Kino and Teresa

World premiere of this beautiful and poignant romance, March 4 - 20

By Yadhira De Leon
Published on LatinoLA: February 5, 2005

Kino and Teresa

"SCENE ONE ? A spotlight fades up on the dark stage, focusing on Hernan, a skinny, clownish Spanish man outfitted in modest servant?s garb, a sword at his side. He turns around and addresses the audience directly.

HERNAN: Bienvenidos, O weary traveler. Come you now from El Paso? Mexico City? Or perhaps our mother country of Spain? ?Tis no matter. For this is the wondrous land we all have ventured to begin our lives anew. Welcome to Santa Fe!"

And thus begins ?Kino and Teresa?, a play written by James Lujan (Taos Pueblo) and directed by Kenneth Martines (Pueblo), in two acts set in New Mexico in the years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, after the Spanish Re-Conquest of 1692, Based on Shakespeare?s ?The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet?.

Native Voices at the Autry presents the world premiere of this beautiful and poignant romance that provides a look into the hearts and minds of two warring communities in 17th-century Santa Fe?the Taos Pueblo and their Spanish conquerors?and demonstrates the need to create a new world free from the political maneuvering of power-hungry leaders on an unwitting path to their own destruction.

Lujan is a writer and filmmaker from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. From a young age, he always had an interest in film and theater. While attending Stanford University, Lujan studied acting and intended to pursue a major in drama, but he encountered the reality of a lack of substantial roles for Native actors. As a result, he decided to concentrate on writing and directing, and, after being accepted to the USC School of Cinema-Television to pursue his graduate studies, he focused solely on film production. But the lure of the theater always beckoned.

After a four-year sojourn in Los Angeles, Lujan returned to New Mexico and formed his own production company, subsequently directing the acclaimed documentaries ?High Strange New Mexico?, ?Little Rock?s Run, Inner Spirit?, and ?Challenger: An Exploration of Art and Spirit?. It was during his first years back in New Mexico that he was cast in a small part in a bilingual play called ?The Merchant of Santa Fe?. A couple of years later, Lujan cowrote a play called ?Casi Hermanos? based on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which met with enthusiastic response from the press and audiences. A few years later, the city of Albuquerque approached Lujan to write another play with an Indian subject matter. Lujan chose to write a story about the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico and deal with how the two cultures eventually learned to live together.

In 2004, Lujan was one of five playwrights chosen by Native Voices at the Autry to participate in a weeklong residence retreat that summer at Occidental College in Los Angeles. There, he was able to work with Los Angeles?based theater professionals who mentored him in the development of ?Kino and Teresa?. The play was one of three read at the ?Continent of Stories? staged readings that November at the Autry National Center?s Wells Fargo Theater in front of an audience of 200. Finally, ?Kino and Teresa? was selected as the 2005 Native Voices at the Autry Equity production.

As co-founders of Native Voices at the Autry, and executive producers of ?Kino and Teresa?, artistic director Randy Reinholz (Choctaw) and executive director Jean Bruce Scott envisioned the creation of a theater initiative that would help develop new works for the stage by Native Americans. They brought their idea to the Autry National Center, and it has since turned into a unique four-year collaboration presenting some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking material found on the stage.

Having more than 100 Native American actors audition for the 19 available roles in October of 2004, Native Voices at the Autry was able to put together an impressive cast. Slated to star in ?Kino and Teresa? include up-and-coming actors Elena Finney (Mescalero Apache) as Teresa (Juliet), Kalani Queypo (Hawaiian, Blackfoot) as Cristobal (Mercutio), Arigon Starr (Kickapoo, Creek) as Nurse, and Rob Vestal (Cherokee) as Kino (Romeo).

Elena Finney (Mescalero Apache) grew up in Norco, California, where she performed with Riverside Children?s Theater. She is an alumnus of UCLA?s School of Theater, Film, and TV. Theater credits include Malinche in ?Malinche? at the Frida Kahlo Theater. TV credits include guest star/costarring roles on ?Charmed?, ?Popular?, ?G vs. E?, and ?Medical Investigation?. Finney is also the voice of Frank, the Abbreviation Bunny on the animated website www.babybirdcomic.com.

Kalani Queypo (Hawaiian, Blackfoot) is definitely one to watch, with theater credentials in ?The Sacred Hoop?, ?Children of the Sun?, ?The Last American?, ?Peter Pan?, ?A Midsummer Night?s Dream?, and ?The King and I?. His television credits include guest-starring roles in Comedy Central?s ?Strangers With Candy?, the popular soap opera ?As the World Turns?, and ?America?s Most Wanted?. Topping his film career is a supporting role in ?The Royal Tenenbaums?, as well as Columbia Pictures? ?The Juror?, and the lead in ?Doe Boy?, featured at the Sundance Institute?s New York City Screenplay Reading Series. He created the role of Brother Raven in the 2004 premiere of the Native Voices Equity production of ?Please Do Not Touch the Indians?. Soon after, he performed in the world-premiere production of ?Kaha:wi? in Toronto. A song he recorded for the show is nominated for a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award. Currently, he is filming New Line Cinema?s upcoming 2005 release of ?The New World?, in which he plays Parahunt, Pocahontas?s brother.

The March production will see ?Kino and Teresa? come to life with rising Native American actors, vivid set designs, period costumes, and guidance by expert mentors dedicated to seeing Native American theater thrive in Los Angeles. The performances will take place March 4?20, 2005, in the Autry National Center?s Wells Fargo Theater, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission and $12 for Autry National Center members. Call TicketWeb for reservations at 866.468.3399, or visit www.ticketweb.com. Groups of 10 or more save 20%. Group leaders can call 323.667.2000, ext. 391.

About Yadhira De Leon:
Visit www.autrynationalcenter.org for more information about "Kino and Teresa" and Native Voices at the Autry!

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