New “Rain” at TWS

 

Salinas –The Western Stage (TWS) is continuing its 2005 season this weekend with Michael and Maria Elizabeth Malagamba Roddy’s newly revised adaptation of Victor Villaseñor’s bestselling novel “Rain of Gold”, the tumultuous story of two immigrant families fleeing the Mexican Revolution and the trials they face trying to build new lives for themselves in a “promised land” that often does not keep its promises.

 

Originally premiering at TWS in 2003, “Rain of Gold” received an overwhelming response from the community, often enjoying standing room only houses over the course of its three week run. Yet, the impact of this play was not just limited to the Central Coast; fans of the novel traveled from as far away as Florida to see Villaseñor’s beloved story brought to life on stage.

 

Because of this overwhelming response, playwrights Michael and Maria Roddy have continued to develop the adaptation in consultation with director Lorenzo Aragon in hopes of producing a more polished script. According to Aragon, the first production was a labor of love. It was an opportunity for the community to come together to share a story that was close to everybody’s hearts. “This time, however,” says Aragon, “I think it’s real important to make it work as a play.”

 

Yet, re-sculpting “Rain of Gold” into a publishable script has required a great deal of wood shedding. The original production ran close to four hours and tried to capture the entire novel. The newly revised adaptation, however, only runs two hours and centers more of its focus on the second half of the novel, which the creative team behind the play believes carries most of the dramatic weight of the story.  

 

It is no secret that Villaseñor based his novel on oral histories he collected from his own family, and that the two central characters of the book, Juan and Lupe, are biographical portraits of his parents and their tenuous romance. Yet, in the original production of “Rain of Gold”, Juan and Lupe did not even meet until Act II. In the new production, they now meet no more than fifteen minutes into the play, which crystallizes the dramatic arc of the story around Juan’s efforts to court Lupe while hiding the fact that he is a bootlegger from her and her stridently devout family.

 

Despite this reframing, “Rain of Gold” is still at its heart a story about family and the immigrant experience, two topics that are truly resonant in the community of Salinas. For playwright Michael Roddy, this connection to the lives of community members is one of the most important aspects of the play. During the run of the first production, he recalls that people often gathered in the lobby of the theatre after the play to share stories about their own family’s immigration to the United States. “It really appealed so much to people living in the area,” he says. “To hear all these stories going on outside was just remarkable.”

 

In this respect, “Rain of Gold” was a true community event for both the audience and the actors performing the play, many of whom like Gilbert A. Chayrez Chavarria, Cesar E. Flores, Jaime Avelar Guzman, and Rosa María Escalante, among others, have returned to reprise the roles they originated in the first production.   

 

“Rain of Gold” continues through November 5th on the Main Stage, Hartnell College Performing Arts Center. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets can be purchased for this community event by visiting westernstage.org or calling the box office at 755-6816 or 375-2111.