Thaddeus Phillips is no stranger to Colorado Springs. The Colorado College alum has frequently returned to perform here during his acclaimed career.
Phillips and his theater collective, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, are renowned for their extraordinary use of scenery, props and video. And, recently, their newest production, El Conquistador, was selected for a five- to six-week run off-Broadway next season at the New York Theatre Workshop, which is most famous for introducing the smash hit Rent.
El Conquistador is fresh from a celebrated two-week run at Denver's Buntport Theater, a similarly award-winning, wacky consortium of fellow Colorado College alumni.
Like Lost Soles, which wooed audiences at CC's Armstrong Theatre in 2004, El Conquistador is a solo performance about a young man in a Spanish-speaking country. While Lost Soles told the story of a tap dancer in Cuba (yes, Phillips taps; he's also played King Lear opposite a set of golf clubs -- the man's talents are many), El Conquistador chronicles Polonio, a Colombian peasant, working as the doorman of a big-city apartment building. (The play is performed almost entirely in Spanish, but don't fear: English subtitles will be projected onto the video screen.)
Polonio spends his days communicating with the building's residents via videophone and watching Latin American soap operas, or telenovelas. He eventually becomes completely absorbed in the TV world, imagining himself a character in the stories. And through the magic of multimedia performance, the telenovela stars, real Colombian TV actors, actually begin to interact with him onscreen.
Phillips, a frequent traveler, visited Colombia with collaborator Tatiana Mallarino, a Bogot native. Mallarino's uncle Victor is a prominent Colombian actor, writer and director, who also works for Spanish-language TV giant Telemundo. The two Mallarinos and Phillips wrote character outlines for the telenovela stars, which was a treat for the actors, as telenovelas are known for their sentimental and overdramatic plotlines.
"We do have the stereotypical, incredibly handsome man, but they're really just normal people," Phillips says. "The work they do in our show is much better than what they do on TV. They improvised these characters and really made them evolve."
El Conquistador also explores some serious themes.
Phillips explains: "The social structure of Latin America, the class system, and the results of the history of the conquest of that part of the world are all leitmotifs throughout the piece. Subtly, though, so it's still very fun."
-- Bettina Swigger
El Conquistador starring
Manitou Art Theater,
515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Thursday-Saturday, April 21, 22 and 23 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $14 general admission; 685-4729 or www.themat.org