching the next generation of actors, writers, and dramaturges. He died on August 14, 1956 of a heart attack. Art historian Philip Glahn wrote of Brecht:

As an artist, he is usually described as developing from a happy anarchist to

a Marxist convert; he has been accused of being a staunch supporter of the

Communist party line, even of being a Stalinist. Yet the few things Brecht ever

held onto were his critical distance, his skeptical humor, and his pragmatic

commitment to observation. He always resisted the urge to fall in with

comfortable social and political mythologies, and his work was persistently

driven by the contradictions and complexities of situating himself and his

audience in an active and contingent relationship between image and reality,

mediation and experience.”

 

By Ryan McRee, Dramaturg for The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Photo courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com