ABOUT THE PLAY
As part of the 50th Anniversary season, PCPA and playwright José Cruz González have developed a new play-with-music. Inspired by real events during the 1840’s War of Intervention between Mexico and the United States, The San Patricios centers around the experience of a group of largely Irish immigrants who were among those who deserted the U.S. Army to join the fight on the side of Mexico. Lured by the promise of better treatment, pay, and land grants these new Americans fled an army that seemed rife with religious intolerance, racism and limited possibility. Ultimately adopting the name of Ireland’s patron saint, The San Patricios became a highly skilled artillery battalion, fighting bravely to defend Mexico from the incursion of the advancing American forces. As Santa Anna’s army was defeated, the San Patricios – on one side – were hated as deserting traitors; and on the other side – loved as heroic patriots. Ultimately they were captured and court-martialed. Some were shown clemency and only flogged and branded, but over forty others were executed by public hangings.
A fascinating story that defies a single-perspective description, The San Patricios opens the past to reveal patriots, traitors, heroes and despots of the war-inside-the-war between Mexico and the United States. In the political drama, immigrant and native, Catholic and Protestant, officer and enlisted collide as we rediscover the personal stories submerged in a conflict where Manifest Destiny met conscientious objection. This conflict literally shaped the future of two nations, while setting the stage for America’s coming Civil War – serving as the proving ground for junior officers with names like Grant, Sherman, Lee – and resonating in our world today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For playwright José Cruz González there’s a resonance in the story of immigrants who’ve come to make a new country their home and suddenly realize it isn’t their home. “They risk their lives to save this other nation, and there’s something heroic about that. Who knows, maybe misguided. But there’s a few hundred folk there that made this big decision that could possibly cost them their lives.” Intrigued by this story of martyrs for a losing cause, González added that “the notion of collision or fusion of cultures across national, cultural, musical, religious lines is another fascinating theme that arises in this story.”
González’s other plays include: The Long Road Today, The Sun Serpent (a collaboration with Daniel Valdez), Invierno (premiered at PCPA), Sunsets and Margaritas, The Heart’s Desire (premiered at PCPA), Tomás and the Library Lady, Lily Plants A Garden, and September Shoes. Mr. González has written for PAZ, an Emmy Award nominated television series produced by Discovery Kids for The Learning Channel.
He was a recipient of a 2004 TCG/Pew National Theatre Residency grant and a 1997 NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights. In 1985 he was a NEA Director Fellow. He teaches theatre at California State University at Los Angeles. González is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and TYA/USA. He is an Associate Artist with Cornerstone Theater Company, and Playwright in Residence with Childsplay, AZ, and South Coast Repertory.
Daniel Valdez, best-known for his musical composition and acting roles in movies La Bamba, Zoot Suit, The China Syndrome, Which Way is Up?, and Born in East L.A., he is happy to return to his roots in live theater.
The actor, musician, composer and vocalist left his home in San Jose, California, in 1966 at the age of 17 to join his brother (Luis Valdez) in forming El Teatro Campesino. On picket lines and at rallies in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, Daniel honed his musical and theatrical skills through “teatro,” a genre of street theater. In 2010, Daniel embarked on a new project entitled The Sun Serpent with José Cruz González based on the Conquest of Mexico. Currently, Daniel is working on a two-year residency with Su Teatro, in Denver, Colorado. He is collaborating with Tony Garcia on several projects, and original material as well.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The San Patricios marks the second writing and directing collaboration for José Cruz González and Mark Booher. Mark and the entire creative team have been excited and honored to work on the construction of this piece with José for whom they have such admiration and respect. There are many unknowns that present themselves when working on both engaging and complex. It is a comfort to encounter those unknowns with a team in which one has such confidence and comfort. The unknown can be a fearsome place. Most of us spend our time trying to avoid entering unknown regions. It’s fantastic when you’re with a group that inspires you to run joyfully, headlong into the creative unknown.
As with the rest of the season at PCPA, artistic collaboration was the cornerstone for bringing this play from ‘airy nothing’ into theatrical reality. There have been a great many excellent artists involved in the development process – through five workshops over the last 16 months – from designers to musicians, actors to dramaturges. Booher says, “I’ll also risk seeming saccharine and say the story of these people, the real people who were engaged in this really significant era of our national and international history, has been really inspiring to me. It’s moral and political complexities - the stories of personal sacrifice, greed, valor, cruelty, desperation, faith, despotism – make it a really sobering and inspiring story to work on.” The enormous events that are the context for and aftermath of this story could, each of them be an entire play – the potato famine in Ireland, America’s relationship with immigration, the annexation of Texas, the civil strife in Mexico, the implications of American Manifest Destiny for the expansion of slavery and impact on indigenous people, the Oregon Territories, California’s ‘Bear Flag Rebellion,’ setting the stage for the American Civil War – on and on.
So many of these really significant pieces of our political and cultural past, that are still reverberating strongly through our lives today, are things that we learned little about. It’s one paragraph in some dimly remembered junior high history course to some of us, while for our neighbor it may resonate in a very personal and present tense way. Bringing those stories and experiences together in the telling of story is an important part of the role of the theatre in the creation of an authentic community.
As an artist and artistic leader, Mark aspires to make art that has a positive impact on his community, gives a voice to ideas that might otherwise be silent, to illuminate experiences to which we might otherwise be blind, and to awaken us to stories to which we may otherwise be ignorant. Mark commented, “The truth is, the first audience I hope to illuminate, awaken, educate and inspire is me. I can’t presume to say what this play might say to our audience, but I’m certain that working on it has changed me. That’s generally a pretty good place to start.”
When asked why he feels it is important to be producing this play, at this time, for this community, Mark had this to say: “It’s important to me to be working on material, in this case a new play, whose artistic success is not a forgone conclusion. It’s important to work on something that could fail, but part of the virtue is working on a story that’s important enough that it’s worth failing at. So much more thrilling when it’s successful, or even partially successful. The definition of success, under these terms, begins with – did we attempt something great? Did we try to tell a story that needed to be told? Will our audience be intellectually challenged, emotionally engaged, relationally expanded by the presentation of the story?”