Brown and white unite 

Murray Ross taps Latino playwright for a contemporary Western spin on Zorro

click to enlarge Vigilante justice comes to the aid of day laborers in - Solanos Zorro.
  • Vigilante justice comes to the aid of day laborers in Solanos Zorro.

On a given day in a better world, one wouldn't see hordes of Hispanic men congregating at Home Depot for low-paying, insurance-bereft day labor. One might, however, find Hispanic men and women lining up for, say, challenging, rewarding theater work.

Murray Ross, artistic director for Theatreworks, wanted to find a Latino playwright to create a play based on Isabelle Allende's Zorro: A Novel, this year's All Pikes Peak Reads (APPR) adult selection. But when Ross went through his mental Rolodex of Latino playwrights, he came up short.

He finally found Bernardo Solano through a theater company in Los Angeles famous for interracial renditions of traditional plays, like Romeo and Juliet.

For those of you who've just peeled your pajamas off: Every year since 2002, the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) has pulled the whole community together to read the same book. Ross works closely with PPLD to choose the book, then to stage a play based on it.

He says Zorro appealed to him because of its popularity in the Hispanic community.

"While Hispanics comprise the largest racial minority, they're not highly visible," he says.

Written in 2005, Allende's Zorro: A Novel weaves together different aspects of the Zorro legend, ranging from the original 1919 Johnston McCulley serial to the 1998 movie The Mask of Zorro. The novel is labeled a "retcon" (short for "retroactive continuity") because of its deliberate altering of previously established facts in a work of serial fiction.

Ross wanted to update the Zorro story further by dealing with current issues in our community. So Solano's contemporary Zorro takes on the oppression of day laborers.

"The entire economy of agriculture, building and home improvement is buoyed by a cheap labor force," says Solano, recipient of Fulbright and McKnight fellowships, as well as National Education Association and Rockefeller grants. "The question is, 'At what point is it a situation when we're taking advantage of them to keep the prices low, so we have a nice influx of fruits and vegetables that we pay little for?'"

But Solano also uses humor to tell the story.

"If you can disarm people with laughter, they are more prone to listen or take in information," he says.

Ross and Solano both say they are proud to introduce a cast of highly successful Hispanic thespians to the Colorado Springs community. For instance, one of the two Zorros is played by Geno Silva, who appeared in Scarface and Mulholland Drive, among dozens of other films, television shows and plays.

Solano also says it's important for the Hispanic community to see faces that look like theirs on stage.

"It's quite valuable, not only for them, but it's also an inter esting way to show mainstream audiences, 'We're here, and we're a part of the dialogue as much as anybody.'"

The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive
Through Oct. 14; Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Saturday matinees, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m.
Tickets: $12-$22; call 262-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org for more.

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