Fronteras americanas guillermo verdecchia artist note: Jim Warren In January 1992, my friend Guillermo Verdecchia asked me to direct a play he had written entitled Fronteras Americanas. I asked him, “Why me? Aren’t there more experienced directors you’d rather work with? Someone who speaks Spanish perhaps?” He assured me I was the person he wanted. In January of 1993, Fronteras Americanas premiered at the Tarragon Extra Space. As the director, I went backstage just before the opening performance to wish my friend well and found Guillermo there, white as a sheet. He asked me, “What was I thinking? Who wants to listen to me go on for two hours?” I assured him many people would, and many have since that first performance. We were asked to continue our journey with this play at the Festival des Ameriques in Montreal, the Tarragon Main Space, the Manitoba Theatre Centre and, finally, at the Vancouver Playhouse in January 1995. Sixteen years later, Albert asked us to do a revival here at Soulpepper. Guillermo and I asked each other, “Is the play still relevant? Does it have something to say to an audience today?” After re-reading the play we were reassured that this story speaks as powerfully today as it did almost 20 years ago. To re-create this play with Guillermo (actor, playwright and dear friend) and to have Glenn Davidson (who designed the original production) along with new creative voices Richard Feren, Jamie Nesbitt and Ken MacKenzie as well as the production team at Soulpepper has truly been a gift. As we travel toward opening, Fronteras Americanas continues to be my most memorable and personally rewarding theatrical journey. This story speaks to anyone who has ever questioned where they belong. It speaks with heart, humour and honesty. This play offers a conversation that provokes, entertains and recognizes the courage and vulnerability in the struggle. A conversation that points towards the future. Welcome to “La Frontera,” “and let the dancing begin.”
Jim Warren, Director of Fronteras Americanas
illustration: Chris silas neal
Fronteras â€‰Americanas guillermo verdecchia
Jim Warren director
Glenn Davidson Set & Lighting Designer Ken MacKenzie Costume designer Richard Feren sound designer Jamie Nesbitt projection designer Alison Peddie Production Stage Manager Krista Blackwood Assistant stage manager Susanne Lankin Apprentice stage manager Kelly McEvenue Alexander coach
Fronteras Americanas was first produced by the Tarragon Theatre. There will be one 20-minute intermission. Approximate running time 2 hours and 10 minutes.
background notes “Somos todos americanos. We are all Americans.” In the first moments of this play, Guillermo Verdecchia, its writer and performer, says these simple, provocative words. In Canada, we dislike being identified as Americans but the writer is talking about more than our most immediate southern neighbour. He’s asking us to consider a larger vision of our country and our world. Given that Canada is officially (if not entirely in practice) bilingual and that we accept thousands of new immigrants from all over the world every year, a play about borders and identity might seem to be ripped from today’s headlines. It was actually written in 1992. “The processes I’m talking about (displacement, migration, the riddle of a bi-cultural identity) still apply today,” Verdecchia says. “If anything, these processes (globalization, for example) have accelerated since I last did the show.” Still, changes have found their way into the text. Some of the references have been updated, but Verdecchia was equally interested in adjustments that: “try to indicate the distance/time that has elapsed since I first performed it. Not to erase that distance, but to acknowledge it.” Acknowledging distances and borders is what this play is about, and one measure of the creator’s honesty is the sharp current of humour in the piece. We laugh throughout and in a surprising turn, our laughter takes us right to the border of our point of view. The word frontera in Spanish means border, much like the English word frontier. In the play the word signifies literal, geographic borders as well as individual psychological and emotional boundaries. In both languages this word has another connotation. It can also mean, “the extreme limit of understanding.” The title lets us know that we’ll be going to extremes, lighting out for the territory, as they used to say. Officially, on the map, our frontiers are fixed, but in practice they are much more fluid. We are arguably more experienced at border crossings than previous generations, but perhaps we are also more reluctant to acknowledge the changes, sacrifices, confusions and uncertainties that can result. This play has been performed around the world, by different people in different languages and found resonance with diverse audiences. “I’m often struck by how Fronteras continues to be significant to people (especially young people),” Verdecchia says. “Last summer in Germany, two young women came up to me after a reading, and they were very clearly… moved, intrigued, surprised… They were German-Turks (one wearing a headscarf), and they said it was the first time they’d heard something that so corresponded to the way they felt. It must have been something like when I ‘discovered’ there were Latino poets writing in English in the US: a kind of existential corroboration.” When we cross a border there is an established ritual, a sequence of actions we must take, papers we must produce, questions we must answer: What’s your name? Where are you from? What language do you speak? How long will you be staying? But if we are all Americans, as Verdecchia says, then these familiar requirements don’t apply. All we need to bring along here is our well-traveled hearts and a willingness to consider… ourselves, whoever we may be, wherever we may come from. The all-embracing first line of the play says it all: “Here we are. All together. At long last.”
Background Notes by Associate Artist Paula Wing.
soulpepper production Jacqueline Robertson-Cull
Janet Pym Natalie Swiercz
head of hair & makeup
Duncan Johnstone Daniela Mazic
soulpepper thanks: Mar-Lyn Lumber Sales Ltd., PRG Toronto, JD International, Tarragon Theatre, Michael Freeman. Soulpepper Theatre Company is an active member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (pact), the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (tapa) and Theatre Ontario, and engages, under the terms of the Canadian Theatre Agreement, professional artists who are members of Canadian Actorsâ€™ Equity Association.
YOUNG CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS DISTILLERY HISTORIC DISTRICT