Local theatre brings flamenco to ‘Man of La Mancha’


JOSE CARDENAS: IN SOUNDS OF CULTURA THIS MONTH, ARIZONA THEATHERE COMPANY BRINGS THE RHYTHM AND SOUNDS OF FLAMENCO TO MAN OF LA MACHA WHICH TELLS THE STORIES OF DONKEYJOTE AND IS IMPRISONED CREATOR MIGUEL DE CERVANTEZ.

JOSE CARDENAS: JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT MAN OF THE MANCHA ARE MIGUEL MEJIA A DANCER WHO PLAYS ON STAGE. PHILLIP HERNANDEZ AN ACTOR WHO PLAYS CERVANTEZ AND DONKEYJOTE. GENTELEMEN THANK YOU FOR JOING US. THE LAST BIT ON THE SCREEN SEE IT NOW OR YOU’LL HATE YOURSELF FOREVER. IS THAT GOOD DISCRIPTION MIGUEL.

MIGUEL MEJIA: ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. I’VE INVITED FRIENDS FROM SEATTLE COME AND I AM HAPPY THEY HAVE COME BECAUSE I THINK MORE CITIES NEED TO HAVE THIS SHOW.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO IT IS A CLASSIC FIRST PERFORMED IN 1964 ON BROADWAY BUT NOT WITH A FLAMENCO FLAIR.

MIGUEL MEJIA: NO, THIS IS BRAND NEW. THIS IS DAVID BENNETT THE DIRECTOR HIS VISION. HE SAW A SHOW MY WIFE AND I PERFORMED IN A FLAMENCO SHOW IN SEATTLE. BY THE WAY I NEED TO MAKEA QUICK CORRECTION. I AM NOT A FLAMENCO DANCER. I AM A FLAMENCO GUITARIST AND FLAMENCO SINGER. MY WIFE IS AMELIA MOORE IS THE FEMALE FLAMENCO DANCER IN THIS SHOW. DAVID BENNETT SAW ONE OF OUR SHOWS IN SEATTLE AND SAID HE HAD THIS IDEA OF INCORPORATING FLAMENCO INTO MAN OF LA MACHA. HE REALLY LIKED THE INPROVESATIONAL ASPECT THAT COMES WITH FLAMENCO. MANY TIMES HERE IN SPAIN IF YOU GO TO THE BAR YOU MIGHT SEE SOMEONE JUST BREAK OUT DOING THE FLAMENCO RHYTHM. SOMEONE MIGHT START SINGING AND A DANCER MIGHT BE INSPIRED TO GET UP AND START DANCING. THESE ARE PEOPLE THAT HAVE NEVER MET EACH OTHER NECESSARILY. HE LIKED THIS IDEA OF THIS PRISON CELL. WHERE ARE THESE PRISONERS ARE AT AND MIGUEL DE CERVANTES IS INTODUCED AND HAS TO TRY TO GET THEM TO GO ALONG WITH HIS STORY AND THAT IMPROVISATIONAL ASPECT, OF PICKING UP A GUITAR AND SUPPORTING THAT AND SAYING I AM WITH YOU AND I WILL FOLLOW YOU ON THAT. LET'S TAKE IT SOMEWHERE.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO PHILLIP YOU ARE A VETERAN OF MUSICALS AND BROADWAY AND INCLUDING HAVING PERFORMED IN MAN OF LA MACHA BEFORE. TELL US THE STORY -- THE ESSENTIAL STORY. AND THEN I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW THIS FLAMENCO ASPECT CHANGES IT.

PHILIP HERNANDEZ: WELL, THE STORY OF MAN OF LA MACHA IS NOT THE STORY OF DONKEYJOTE, WHICH IS THE NOVEL OF COURSE THAT CERVANTES WROTE. IT IS A STORY IN A FEW HOURS OF THE LIFE OF MIGUEL DE CERVANTES AND HES IMPRISONED BY AN OPPRESSIVE REGIME AND THROWN INTO THIS HOLDING CELL. AND THE PRISONERS ATTACK HIM AND HIS MAN SERVANT SANCHO. THEY TAKE AWAY ALL THEIR POSSESSIONS INCLUDING HIS MANUSCRIPT OF DONKEYJOTE WHICH IS OFCOURSE HIS MOST PRIZED POSSESSION AND LEGACY. IN ORDER TO GET THAT BACK HE HAS TO ENDURE A MOCK TRIAL THAT THE PRISONERS AND ONE OF THE PRISONERS IS IN CHARGE AND HE IS CALLED THE GOVERNOR. THEY STAGE A MOCK TRIAL AND HIS DEFENSE IS TELLING THE STORY OF DONKEYJOTE. HES GOING TO BASICALLY WIN OVER THEIR SUPPORT OF THE JURY. HE’S GONNA WIN THE SUPPORT THROUGH THE TELLING OF THE STORY OF DONKEYJOTE.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND WHEN YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT THE OPPRESSIVE REGIME IN THIS TELLING THE OPPRESIVE REGIME IS THE FRANCO ADMINISTRATION IN THE LAST CENTURY.

PHILIP HERNANDEZ: THAT IS CORRECT. IT IS AN UPDATED VERSION WHICH IS TERRIFIC. THE ORIGINAL STORY TAKES PLACE AT THE TIME OF THE INCUISITION 1600S AND THE -- AND WE UPDATED IT. AGAIN DAVID BENNETTS VISION IT MAKES IT MORE IMMEDIATE. MANY PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE WILL HAVE LIVED THROUGH THAT TIME PERIOD. EVEN FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE YOUNGER, THE INCUSITION SEEMS SO FAR AWAY AND THEY MADE NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS BUT THEY CAN UNDERSTAND STORM TROOPERS. THEY UNDERSTAND THAT EVEN THROUGH STAR WARS.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO WHEN THEY CAME TO YOU AND SAID WE’RE DOING THIS. WE’RE INCORPORATING FLAMENCO, WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION?

PHILIP HERNANDEZ: WELL I MEAN, I THOUGHT IT WAS INTERESTING. THE FLAMENCO IS SO POWERFUL AND VISIONAL AND IMPROVERSATIONAL, LIKE MIGUEL SAID. IT ADDS A PASSION TO THE PIECE WHICH IS GREAT. EVEN IN THE ORIGINAL SCORE WE ARE DOING, THERE ARE ELEMENTS OF FLAMENCO. THE COMPOSER WAS VERY HIP TO THE FACT THAT IT TAKES PLACE IN SPAIN SO LET'S GIVE IT THAT FLAVOR WITH A BROADWAY SENSABILITY. SO IT’S FLAMENCO A LA BROADWAY. WHERE AS THE FLAMENCO THAT WE BRING TO IT IS MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC. IT GIVES A LITTLE BOOST TO THE PLAY IN A SUPER POSITIVE WAY.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND MIGUEL ANOTHER BIG DIFFERENCE FROM SOMEBODY WHO WOULD HAVE SEEN THIS ON BROADWAY OR THE PERFORMANCES SINCE THE 1960s THERE IS NO ORCHESTRA PIT.

MIGUEL MEJIA: THAT IS CORRECT. THERE IS NO CONDUCTOR. THERE IS NO BAND UNDERNEATH THE STAGE. THE CHARACTERS ON THE STAGE ARE THE BAND. WE ARE SUPPORTING EACH OTHER WITH MUSICAL COMPLIMENT. WE HAVE TO HEAR EACH OTHER, FEEL EACH OTHER BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE THAT BOUNCING STICK TO KEEP TIME FOR US. IT JUST MAKES IT MORE INTIMATE FOR THE AUDIENCE TO SEE THAT CONNECTION. TO FEEL AND HEAR THAT CONNECTION.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND I ASSUME MORE ADVENTURE FOR THE PERFORMERS AS WELL BECAUSE YOU ARE REACTING TO WHAT IS GOING ON, ON THE STAGE.

MIGUEL MEJIA: AND NOT JUST FOLLOWING THE BOUNTY STICK. THERE ARE MOMENTS VERY EMOTIONALLY CHARGED MOMENTS WHERE I AM CHOKING BACK TEARS ACTUALLY WHILE I AM PLAYING BECAUSE I AM ACCOMPANYING THE CHARACTER WHO HAS GONE THROUGH THIS HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE AND IS EXPRESSING IT NOW THROUGH SONG. I HAVE TO SUPPORT HER BUT I AM NOT SITTING UNDER THE STAGE JUST PLAYING THE MUSIC.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU’RE REACTING

MIGUEL MEJIA: YEAH I’M REACTING.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO PHILLIP YOU WERE TALKING A MOMENT AGO ABOUT HOW RELATABLE IT IS. IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THE '60s AND NOW OUR TIME THAT ALSO RESONATES?

PHILIP HERNANDEZ: WELL THE MACHA IT IS JUST A TIMELESS STORY. THE TEXT IS BEAUTIFUL. IT SPEAKS VERY MUCH IN THE WAY THE '60s DID. TO A SENSIBILITY OF REBELLING AGAINST A BLEAK AND UNBEARABLE WORLD AND TRYING TO STRIVE FOR SOMETHING THAT IS BETTER, SOMETHING THAT IS MORE TRUTHFUL, SOMETHING THAT IS MORE IDEALISTIC. THAT SPEAKS TO OUR TIME AS WELL. THERE IS ALWAYS FOR EVERYONE ELEMENTS OF THEIR LIFE THEY DON'T LIKE BUT THE NOTION THEY CAN CREATE THEIR OWN REALITY AND CHOSE TO KEEP THEIR EYE ON A PRIZE THAT IS VERY PERSONAL TO THEM, AND STRIVE FOR THAT AND FIGHT THE UNBEATABLE AND TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM AND GO ALL IN ON WHO YOU WANT TO BE, NOT WHO YOU ARE, BUT WHO YOU ARE GOING TO BECOME, THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS REALLY A JOY AND AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE TO COMMUNICATE TO AN AUDIENCE EVERY NIGHT. IT IS SO EXCITING AND NEVER GETS OLD.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND MIGUEL WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME BUT THIS REALLY IS THE LAST OPPORTUNITY YOUR AUDIENCES WILL HAVE TO SEE IT. WHEN THE PHOENIX RUN ENDS ITS OVER.

MIGUEL MEJIA: THAT’S IT. SO IF YOU’RE IN THE PHOENIX AREA OR IF YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO COME OUT TO PHOENIX, DO IT YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT. AS THE TAG LINE SAYS GO SEE IT BEFORE THE END OF JANUARY. JANUARY 28TH.

JOSE CARDENAS: WELL THANK YOU FOR JOINING US AND GOOD LUCK ON THE PERFORMANCE. AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US FOR "HORIZONTE." AND ARIZONA PBS. I AM JOSE CARDENAS. HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

Flamenco is taking the center stage at the Arizona Theatre Company, with the theatre’s rendition of “Man of La Mancha.”

Two cast members join Horizonte to discuss the production, which showcases artists acting out the story of Don Quixote, intertwined with the rhythm and dancing of flamenco.

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In this segment:

Miguel Mejia: Guitarist and Singer, "Man of La Mancha"
Philip Hernandez: Actor, "Man of La Mancha"

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