In the spirit of the season and as part of their Family Theater Series, B. Someday Productions and the Walking Fish Theater are presenting Un Viaje: A Christmas Journey, a celebration of American and Latino cultures and holiday traditions that features professional bilingual actors and local talent.
The show revolves around the un viaje, or journey, of a newly divorced mother, Marisa, and her two children, Lucy and Kaiser. Marisa, played by Anjoli Santiago, feels guilty about failing to raising her children according to Latino tradition and decides to take them to her home country in Latin America to celebrate the holidays a little bit differently with their abuela (grandmother).
Lucy and Kaiser are shocked to learn that, instead of celebrating Christmas, their abuela, played by a male actor and vocalist, Victor Rodriguez, recognizes Three Kings Day as the reigning holiday this time of year.
Celebrated every year on Jan. 6, Three Kings Day is a popular holiday in Latin America that commemorates the three kings who, according to biblical tradition, brought presents to baby Jesus after his birth. As part of tradition, children write letters to the three kings to ask for presents.
As abuela tells the story of the three kings to the children in Spanish, Marisa translates her words into English for their understanding.
“There are differences, certainly,” Michelle Pauls, Un Viaje director, said of the two holidays. “But they begin to see that they are more alike than they think they are.”
The show opens Friday, Dec. 9, and continues through Dec. 30 at the Walking Fish Theater, 2509 Frankford Ave., in Kensington.
Pauls, who also is managing artistic director of B. Someday Productions, co-wrote the show with Santiago and Rodriguez, and she sees Un Viaje as a way to bring together the diverse community around her.
“The neighborhood and the majority of the students that we work with in our educational outreach programs are Latino, so I think that it’s our responsibility as artists who live in this community to reach out like this,” she said.
Through this show, Pauls is reaching out to the community in more ways than one. The young actors cast as Marisa’s children also are handpicked by Pauls from the neighborhood. She believes that the young performers will learn from the more-seasoned actors by working alongside them in a professional production.
Ansil Guzman, 16, who plays Lucy, is a high school junior at Mariana Bracetti Academy. She was selected for the role after standing out as a student in Walking Fish Theater’s Acting Class for Teens, and as an actor in the Barrymore award-winning educational outreach program, Of Mythic Proportions.
James Gribling, 10, who plays Kaiser, was offered the role after taking classes at Walking Fish Theater with an acting scholarship funded by Circle of Hope. In addition to being a rising star, he’s a fifth-grader at Hackett Elementary School.
“Kids who come to see the show will see the young performers, and my hope is that some of them will be inspired to do the same thing or maybe something else that they’re interested in,” said Pauls.
Family members of all ages are encouraged to attend the show, which relies on plenty of audience participation and interaction, including sing-alongs of traditional American holiday songs and even a few in Spanish — a great way, Pauls believes, to bring people together.
“To me,” she said, “theater and singing in a group are very communal.”
Above all, Pauls strives to use Un Viaje: A Christmas Journey to convey a message of inspiration and hope during the season of giving, despite differences that exist.
“What we’ve discovered,” Pauls explained, “is that we are building a bridge between cultures, a bridge between traditions and even intergenerational relationships.” ••
Tickets for the production are $12 for adults and $6 for children; on Wednesdays, Walking Fish Theater hosts pay-what-you-can admission. For the performance schedule, visit the B. Someday Productions Web site at www.bsomeday.org