Last Updated: Mar 28th, 2013 - 15:54:01
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The Arts

Su Teatro�s St Cajetan�s Reunification Project: A lesson �about what was�

By Cliff Foster

Yolanda Ortega, long-time Metro State administrator, plays a lead character in Su Teatro�s production of �El Corrido del Barrio.� It was written and is directed by Tony Garcia, an affiliate professor and artistic director of Su Teatro.
Su Teatro�s production of �El Corrido del Barrio� in December has meaning for the cast, the theater company, and Metro State and the Auraria Campus.

It�s a story about displaced Aurarians and the spirit of a community that was upended to make way for construction of the campus. The cast includes long-time Metro State administrator Yolanda Ortega, who has been acting in Su Teatro�s productions for many years. And it is being produced in light of the theater�s return to the Westside neighborhood.

The production is part of the St. Cajetan�s Reunification Project, annual rotating stage performances that are meant, in part, to reunite one-time neighbors who lost their homes and businesses when the Auraria Higher Education Center was built.

�It was designed to bring together people who lived there, people who never heard of Auraria, people from campus�to learn about what was,� says Ortega, interim director of the Center for Urban Connections and retired vice president for student services.

The reunification performance will be held in Su Teatro�s new home in the Denver Civic Theater at 721 Santa Fe Drive. �This year it�s important to us,� says Tony Garcia, artistic director for Su Teatro and affiliate professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies. �Su Teatro actually made the trip and moved back into the Westside� from the old Elyria School in Northeast Denver. �This is our year that we�re here for sure, for good.�

Garcia wrote the play in 1976 and it�s been performed several times. He was baptized at St. Cajetan�s church, went to elementary school where the King Center is located, and lived in a house near the West Classroom building. �I�ve told people a lot of times I just imagine as I walk the streets all the people that lived there.�

Garcia says the performance is a juxtaposition �of very dark subject matter but there�s humor involved in it.�

Ortega and actress Debra Gallegos play the lead characters, next door neighbors whose families grew up together. Ortega�s character, Vecina Lina, is a high-strung whirlwind, as Garcia put it. �She�s funny as heck, I love playing that role,� Ortega says. Gallegos� character, Comadre Isabel, is rooted, analytical, a fountain of wisdom. The story, set in the late 1960s and early �70s, touches on life in the neighborhood, the characters� daily lives, important moments (Isabel�s son is sent to the Vietnam War and returns to college), and the displacement, which was accompanied by Metro State, CU Denver and CCD scholarships for residents and their descendants.

�It�s about what was lost but also the perseverance of people assessing, challenging, and reaffirming those things that are important to us like community,� Garcia says.

The cast is a mix of veterans and newcomers to the stage. �It�s been a fabulous collaboration,� Ortega says. �They�re learning a lot about the history from us but we�re also learning from them. You often don�t have a show that�s cast with that much of a range.�

�El Corrido del Barrio,� Dec. 1-18, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; matinee performances, 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Metro State students can receive up to four free tickets through the Department of Chicana/o Studies. All others: $20 general admission, $17 students/seniors. Su Teatro: 303-296-0219.

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