MATTHEW T. TEICHNER Director Book by DAVID KALISH Music & Lyrics by ALEX TORRES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: An hilarious Latin twist on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, "THE GRINGO WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS," the tale of a mean-spirited businessman who must confront his troubled Hispanic past - and embrace the holiday
- to save
his soul and win back his childhood sweetheart.
The Story Filled with hip-wiggling, toe-tapping songs by renowned Latin composer Alex Torres, The Gringo Who Stole Christmas is a family-friendly comedy that will steal your heart, and have you dancing salsa in the aisles. Our story unfolds on Christmas Eve at the offices of Kevin Martin, the self-loathing Puerto Rican owner of a language school dedicated to perfect English pronunciation. He lacks compassion, hates Spanglish, illegal immigrants, social programs, and is distanced from his own heritage. Instead of letting his staff go home early, he forces them to film a tasteless TV ad for his company. But a chance encounter with his ex-sweetheart, Consuelo, stirs a bittersweet yearning in him for the loving relationship he lost, along with his ethnic identity, many Christmases earlier. He revisits his past love for Consuelo, and his resentment for his father, who went broke due to his poor English. Determined to succeed where his father didn’t, Diego changes his name to Kevin, takes elocution lessons, and rejects Hispanic culture so utterly he drives Consuelo away, not even noticing she’s pregnant with his child.
That night he is haunted by fantasmas – delightful interpretations of Christmas past, present and future who lead him on an unforgettable journey of ethnic rediscovery. His visit to the present-day home of Consuelo forces him to face close-up the result of his heartlessness. She can’t afford medical treatment for her asthmatic son, Gabriel, and must leave him alone all night to work her second job. Kevin’s dismay grows in his future when he visits the funeral of a Hispanic boy. In horror he realizes the boy, Gabriel, is his own son. He died due to a lack of medical treatment. And because of an English-only language law, his death can’t be honored in Spanish. The next day Kevin awakes, a changed man. Handing the doorman a lavish tip, he shouts Christmas greetings in Spanish and organizes a frenzied celebration of Hispanic music leading right to Consuelo’s door -- where Kevin serenades his childhood sweetheart and declares his love for his son. This Latin twist on the classic Dickens story is full of memorable songs and comic moments that will tug on the heartstrings and spice up the holidays for all ages and ethnicities.
David Kalish (Playwright) is delighted to bring his comedic touch to the stage after years as a novelist, newspaper blogger, and Associated Press reporter. His debut novel, The Opposite of Everything, was published this year and grew out of his studies at the Bennington Graduate Writing Seminars, where he earned his MFA. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, his non-fiction in The Writer’s Chronicle, and a short film of his, “Regular Guy,” won honors in film festivals here and abroad. Before Bennington, his 12-year tenure at The Associated Press resulted in hundreds of articles in major newspapers. He is currently working on a second novel, Stoner Hero, and his twice-weekly blog appears in the Albany Times Union.
Alex Torres (Composer, Musical Supervisor). Alex was born in Bronx, NY and formed his 12 piece orchestra in October 1980 in the City of Amsterdam. They have been annually requested by hundreds of festivals, performing arts centers and Latino events to perform their original blend of Afro-Caribbean rhythms such as Salsa, Merengue, Cha-cha, Bomba, Plena and Latin Jazz. He has composed over 150 songs, many of which have been recorded, and has appeared on television series, commercials, movies and video games. The orchestra performs at concerts and festivals throughout the U.S. and Alex continues to compose, collaborate and record at his Scotia, NY headquarters. His discography includes “Noche Habanera,” “Somethin’ Diferente,” “On Track,” “Entre Amigos,” “Punto De Vista,” “Elementos,” “Mega Merengue Mix,” “25 to Life,” “Añejo,” and the soon to be released “Mojo.” He has also appeared as a guest artist on other artsists’ projects. Alex has been the recipient of numerous awards including the New England Cultural Arts Preservation Award, the New York State Music Achievement Award, the Schenectady League of Arts Award, The Governor´s Excellence in Arts Award, The NAACP Albany Chapter Award and numerous magazine “Best Of Awards.” Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra has played for President Bill and Hillary Clinton at the New York State Democratic Convention and also for New York Governor's George Pataki and Governor Eliot Spitzer's Inaugurations. They have shared the stage with such major acts as: Tito Puente, Tito Puente Jr., Eddie Palmieri, Andy Montañez, Los Hermanos Moreno, Arturo Sandoval, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Ray Barretto, Jane Burnette & The Spirits Of Havana, Larry Harlowe, Tito Nieves, Jerry Gónzalez & The Fort Apache Band, King Changó, Branford Marsalis, The Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras. While Alex is an accomplished a musician, this is his first endeavor as a Musical Supervisor and also his first time collaborating with an author on a musical comedy.
Latin Orchestra. Formed October 1980 in Amsterdam, NY, this 12 piece orchestra is led by the Bronx-born bassist Alex Torres. They have been presented by hundreds of festivals, performing arts centers and events annually to perform their original blend of Afro-Caribbean rhythms such as Salsa, Merengue, Cha-cha, Bomba, Plena and Latin Jazz. Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra also have been featured on television commercials for The Albany Times Union Newspaper, they wrote and performed the music for the PBS weekly program " Made in New York", and twice performed for Time Warner’s music series, Sounding Board. Ther music has also been featured in the motion pictures "Slammin' Salmon," "Old Dogs," "Broken City," "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," "Guten Tag Ramon" and the made for TV movie "Unanswered Prayers." Also on the TV series, "Ugly Betty," "The Glades," two Fox TV series "Human Target," "The Finder," Miami's The Color Splash," "Road To The Kentucky Derby," "Quiero Mis Quinces," "Mistresses," "Breaking Amish" & also the featured sound tracks on the video games "Tropico 3 & Tropico 4."
Matthew T. Teichner (Production Director, Scenic & Lighting Design) is an entertainment industry veteran with hundreds productions to his credit as director, designer, and/or stage manager. In 2011 he directed and designed Jonathan Larson’s RENT at The Egg [Swyer Theater] (Our Own ProductionS), which received the award for Best Musical in the Times Union Reader’s Poll. Mr. Teichner’s most recent directing/design project was his multiple award winning production of Spring Awakening (Our Own ProductionS) in the Hart Theater at The Egg, July 2013. His current project as director/designer, appearing in September 2014 on the main stage at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, is Cassandra – A New Musical, based on the Greek Myth of Cassandra, with music and lyrics by Patrick Longo. Additional directing/design credits include; Shadowlands, Evita, Kindertransport, Six Degrees of Separation, The Who’s Tommy, Visiting Mr. Green, Danny Kaye – Supreme Court Jester, Godspell, Flesh & Blood, Master Class, Criminal Hearts, A Streetcar Named Desire, Grease, How I Learned To Drive, Tale of The Allergist’s Wife, Open Admissions, Annie, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Face The Music & Dance, Urinetown, and Dangerous Liaisons. He is the lighting director for Upstate Concert Hall (formerly Northern Lights) and has been working as a concert/live entertainment lighting designer since 2008 having done lighting for hundreds of bands/artists including All American Rejects, NAS, Streetlight Manifesto, Jimmy Eat World, Michael Franti, DMX, Seether, Mac Miller, Social Distortion, Halestorm, KORN, Puddle of Mudd, Red Jumpsuit Aparatus, Chris Webby, Snoop Dogg, The Misfits, Method Man, 10 Years, Dashboard Confessional, and The Used. He has worked for Proctors, Lake George Opera, Miami Opera, Vassar College Reperatory Dance Theater, Revolution Hall, Putnam Den, and Vanaver Caravan. He attended Union College and has a B.S. in Civil Engineering.
One evening early last year I sat in a café in Scotia with Alex Torres, the Latin musician and composer. As a wintry wind rattled the window, he told me of a dream he had. He dreamt he sat in the audience of a theatre, watching a play unfold on stage. It was a Latin version of A Christmas Carol. After waking up, he didn’t remember much about the play except this: it seemed like a pretty good idea. As I sipped latte, Alex and another musician with us asked me to I write a musical play along these lines. Along what lines? I asked. All I had was a vague dream to go on.
The Genesis of “Gringo” BY DAVID KALISH
As a novelist and playwright, I live two lives, that of hermit and collaborator — straddling distinct worlds, in a sense, like the protagonist of The Gringo play I wrote: an isolated businessman who must confront his past – and embrace the holiday spirit – to save his soul and win back his childhood sweetheart.
But as we brainstormed ideas, the project piqued my interest. And I jumped at the chance to work with Alex, who with his Latin Orchestra had shared billings with artists such as Tito Puente and Branford Marsalis, performed for President Clinton, and composed music for Hollywood films. The script I came up with – over the course of many months, through suggestions from Alex and others and actor readings that helped me refine it – is called The Gringo Who Stole Christmas. It’s not merely my first musical comedy. It’s a testament to the value of artistic collaboration – and the fresh path my writing has taken this year.
Until recently, I was mainly a hermit writer. Day after day, I silently wrestled with my novel, The Opposite of Everything, in the glare of my laptop, isolating myself from my friends and friends. The closest I got to collaboration was the back-and-forth with my editor, and feedback from a few fellow writers, to fine-tune the book for publication this year. The play was a different animal. I met repeatedly with Alex and Byron Cortez, another musician on the project, to refine the script. We held half a dozen readings where actors read the parts and then sat around discussing what worked and what didn’t. During a critical meeting, a fellow creative writer attended as an observer.
She provided crucial feedback, saying the play was at its heart a love story — and as such the protagonist’s relationship with his love interest needed to be made more prominent at the beginning of the play. I reworked the opening scene; the collaboration deepened. A veteran director and producer joined our project, and we laid the groundwork for a fullscale performance this December. We discussed fundraising, forming a corporation, researching space for rehearsals and performances. Then I drove down to Albany to the house of another musical composer in our group and we bandied about lyrics for several songs I’d written. I offered suggestions for melodies and he helped me massage the lyrics. Alex, meanwhile, composed Hispanic music for other parts of the play. My paths are growing well-worn between my hermit side and collaborator. Constantly I duck into one, flit to the other. Perfection on a multi-discipline project, I learned, is impossible without the help of other artists. As Alex tells me, “Nobody knows it all. Just to have a fresh pair to eyes and ears to go over your work is amazing.” Not to mention the bridges you build with other artists and the friends you meet along the way. They enrich your life. Your art. “You start seeing things a little bit different than you thought,” Alex says. “What you start seeing — the word is respect. Collaboration makes you a better person.” I can’t help but agree.
The GE Theatre at Proctors is a multi-purpose space, often referred to as a “black box” theatre, with 436 retractable theatre seats and a 35’ x 50’ screen. This theatre features Bigger, Bolder, Better GIANT-Screen movies and Proctors learn programs for school children. The GE Theatre is completely wheelchair accessible with its flat floor and has built-in hearing stations. The space is also available for smaller cabaret events, educational performance programs, lectures, trade shows, fundraising functions, etc.
Since 1926, Proctors, a beautifully restored historic theatre located in the heart of downtown Schenectady, has presented the very best in entertainment for New York's Capital Region. Frederick Freeman Proctor, a talented circus performer who became a successful theatre and vaudeville circuit manager, left a part of his theatrical legacy in Schenectady. A New Englander with a hard work ethic, a promoter of good family entertainment, and an astute businessman, Frederick Freeman (Francis) Proctor rose from well-known circus performer to become one of the wealthiest theatre owners in the world. Schenectady was fortunate to have caught his attention, and Proctors on State Street continues to flourish as part of his legacy.
Images courtesy of Proctors
Proctor seized the opportunity in 1911 to invest in Schenectady’s economic prosperity and population explosion caused by the phenomenal growth of the General Electric Company and the American Locomotive Company (ALCO). At this time, Proctor was able to lease a new vaudeville house in Schenectady, which opened to great fanfare in April 1912. However, the popularity of the theatre and an ever-expanding population led Proctor to buy real estate on State Street, where he planned to build a bigger, more grandiose vaudeville theatre. This new theatre at 432 State Street became the bestselling theatre of the era.