This past summer I had the honor and privilege of working with some of the most innovative and talented theatre artists I have ever worked with in my career. The play was NIÁGARA: A Pan-American Story, conceived and directed by Veronica Tennant and written by Guillermo Verdecchia, commissioned for the PAN AMERICAN GAMES- TORONTO 2015 arts and culture festival, PANAMANIA. The play is about Cuban poet and revolutionary, José María Herédia, the man I portrayed, who, sentenced to death by the Spanish crown for revolutionary activities, escaped Cuba and headed to the United States. In 1824 he visited Niagara Falls and consumed with loneliness and nostalgia for his beloved Cuba, he wrote the Ode to Niagara, having been moved by the sheer power and enormity of what he was witnessing up close. He died of Tuberculosis in 1839 at the age of 35 in Mexico leaving behind his wife, three children and an enormous body of work including poetry, plays and novels.
This two person play also starred Mexican-Canadian actress, Paula Rivera, a generous and dynamic artist who played the roles of Herédia’s mother, a girl-friend and his wife, Jacoba.
The playwright, Guillermo Verdecchia is a man whose work I had been following since 1997. While I was attending graduate school at the University of Washington, I performed his one man play FRONTERAS AMERICANAS and always hoped that one day we would work together. Almost 20 years later, I got my wish and he did not disappoint. He is a man of great talent and depth. He’s approachable, gracious and so skilled with the written word.
After her 25 year career as Prima Ballerina for the National Ballet of Canada, director, Veronica Tennant reinvented herself as a film producer and director, and theatre artist. She was such a kind and patient director who allowed us the space to find these characters in an organic way. Her passion for Herédia, his work and the people of Cuba was absolutely evident in her drive to create a piece of theatre that fused dramatic text, live music, movement, film and video.
We’re all hoping this play has legs. I’ll keep you updated!