GREENWOOD—An evening of drama, music and dance held at the Greenwood Community Theater Dec. 5 was just the beginning of what organizers hope will be a more frequent interaction between the area’s Hispanic community and local arts organizations.
The event was coordinated through the Hispanic Development Center, based at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
About 275 people attended “Encuentro Cultural” (Cultural Encounter), which featured the play “El Hijo Prodigo” (The Prodigal Son), and music and folk dancing from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and other nations. Members of the cast mainly came from Mexico but also represented Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.
The center’s mission is to promote leadership and increase Hispanics’ involvement in the community at large, said Dana Gonzales, coordinator.
Gonzales said the idea for Encuentro developed after Bess Park, executive artistic director for the theater, said she would like to find a way to get Hispanics more involved in local productions.
Gonzales contacted Marcelino Perez. A member of Our Lady of Lourdes, he worked in theater in his native Mexico and wants to put on plays at the church.
He planned to do a production of “The Prodigal Son,” and that led to the idea of combining the play with music and dance to provide a full showcase of Hispanic talent.
The cast started work on the play in the summer, and the entire program had been in rehearsal since October, Gonzales said.
“I was so impressed by the professionalism of the production, as well as the strong statement it made about the skills in the Hispanic community,” she said. “It was also gratifying to see people from so many different regions and countries who got along and came together to put on the show.”
Perez said he hoped the play, which was performed in Spanish, would provide enjoyment and a good message to the audience.
“Many people these days are going off in all different directions, not always doing the right thing,” he said. “I would hope that seeing this would help especially the young people to remember to be obedient to their families and to Christ, and to follow Christ. People who are looking for a way to learn how to do the right thing in life can learn from this story of the prodigal son.”
More than 40 children, teenagers and adults participated in Encuentro. Most were members of Our Lady of Lourdes, but some came from other parts of the county.
“We really wanted to expose people to the diversity and talent in the Hispanic community. It was also a good way to get the different members of the community to work together,” said Rosario Contreras, stage manager. She is a native of Chile and a member of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Choreographer Coni Corona worked with performers who presented traditional dances from different areas of Mexico, including “Son Jarocho la Bruja” from the Mexican state of Veracruz, and “La Danza de Los Viejitos” (Dance of the Elderlies), a humorous indigenous dance from Michoacán.
“There are a lot of emotions involved with this,” Corona said. “It was difficult to put together at first but people started helping here and there and then many more came and got involved. This kind of event is a big step for the Hispanic community.”
One of the evening’s most dramatic pieces was “Danza Guadalupana,” a traditional dance in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is Dec. 12, that comes from the city of Camaron de Tajeda in Veracruz. The dance involved 15 men, originally from Camaron de Tajeda, who were dressed in ornate masks, glittering cloaks and black pants covered with jingling bells. They carried an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe into the theater and then performed the dance, which featured stomping and whirling, and repeated bows before the image. Corona said the dance is rarely performed outside Mexico.