Lower East Side Story

Wel­come to Ar­royo’s

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Jen­nifer Levin

Teatro Paraguas presents Wel­come to Ar­royo’s

Back in the day, Grand­mas­ter Flash, DJ Kool Herc, Fab 5 Freddy, and The Su­garhill Gang rocked the mics and turnta­bles, scratch­ing and rap­ping old-school hip-hop — which be­gan in the Bronx in the 1970s — into music his­tory. Out on the streets, graf­fiti artists were cre­at­ing the look of hip-hop, with its bold col­ors and tricky nick­names, though his­to­ri­ans agree that it is only in hind­sight that graf­fiti be­comes in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the emer­gence of this new sound. In Wel­come to Ar­royo’s, a play by Kristof­fer Diaz, pre­sented by Teatro Paraguas, open­ing on Fri­day, April 8, that link is dis­cov­ered to ex­ist in one per­son: a young Puerto Ri­can woman named Reina Ray. All that is known about her is that she was the only fe­male MC on the scene in 1980, and there is a pho­to­graph of her in which she is be­ing ar­rested for graf­fiti. Wel­come to Ar­royo’s, di­rected by Rox­anne Tapia, takes place on the Lower East Side, in 2004, decades af­ter Reina Ray dis­ap­peared from the hip-hop world. Some say she got preg­nant and took off; oth­ers spec­u­late she was hit by a train while tag­ging.

Ale­jan­dro Ar­royo (Rick Var­gas) has turned his re­cently de­ceased mother’s bodega into a bar called Ar­royo’s. He has no cus­tomers. Two DJs, Trip Goldstein (Jonathan Har­rell) and Nel­son Car­de­nal (Matthew Mon­toya), serve as a Greek cho­rus, who are rem­i­nis­cent of Heckle and Jeckle. They guide the au­di­ence from scene to scene and fill in im­por­tant back­ground in­for­ma­tion, all the while in­sist­ing to Ale­jan­dro that he’d turn a profit if he’d let them spin a few nights a week. Ale­jan­dro’s sis­ter, Molly (Alix Hud­son), has been get­ting into trou­ble for tag­ging the side of the po­lice sta­tion, ha­rangued by the un­for­tu­nately named Of­fi­cer Derek Jeter, a rookie cop who can­not get any­one to take him se­ri­ously be­cause he shares a name with a well-known base­ball player. Lelly (Cristina Vigil) is a grad­u­ate stu­dent re­search­ing Reina Ray, whom she be­lieves was Ale­jan­dro and Molly’s mother. She comes into Ar­royo’s to ask Ale­jan­dro ques­tions, but she never or­ders a drink.

It’s a hu­mor­ous play, an­chored by the ban­ter be­tween the DJs, which can move the play back and forth in time. Trip and Nel­son are con­cerned about Ale­jan­dro. He lives up­stairs from the bar and hasn’t left the build­ing in months. They don’t have many kind words for Lelly, who was born in the neigh­bor­hood, grew up in subur­bia, and is back to re­claim her heritage through her re­search. “Skank-ass white girl,” they call her, even though she’s Puerto Ri­can and Trip is white.

“They are in an al­ter­nate the­atri­cal re­al­ity, but they’re right there as part of the ac­tion,” Mon­toya told

Pasatiempo. “This play is un­like any I’ve ever been in or heard of. The writ­ing, the music, the ref­er­ences. If ever there were a play for Santa Fe hip-hop-heads to come see, it’s this one.”

“Lelly also has a Greek cho­rus as­pect to her. She breaks the re­al­ity of the play a lot of the time,” Vigil said. “She’s the aca­demic thread of the play, though she ends up real­iz­ing that aca­demics don’t mat­ter so much. It’s about music and cul­ture, fam­ily and com­mu­nity — not so much what she read in a book or her grad­u­ate de­gree. She crashes into Ale­jan­dro’s and Molly’s lives and ends up bring­ing them to­gether.”

Tapia de­scribed Molly as an an­gry artist and said Hud­son has been chan­nel­ing her teen years for the role. “Molly re­ally wants to talk about her mom, but her brother is re­ally re­sis­tant, so she’s ex­press­ing her­self through graf­fiti,” she ex­plained. “Then there’s this love thing be­tween her and Of­fi­cer Derek Jeter.”

“Which is pre­cisely the op­po­site of what Molly wants — to fall in love with an au­thor­ity fig­ure,” Vigil said.

“There’s this other thread about names,” Tapia added. “Molly is putting her name out there, and Of­fi­cer Derek has had his name taken away. It’s hard for him to erase her name from the wall be­cause he feels like he lost his iden­tity when Derek Jeter be­came fa­mous.”

One of the themes of the play is the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing an artist and be­ing a ser­vant. Molly sees her mother as a ser­vant, be­cause her life was run­ning a bodega and rais­ing kids. Ale­jan­dro is fol­low­ing in her foot­steps, but Molly wants to be an artist, free from the bur­dens of fam­ily and the mun­dane worka­day world. But it turns out graf­fiti might just be in Molly’s blood. If Reina Ray re­ally was her mother, it means she gave up ev­ery­thing to raise her kids out­side of the party scene.

“Think about that for Ale­jan­dro,” Tapia said. “Your mom was this great hip-hop founder, she’s part of his­tory — and you ru­ined it. It’s your fault she gave it all up when she could have been up there with Grand­mas­ter Flash.”

“But it means she had some of the best parts of Molly, and the work ethic to take care of her fam­ily, which Ale­jan­dro also has,” Mon­toya said.

The play touches on as­sim­i­la­tion and gen­tri­fi­ca­tion in New York City, as well as the im­por­tance of lo­cal artists in the per­pet­u­a­tion of cul­ture — themes that are echoed in the real-life changes hap­pen­ing in the neigh­bor­hood where Teatro Paraguas is lo­cated. The grass­roots the­ater, which has a mis­sion of pro­duc­ing bilin­gual work by Latino and Latina play­wrights, has been in what some are now re­fer­ring to as the Ru­fina Arts Dis­trict since 2009. Vigil has been in­volved with Paraguas since child­hood. She said that when they first moved into the neigh­bor­hood, “It was us and, like, an Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices and a me­chanic shop. It was a ghost town.” But in the last few years, the­aters, dance stu­dios, restau­rants, and other cre­ative busi­nesses have moved in. In March, the old Silva Lanes bowl­ing al­ley re­opened as the Meow Wolf Arts Com­plex, inside of which is House of Eternal Re­turn, a tourist-draw­ing per­ma­nent in­stal­la­tion. There is some fear that the im­pend­ing neigh­bor­hood gen­tri­fi­ca­tion will squeeze out the very artists who moved there to get away from down­town and save money.

“My dad lived on Canyon Road when he was a kid, be­fore it was all gal­leries,” Vigil said. “He lived in a one-room house with his two sis­ters and his mom. They had no plumb­ing. There was an out­house up the hill. I did Meow Wolf as a teenager, and I’ve met so many artists who came to Santa Fe to work on House of Eternal Re­turn. That’s re­ally great be­cause Santa Fe needs young artists, but we need to bal­ance it out so they don’t swal­low us and we dis­ap­pear.”


▼ Wel­come to Ar­royo’s

▼ Teatro Paraguas Stu­dio, 3205 Calle Marie

▼ 7:30 p.m. Fri­day, April 8, 6:45 p.m. Satur­day, April 9 (gala per­for­mance), 2 p.m. Sun­day, April 10, 7:30 p.m. Thurs­day, April 14; per­for­mances con­tinue through April 24, 7:30 p.m. Thurs­days-Satur­days, 2 p.m. Sun­days

▼ $18, $12 lim­ited in­come, $25 gala per­for­mance, Thurs­days pay-what-you-wish; www.brown­pa­pertick­ets.com, reser­va­tions 505-424-1601

Alix Hud­son and Rick Var­gas; top, Jonathan Har­rell, left, and Matthew Mon­toya; pho­tos Carla Gar­cia

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