GALA Hispanic Theatre and Hugo Medrano, the founder and producing artistic director, announces its 37th season, with the presentation of “DC-7: La Historia de Roberto Clemente.” The show will run from April 16 through May 26.
The bilingual musical written and directed by Louis Caballero tells the story of the famous Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.
Roberto Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972 and earned Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player Award. Off the field, Clemente was involved in charity work for Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries. He died in a plane accident in 1972 while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The show, co-produced with the Society of the Educational Arts, Inc., based in New York, features three principal artists Modesto Lacen, Josean Ortiz and Xiomara Rodriguez from the original Off-Broadway production.
“We are keeping not only our heritage and our theater alive, but also our language,” said Medrano. “We don’t want Spanish to be extinct in the new generation.”
“At the time I was here, there was no theater or arts development in the city in terms of Latinos,” said Medrano. “In general it was very poor Washington, D.C., there were not many theaters. So a group of actors and artists decided to get together and create a group of Latin American actors. That’s what Gala means, Grupo de Artistas Latino Americanas. “
The Theatre started with a play, as a part of an important festival, The Latino Festival in D.C. The play got a huge response, according to Medrano. From that point, the Theatre began to create drama classes and a company, moving to its first location into a tiny rented house, which they converted into a 60 seat theater in Adams Morgan on 18th Street and Kalorama Road NW.
GALA Hispanic Theatre is now located at the Tivoli Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights. It seats 276 people. The move was helped by raising $4 million with the help of the DC Commission of the Arts. GALA offers a yearly bilingual season of classical and contemporary plays, music, dance and poetry for the Nation’s Capital.
The GALA Hispanic Theatre also provides several children’s arts education programs. GALA was a recipient in 2012, of the President’s Arts and Humanities Award, recognizing its youth and arts education program as one of the best in the country.
Paso Nuevo, GALA’s most acclaimed program, offers children ages 13-18 a place to discover their creative voice and learn important life skills. Teens that complete the Paso Nuevo program graduate high school at a 15-20% higher rate than their peers outside the program, according to GALA’s records.
GALA presents other Latino groups from Latin countries and invites them to showcase their work at the theatre.
“That is one of the things that we really want to do, we are very successful and unique in many ways that we present artists from Latin America and Spain to mingle with our artists, we are really a cultural exchange,” Medrano said.
GALA presents three plays a year, consisting of classical, contemporary and musical pieces. All of GALA’s productions run from five to six weeks. All of GALA’s company members are either artists from Latin counties or residents of D.C. who have a passion for the arts and Latin- American culture.
“We are bringing a cultural richness that is unknown to the city,” said Medrano. “We are bringing that not only in theatre, but in dance, music and folk from our countries. I think it is an important cultural contribution to the multi -cultural personality of the city. I think it is important that we share our heritage to non Spanish speaking people.”
GALA is not only popular in the Latin- American culture in D.C., but is also very popular among other races and ethnicities in D.C.
“Our audience is very mixed, we have Anglos who are very interested in the Latino experience, or speak a little Spanish, and since we do present all the plays with subtitle or translators, we have a very interesting composition of visitors,” said Medrano.
For upcoming years GALA Hispanic Theatre wants to focus on an endowment plan and financial security, so that they can provide housing for artist for artists , more space for workshops, and a space specifically for the Paso Nuevo children’s program .