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RSVP / ORANGE COUNTY : Cultural Event in More Ways Than One : 'Una Noche del Teatro' celebrates the roots of indigenous America in music, comedy and stories and benefits SCR.

July 26, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD

"Una Noche del Teatro," the Latin-flavored fund-raiser for South Coast Repertory, proved much more than a night of theater Saturday--it was a celebration of culture and a showcase of Latino talent.

"Raices--Celebrating the Roots of Indigenous America" was the theme of the gala, which attracted 500 people to the Costa Mesa theater and featured music, comedy and colorful costumes. The event (tickets were $35 and $100) netted $20,000 for the repertory's community outreach program and Hispanic Playwrights Project.

Tracing Roots

"Raices means roots. We wanted a theme that would be diverse enough to appeal to everyone, to a common sense of culture, language and music," said Jess Araujo, event chairman.

Brightly colored paper flowers and banners adorned the theater's courtyard, where women dressed in costumes of various Pan-American cultures paraded among guests. Jackie Jackson wore a Bolivian costume representing a tree--including bits of bark covering her long burlap skirt and top. The costume is traditionally worn at carnival time.

"This event is so important. Some people think (Latinos) don't know theater, but we know and love theater," said Cora Rivero Jackson, Jackie's mother and gala committee member.

Throughout the reception party-goers visited buffets stocked with made-to-order soft tacos and duck or crab taquitos prepared by El Torito Grill.

"This gives everyone the opportunity to see the beauty of our culture," said Viola Myre, member of the steering committee. "It's not just mariachis; it's very diverse. It's comedy, theater and music."

Hot Numbers

Once inside the repertory's Mainstage, guests were treated to a musical and comedy revue that paid tribute to Latino culture. Comedian George Lopez, the evening's host, delivered jokes with a bite:

"People don't realize we are much more than Mexican food," he said. "Unfortunately some people like Mexican food better than they like Mexican people. I have to change my name to Fajitas Platter to get respect."

He made wry observations about how the Latino culture is often misunderstood or watered down, poking fun at fast food restaurants that offer less-than-authentic Mexican fare:

"Real salsa comes in an old Best Foods jar, not a little plastic bag," he said.

Musician and composer Marcos Loya performed songs on guitar that combined Latin, jazz and other influences.

"This helps promote Latin theater, which is the voice of the people," Loya said before the show. "People are starting to recognize us for who we are--truly rich, passionate people with many stories to tell."

Alturas, a musical group with roots in the Inca and Aymara cultures, performed in native dress using Andean instruments made from armadillo shells, llama skins and hollow reeds. Playwright and performance artist Luis Alfaro shared recollections of growing up in L.A.

Other performers were musician Francisco Gonzalez, the Mexican-American a cappella group Parmelee, the musical group Los Tlacuilos Bribiescas and "Raices"--three female singers who performed selections from an upcoming SCR Second Stage production based on La Posada.

Faces in the crowd included Julie Aguilar, Gloria Beltran, Ninfa Duran, Martha Gallegos, Ralph Garcia, Richard Jones, Carl and Pat Neisser, Liz Polo, Jay Portillo, Pablo and Anita Prietto, Lee Ramirez, Victor Sandoval, Genevieve Southgate, Ernesto and Socorro Vasquez and their daughter, Monica Vasquez.

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