Columbia Playwrights Showcased Across New York This November
November 3, 2016
This November, a number of School of the Arts playwrights will see staged productions across the city. A new work by Matt Barbot ’17, El Coqui Espactacular and the Bottle of Doom, will play at Julia de Burgos Performance and Arts Center from Nov. 3–13. Across the river in Queens, Christina Quintana’s ’13 Evensong makes it’s debut at the Astoria Performing Arts center from Nov. 3–19. And in Harlem, Sweet by playwright Harrison David Rivers (‘09) will run at the National Black Theatre through Nov. 20.
Rivers’ Sweet tells the story of two sisters who have grown up side-by-side in an all-black town in rural Kansas in the 1960s. When their mother dies and their neighbor, George, returns home from college, their relationship is in danger of falling apart. The play tapes into a moment of dramatic change not just for the family, but for the country.
“For me, the late 1960s feels like a time of dramatic change, of upheaval. It seems like a time when people are crusading, taking responsibility for their own lives, their own bodies,” said Rivers. “And in that way, the late 1960s are not unlike America in 2016.”
Barbot takes a different perspective on American identity and family in El Coqui Espactacular and the Bottle of Doom, which tells the story of a pair of brothers living in New York. Alex, a comic book artist, is in danger of being “too Puerto Rican,” while his brother Joe is fired for “not being Puerto Rican enough.” Alex begins to take on the character of his comic book hero in real life and, together with his brother and a young photographer, decides to introduce El Coquí Espectacular to the world at the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“There's a space between Garcia Lorca's poetry and Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas that I think a lot of Latinos in the U.S., especially now, are living in,” Barbot said. “We're no longer living in depressed areas - and even those who do, have more diverse stories to tell.”
Quintana offers her own story about Latino life in contemporary America with Evensong, which explores the life of Teofilo “Teo” Aguilar, a young Mexican-American gay man. Originally from Texas, Teo is now a part of New York City’s working homeless population, search for connecting in the midst of his work and uninspiring online dates. The play also utilizes choral elements and moments of theatrical magic.
“I’m a sucker for the wild, the bold, the theatrical,” said Quintana. “Why does this play exist on stage and not on Netflix? Show me! There’s nothing quite like being surprised by something that happens in a play or piece of theater...”
El Coqui Espactacular and the Bottle of Doom, at the Julia de Burgos Performance and Arts Center from Nov. 3–13. Tickets are free.