The story of Aztec culture and the conquest of Mexico comes to life in the Childsplay world premiere of The Sun Serpent, featuring masks by Arizona’s Zarco Guerrero. Director Rachel Bowditch talks about the production.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: In Sounds of Cultura SOC the latest childsplay production on stage is set to make its world premiere later this month. "the sun serpent" is a multimedia production featuring masks by Arizona master mask maker Zarco Guerrero, music by composer Daniel Valdez, and the work of playwright José Cruz Gonzalez. With me to talk about this is director Rachel Boditch, assistant professor at the Herberger institute for design and the arts at ASU. Rachel, welcome to "Horizonte."
Rachel Boditch: Thank you.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: This is an exciting production and part of it is just as all-star group that you have put together, including you. Tell us how that came to be.
Rachel Boditch: The project came about two years ago. José Cruz Gonzalez has been working with Childsplay for many years and it's been a dream project. How to tell the story of the conquestof Mexico through the eyes of a young boy and approached David Sar with this project. The assistant director of Childsplay and who is familiar with my work as a director, physical and visual, brought me on. It was the three of us and José then brought on Daniel Valdez to do the original sound score for the show.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: Which is quite a coup. He is very famous.
Rachel Boditch: His music is fantastic. It's incredible. We're using indigenous instruments and he's done research what the sounds are. Combining Spanish and Aztec throughout the show. And one thing that José and David knew, they only wanted three actors. And my challenge, how do you tell the story with three actors? We worked with puppets and had devising sessions working with the Childsplay company and discovered early on that the most expressive mode was masks.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: And that's where Zarco --
Rachel Boditch: That's where we invited Zarco on board. He seemed like a perfect fit because he's made masks for 30 years and his masks are incredibly beautiful.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: World famous. He's been on our show several times.
Rachel Boditch: His masks are incredible, incredible stuff. We decided we would tell the story with three actors using 30 masks, 30 characters and I've been working with Zarco, working with the designer, to create what the masks and characters are.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: I want to talk about the characters and the development of the story. We have a picture of one of the early conceptions of the backgrounds we'll put up on the monitor in a second. There it is now. Tell us -- and I realize this has changed in terms of where we are now.
Rachel Boditch: Yeah.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: Give us a description what the people in the audience will see.
Rachel Boditch: The circular disk is the Aztec calendar. As close to the Aztec calendar as we've found in our research. There are actually only four panels now and the other video projections, they're actually -- it's on the -- this fabric that we can project on, as well as use it like a screen, so actors can be behind it to create different surfaces and there's a rich media projection going through forest scenes and oceans and waterfront falls to the city of dreams and there's an amazing media design for the show. And then we have all of these designers working together and we wanted to create an open set where we can work with the micro-story of the little boy and his family with a macro-story of the conquest. We are shifting back and forth through time and through different historical periods with the story of the boy we're following.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: And three principle characters. You mentioned 36 --
Rachel Boditch: So the main story follows a young boy, and he's 10 --
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: We've got a picture on the screen now. They're brothers, right?
Rachel Boditch: Yes. Their parents were killed by the Aztecs. And there's the grandmother and we follow their journey. Cortez makes landfall and he's mistaken as Sun Serpent, as the person coming to save them from the Aztecs and what happens is -- because he's angry his parents were killed, goes and chooses to join Cortes' army and Cortez ransacks villages and he's he gets killed and he's forced to find his brother and save him from the inevitable. They're marching toward the city of dreams to find Montezuma. So it's coming of age of story where we follow the two brothers who have taken different paths..
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: The two brothers -- two sides of the conflict
Rachel Boditch: They become enter two sides of the conflict and ultimately they meet at the end and we see how much both of them have changed and realize that one who was renamed Diego has become a conquistador and what is happening with the native population, they were coerced by the Spanish to fight the Aztecs.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: The Aztecs had a lot of enemies and Cortez took advantage of that.
Rachel Boditch: Exactly, and that's why he was able to gather the steam behind him. And meanwhile, the other boy is going through the story -- this history trying to find his way and in the end, he becomes adopted by Franciscan monks -- becomes a scholar. And is one who writes the story.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: The story is post-conquest.
Rachel Boditch: No, pre-conquest. The last moment, seeing how memory and through drawing and oral stories, that's how we remember our past.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: We put up information about the time and everything for the performances. What are people going to -- in your opinion, what's the biggest impression they'll have when they walk out?
Rachel Boditch: We talked about the experience of the audience, they enter into a world they're unfamiliar with. So they're going to be hearing Spanish, English combined.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: A multiculture and multimedia experience.
Rachel Boditch: Absolutely. A multimedia saturated environment. Physical, energetic and hopefully entertaining but at the same time---
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: And on that note, we have to end -- Sorry. We're out of time. I'm sure it will be entertaining.
Rachel Boditch: Thank you.
JosÃ¨ CÃ rdenas: That's our show. For all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.
Rachel Bowditch:Director, The Sun Serpent;