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BILINGUAL OFFSHOOT OF TEATRO META IN THE WORKS

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San Diego County Arts Writer

An independent bilingual theater company is being formed in San Diego by the co-directors of the Old Globe Theatre’s Teatro Meta, Old Globe officials confirmed on Monday.

The creation of the new theater will not affect the Old Globe’s pursuit of its objective of “mainstreaming” Latino artists under its Teatro Meta program.

The new company is tentatively named Teatro de San Diego, said William Virchis, one of the new theater’s co-founders.

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The co-directors are Virchis, who is head of the drama department at Southwestern College, and Jorge Huerta, a director and professor at UC San Diego. Virchis said the company does not plan to produce any plays until the spring.

“We want to do the canon of Spanish-language literature,” Virchis said. “Who is doing the plays from Spain’s Golden Age: Lope de Vega, Calderon, Cervantes and Cueva? What better place than San Diego?”

Old Globe Managing Director Tom Hall called the planned spinoff theater company a natural evolution of Teatro Meta.

Hall described the formation of the new company as “analogous to what happened to Junior Theatre.” Junior Theatre, an independent educational institution, began as a project of the Old Globe. “There’s an active push to create a Hispanic theater in San Diego as a direct offshoot of Teatro Meta,” he said.

Hall acknowledged that pressure is developing to produce more plays by Latino authors than the Old Globe can meet.

“We have such a full schedule with our ongoing program, to create an additional Hispanic theater is almost an impossibility,” Hall said. “I think the . . . basic concept of Hispanic theater is better-served with Hispanics at the artistic reins. We always felt it presumptuous for us to suddenly walk into the Hispanic community and create a Hispanic theater.”

The new theater will provide an increased opportunity for presenting bilingual productions, Virchis said.

“There’s a potential for building a theater audience that will filter out into the mainstream,” he said. “The people are here.”

Virchis said that, although it is financed by a $280,000 Ford Foundation grant, Teatro Meta still does not meet the cultural needs of the Latino community.

“If the Globe is not going to do it, then we have to do it,” he said. “The best thing to do is have (the new theater) program as an outgrowth.”

Hall said the new theater company will be able to take advantage of the information gained from staff visits to Hispanic theaters in other cities as well as from other Old Globe resources.

“We’re building up a tremendous library of great Spanish plays . . . that need translation,” said Teatro Meta Director Raul Moncado. “Ideally, that’s what” Huerta and Virchis will do.

Teatro Meta is the first project of a mainstream San Diego theater aimed at developing Spanish-language theater. Conceived by Old Globe Executive Producer Craig Noel, Teatro Meta was designed to help communicate the cultural differences between San Diego and Tijuana, to mainstream Latino artists and to build Spanish-speaking audiences.

A key function of the project is to expose playwrights, actors, directors, designers and arts administrators to the larger Old Globe program.

Besides himself, Moncado said Teatro Meta has already identified Latino actors such as Rene Moreno and Joseph Palmas, who played in “Antony and Cleopatra” and “A Comedy of Errors” (as the Dromio twins) this summer. Others are Marissa Chibas, John Padilla, Andres Monreal, Hugan Sanchez, Lillian Garrett and George Deloy, the Argentine actor who was born Jorge Del Joyo.

The first Teatro Meta performance was “Las Aventuras del Huevo,” an original play written in English and Spanish and presented in 1982. “Los Soles Truncos” by Puerto Rican playwright Rene Marques followed in 1983, with separate performances in English and Spanish.

Since then the Old Globe has presented Luis Valdez’s “Corridos” at the Old Globe and a variety of other Spanish plays in English at other theaters and as street theater.

Teatro Meta presented three 16th-Century playlets from the Spanish Golden Age this summer in street theater performances around San Diego: Lope de Rueda’s “The Olives,” Miguel de Cervantes’ “The Cave of Salamanca” and Lope de Vega’s “The Man With the Cut Throat.”

In December, the Old Globe will present the first play developed by Teatro Meta as part of its main season, “The Boiler Room” by Reuben Gonzalez.


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