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Latino Theater Branching Out

'Tree of Life' took root at Una Noche del Teatro, making family the focus at the SCR benefit.

July 30, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

A beautiful bride, a grinning schoolboy, a soldier in uniform--photographs of these and other ancestors borrowed from the albums of Orange County families helped turn Una Noche del Teatro into a celebration of family.

"Arbol de la Vida" (Tree of Life) was the theme of the benefit for South Cost Repertory, which included dinner under the trees of the theater s courtyard followed by a showcase of Latino talent. About 500 party-goers paid $35 to $125 (depending on theater seating) to attend the Costa Mesa gala, which netted about $40,000 for SCR's Hispanic Playwrights Project and Neighborhood Conservatory.

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Extended Family

Guests entered the courtyard by passing under a colorful arch decorated with paper flowers and flanked on each side by a handmade tree of life.

"One tree represents the past and the other the future," said Alice Rumbaugh, a member of Amigas de la Cultura, a group of three Garden Grove teachers dedicated to promoting and preserving Latino culture. The trio made the decorations.

The Amigas--Rumbaugh, Sylvia Krenzien and Teri Rocco--used photos of their ancestors on the tree of the past, and photos of children to symbolize the future.

They also decorated the

living trees of the courtyard with papier-ma^che moons, angels, suns--all symbols of creation traditionally used on trees of life.

Trees of life made by artists from various Mexican states were displayed in the theater.

"The trees started out as biblical scenes, with the sun and moon signifying the universe," Rocco said. Now, artists make trees of all types and sizes to depict anything they wish--life, death, the ocean or even a tribute to a favorite movie.

Guests spent much of the evening filling their plates at food stations. The food ranged from pre-Columbian Spanish fare to nouveau Southwest cuisine.

"The food reflects the passage of time," Rumbaugh said. And it took time to get it. Long lines formed for favorite entrees, including red snapper and paella, duck taquitos with papaya pineapple relish and chili--all prepared by Specialty Catering.

"People love this event because it's the best bargain in town," said Pablo Prietto, event chairman. "It's a wonderful summer evening."

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The Play's the Thing

After dinner, the crowd settled into the theater to enjoy a program of music, comedy and drama emceed by hosts Tony Plana and his wife, Ada Maris. Throughout the show, photos of ancestors and family members flashed onto screens onstage.

"The [SCR] theater has given us the opportunity to show how multitalented the [Latino] community is," said Socorro Vasquez, former "Noche" chairwoman who attended with her husband, Ernesto.

Through SCR's Hispanic Playwrights Project, Latino playwrights develop their talent by working with a director, dramaturge and full cast to develop their plays. Half of the plays go on to full production, either at SCR or other theaters.

"This gives playwrights the opportunity to test their play out," said Edith Villareal, who has developed two plays through the project and was chosen

to develop a third, called "Tracks."

Proceeds will also go to the Neighborhood Conservatory, which provides a free Creative Dramatics program taught by SCR instructors at several sites.

Also among the guests: Rito Corrales, Santiago Estrada, Julie Aguilar, Richard Jones, Cindy Leon, Viola Myre, Jay Portillo, Sandy Sanchez, Lola Seymour, Marta Sroka, Ray Torres, Monica Vasquez and Karen Merced Willner.

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