Image: Orlando Godoy
Image: Orlando Godoy
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Buen Gusto

¡Arsenio! comes to Kingston

Theater in Spanish Returns to the Hudson Valley 

Por Waleska Brito
May 2024
La Voz magazine in collaboration with iD Studio Theater and with the support of Radio Kingston's Hispanic team, Best Western, CPW, LOUD, NY Folklore, State Farm Insurance, Taqueria Mi Pueblito and Tienda Hispana Doña Maite, invite you to see the play in Spanish ¡Arsenio! written by Toby Campion and directed by German Jaramillo and Leyma Lopez. 
Thanks to sponsors, ¡Arsenio! performs free of charge on Saturday, May 18 at 8pm at CPW, 25 Dederick St, Kingston. Please register using this link This theatrical work pays tribute to the life and music of Arsenio Rodriguez (1911-1970), the talented Afro-Cuban composer also known as El Ciego Maravilloso.  

Playwriter Toby Campion reveals that “the play is the third one in a trilogy titled Entre Dos Mundos (Between Two Worlds), in which I have explored cultural and spiritual themes related to Latin American music. The director of all three plays, and the one who suggested the idea of a trilogy to me, is the very talented actor and director Germán Jaramillo, founder of iD Studio Theater in the Bronx. Without him this trilogy would not exist”. 

Actor Manuel Viveros talks about his own roots and the character he plays: Arsenio Rodriguez. “I am from Cali, Colombia. There, we are born, grow and die listening to salsa. To learn about Arsenio Rodriguez was in my case to reconsider the black presence in my city. That's why thinking about the origin should serve to think about the present and imagine the future. This work made me reevaluate my condition as a person of African descent and what elements survive in our culture or how they have been modified. Also, what can I do so that this legacy is not lost?” 

Arsenio's story is told hand by hand by an 18-year-old girl, Yenifer, rather than a biographical musical. Campion explains, “We wanted to connect Arsenio's character to the present day, so that it would be relevant to today's youth. Yenifer, in wanting to grow as a singer, inevitably comes across her Afro-Cuban roots.” 

What inspired North American Toby Campion to write a trilogy about Latino characters? He says that “the inspiration came from three different types of music: Colombian cumbia, the Mexican songs of Pedro Infante, and Cuban rumba. The ideas came to me through the simple act of sitting and listening to them with uninterrupted attention. The other influence, so to speak, was and is my belief that death is but another phase, another chapter, of life itself.” 

Since Campion is fascinated by almost all types of Latin American music, he decided to compose something that would not only entertain him, but he thought that “maybe there will be an audience for it beyond my desk. What I want the play to convey is the same thing that rumba, cumbia, guaguancó transmits: spirit, rhythm, and love for life”.   

For all the people who seek to connect with their origins, Viveros emphasizes that “our roots or origin are a somewhat complex subject and can be understood in many ways. For some, their roots are important to the extent that they have moved from our place of birth. For others, their roots are in understanding or tracing whether you are second, third or any other type of migrant generation in a place. One can connect to not repeat stories, to be proud of and honor those who came before you and strived and struggled to get us where we are now. And the question comes back: where do I want to be with my people after knowing how and where we came from? As human beings we can think about being better every day.”

For all people seeking to connect with their roots, Viveros emphasizes that “the root or origin is a somewhat complex topic and can be understood in many ways. For some, the root is important to the extent that it has moved from its place of birth. For others, the root is in understanding or tracking whether you are second third or any other type of migrant generation in a place. One can connect to not repeat stories, to feel proud and honor those who came before one, made an effort, and fought for us to get to where we are. And the question returns: where do I want to be together with mine after knowing how and where we come from? As human beings we can think about being better every day.”

And as a bonus track: Let's watch a movie. 
La Voz Magazine Club invites you to see the film Our Lady of the Assassins on Monday, May 13 from 8 to 10 PM at Weis Cinema, located at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College, Annandale Rd, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY. Film and theater actor and director German Jaramillo, the film's central character, will be our special guest, who will give a brief talk at the end of the screening about the film's themes such as homosexuality and violence among hit men in the city of Medellin, Colombia. We look forward to seeing you there!  

* Translated from Spanish by Adriana Parada Campos and Karen Ruiz León


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