By Stephanie Meditz
Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Queens Theatre will present a thought-provoking story about Latino identity and the immigrant experience.
On May 5, Mark-Eugene Garcia’s award-winning play, “Eight Tales of Pedro,” will begin its run with music by Luis D’Elias. The play will feature music by Luis D’Elias, who has been with the play since its inception. The cast consists entirely of Latino actors, four of whom were part of the original cast at the play’s 2018 premiere. That same year, the play won the UnFringed Festival Best of the Festival Prize. Most recently, he won the 2021 Jerry Harrington Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Musical Theatre.
“Eight Tales of Pedro” includes two settings that ultimately converge: Pedro and his companions traveling to Veracruz in 17th-century Mexico and six scared, uncertain immigrants in a van as they travel from Mexico across the border.
“The stories are a series of folktales that take a storyteller from one side of Mexico to another in search of his love,” playwright Mark-Eugene Garcia said in a phone interview.
The play has themes of Latino pride and honor in oneself.
Garcia has always loved the Latino folktales of Pedro Urdamales and Juan Bobo, and he knew that he wanted to write a play based on them. He worried the stories would not be relevant at the time, so they remained on the shelf for years. However, the recent uptick in anti-immigration sentiment in the United States inspired him to stage them.
“It’s a very funny play and then it quickly turns into something that is now, and something that is personal and sometimes sad,” he said. “Really, what I want people to do is think and feel.”
“Eight Tales of Pedro” follows two connected storylines: one from 17th century Mexico and one in the present day.
A California native who never learned Spanish, Garcia often felt like he did not live up to people’s expectations of him.
“I started thinking about how we have this identity as…people of color who are kind of caught between two worlds,” he said. “It was about finding pride, but also about talking about the situation that Latinos in this country face…I’m brown enough for him, the guy who was just judging me on that, but often not for the people in my life.”
Garcia hopes that “Eight Tales of Pedro” humanizes immigrants for the public and sheds light on the commonalities between people. “Sometimes when you look at the news or you look at people’s rhetoric or so on, we hear about numbers…but we don’t think of them as people,” he said. “For me, the important part of this story was looking at people first and then their immigration status or where they’re coming from or where they’re going.”
Garcia is especially excited to present “Eight Tales of Pedro” in Queens, where he has lived for the past sixteen years. “I had no idea what diversity was until I moved to Queens,” he said. “I met people from countries I’d never known about and I learned about cultures I’d never even thought about…Queens Theatre is that center of it all. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place that centers on humanity and storytelling, and that’s something that I feel my show does.”
The play’s cast consists entirely of Latino actors.
Garcia was thrilled to work on this project with director Rodrigo Ernesto Bolaños, his husband.
“Something I joke about is that he’s in the business of making my dreams come true, because I put everything down and he’s like, ‘Okay, this is how it’s going to happen,’” he said. “We’ve been really lucky to have this experience with this show. I feel that it’s kind of a love letter to each other and to what we do.” Garcia described a scene in which two characters pull a blanket out of a backpack and it becomes a mountain that people climb. Although it was a difficult task, Bolaños found a way to bring that scene to life onstage.
“It’s a really cool moment of magical realism that I can’t think of anyone else being able to pull off other than the two of us,” Garcia said.
Tickets for “Eight Tales of Pedro” are available for $20 or 4 for $75 with code 4FOR75 at https://queenstheatre.org/event/eight-tales-of-pedro/ or by calling (718)-760-0064.
The May 5 performance will include open captions in Spanish, and the May 7 performance will be audio described.
Writer/Actor/Storyteller. Theatre Maker. Husband. Bad Hombre. Cat Taunter.