Tuesday, April 07, 2009

CLARIFICATION RE: My musical-theatre debut

Cambio, vendo, y compro por igual

As I was reading ye olde blogge this evening, it occurred to me that, in fact, my much-anticipated (and critically acclaimed) role as Unnamed Chorus Member #3 in the St. Luke's/Beth-El Zedeck production of "Fiddler on the Roof," which I previously described as my musical-theatre debut, is only my AMERICAN musical-theatre debut.

A few years ago, on the very stage where I'll be background-singing "Tradition!" and "To Life!" I made my American dramatic-theatre debut, in "Ebony Footprints in the Sands of Time" as Levi Coffin, the Quaker abolitionist who was part of the Underground Railroad in east-central Indiana. My performance was well received, although I'm fully aware that everyone was just being polite.


My rich history in musical theatre traces back to my Mexican heritage. Well, my Mexican "heritage." Almost nineteen years ago, 29 other high-school juniors and I went on a Spanish-language-immersion trip to San Luis Potosí, an Indianapolis-sized city in central Mexico. In the mornings we had classes (Mexican history, Spanish language, etc.) and in the afternoons, we generally had free time. But a couple days a week, we would have rehearsals for this show we were to put on at the end of the seven-week experience.

The end-of-summer play had become a tradition for the program, and that year would be no different. All of our host families really got into it -- helping us create our costumes and practice our lines. The one difference in the 1990 play was that, rather than performing a great work of capital-M capital-T "Mexican Theatah," we were actually performing a revue of kids' songs made famous by Cri Cri, the singing cricket.

I am not at all kidding.

So we each were assigned one of Cri Cri's songs to act out. I remember quite clearly La Muñeca Fea ("The Ugly Doll"), which a beautiful girl named Cindy performed with a guy named Jason; I remember that one especially, because (since I was the only one who had any sense of rhythm) I helped to choreograph their waltz. I also remember learning, from La Patita ("The Little Duck"), that "cuac-cuac" is how ducks speak in Mexico, especially when they are on the way to the market to get food for their ducklings. There was also this ditty about El Raton Vaquero, a little cowboy mouse, and I think this guy named Wayne did that one, but I don't remember for sure.

What this, of course, is building up to is the re-telling of the song that I was assigned to perform. Somehow I ended up with a solo; I was assigned the role of El Ropavejero, the old possum junk dealer who traded as easily in used shoes and cast-off hats as he did in misbehaving little boys and girls. Kind of like the guy to the left there, only scary and mean. ("Cambio, vendo, y compro por igual," the Tlacuache/possum's refrain, means "I trade, I buy, and I sell for things of equal value...such as you, you little snot-nosed kid, if you don't get your act together.") Despite the lighthearted music, El Ropavejero was actually a pretty scary character, and parents often used him as a kind of anti-Santa: "If you don't behave, we'll just set you out with the old clothes for El Ropavejero to pick up..."

I do not mind telling you that I was pretty masterful in that role, balancing some slapstick comedy with the whole menacing, behavioral-modification aspect. I especially shined in my (again) self-choreographed soft-shoe number in the instrumental break in the middle.

Anyway. Just wanted to clarify.

My WORLD musical-theatre debut took place in San Luis, Mexico, in July of 1990. My American theatre debut took place in February of 2005. My AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATRE debut will take place Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10, when St. Luke's and Beth-El Zedeck jointly present "Fiddler on the Roof." (Ticket information here.)

Awesome Ropavejero picture from Flickr user Davichi. Click that link to see some great pics.


jss said...

From this point forward, you will be known forever as El Ropavejero!

Scott S. Semester said...

Hahaha! Great.

Dr. V said...

That's crazy! My husband studied abroad in the same city in high school as well where he learned to speak Spanish. And we have been back to visit his host family...I love SLP! What a small world. Maybe you were there at the same time?

Scott S. Semester said...

Oh, my gosh, V! That's awesome! I was there the summer I turned 17, so 1990...when was Jason there?

And who was his host family? I lived with the Algara family on a street called SCOP.