The process of staging a beloved Mexican film and novel might sound like a tall order, but San Jose’s Teatro Visión wasn’t daunted. The Chicano company’s adaptation of Macario (running Oct. 10–20) is a grassroots effort that has made the story’s themes as relevant to contemporary Americans as they were back in 1960, when the film was lauded by international audiences and became a touchstone for a generation of Mexicans.
Teatro Visión’s artistic director, Elisa Alvarado, worked for more than a decade to locate and then secure the blessing (and sponsorship) of the family of the late B. Traven, on whose novel the classic film was based. Having cleared the way, she assembled a group of collaborators, including co-director Rodrigo Garcia, playwright Evelina Fernández, choreographer Maria De La Rosa, composer Russell Rodriguez and a slew of professional actors and extras from the community.
A parable in which the titular protagonist—a destitute working man—must re-evaluate his choices, Macario is often likened to It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. The tale starkly contrasts the fates of “haves” and “have-nots” against the background of the Day of the Dead. While developing the adaptation, Alvarado and Fernández spent time in one of San Jose’s poorest neighborhoods holding discussions about the emotional, physical and psychological dimensions of hunger.
Alvarado says creating the piece raised her awareness of hunger amid the wealth of Silicon Valley: “We’re seeing conversations around things like urban gardening and the strong effort to move beyond charity. The idea is to look at the root causes, so that the food-justice movement develops leadership, infrastructure and self-determination in the Latino community.”