‘Welcome to Arroyo’s’ to premiere tonight
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 01:10
The Tufts Drama Department’s first production of the semester, “Welcome to Arroyo’s,” is debuting tonight in the Balch Arena Theater. Not only will the play showcase the acting and stage work of the student cast and crew, but it also promises to be a highly interactive and engaging performance for audience members.
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” follows Alejandro Arroyo and his sister, Molly, as they struggle to deal with the recent death of their mother. In the wake of their loss, Molly begins to express herself through graffiti, while Alejandro opens a lounge at the site of their mother’s old bodega which he dubs “Arroyo’s” as a tribute to her. The siblings, along with a host of other characters — including a New York City cop, two DJs who narrate and a local graduate student — later uncover a secret about their mother that could change their lives and alter the history of hip-hop music altogether. Set against the backdrop of Manhattan’s vibrant Lower East Side, “Welcome to Arroyo’s” is a story of personal discovery through culture, friendship and romance, with elements of art and music peppered heavily throughout.
The show is written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz, a playwright with Latino origins — something that Director Noe Montez explained was important to him when choosing the production.
“I looked through the drama department’s history over the past 70 years and — it’s no secret — the drama department has never staged a show by a U.S.-born Latino author,” Montez, who is also an assistant professor in the department, said. “As a person of Latino descent, I wanted to stage a play written by a Latino voice. So with that goal in mind I began to think about what might be the best play by a Latino author that also speaks to what I find sort of true or essential to the university experience.”
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” also features a diverse, multi-racial set of characters, an aspect of the show that appealed to many of its cast members.
“Ethnic roles are pretty rare,” junior Andy De Leon, who plays Alejandro Arroyo, said.
The cast has rehearsed 20 hours a week for the past five and half weeks. According to Montez, by opening night they will have had approximately 130 hours of rehearsal, a number that is comparable to the 160 to 180 hours of rehearsal that most professional productions require.
After deciding on the show in April, Montez partnered with the American Studies department and received a grant from the Nat R. and Martha M. Knaster Charitable Trust. This funding allowed him to bring notable figures associated with the play to the Tufts campus, including the playwright and graffiti artist Abby Andrews, known as ABBY TC-5, who helped with set design and created a mural on display by the Mayer Campus Center. The grant also allowed Montez to hire sound designer Dave Remedios, who has worked on both Boston-based and national productions.
“When I hired him we talked about really filling the arena with the sounds of hip-hop,” Montez said.
Indeed, though the show is technically a play, it draws much of its inspiration from hip-hop culture. Because of this, there are definitive musical elements interwoven throughout the performance.
“Sometimes we give information through rapping, which is a really awesome and fun way [to narrate] rather than just saying what’s happening,” senior Yessenia Rivas, who plays Trip, one of the DJs, said.
“It’s great because the music also serves as punctuation and beats to [help] transition, which is really amazing,” senior Montel Yancy, who plays the other DJ, Nelson, added. “Rather than going to all black like a normal scene, we add the element of music ... for 15 or 20 seconds and then you look up and there’s a new scene.”
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 to 19, at 8 p.m. in the Balch Arena Theater in the Aidekman Arts Center. A second set of performances will be held the following week, from Thursday, Oct. 24 to Saturday, Oct. 26 at the same time. Tickets are $7 with a Tufts ID, with the exception of the Oct. 24 performance where all tickets are $1, and can be purchased at the Aidekman box office or by calling 617-627-3493.