Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Regional Reviews

Old Stories, Ghost Stories, on the Río Puerco
Recuerdos Vivos New Mexico/Teatro Paraguas

Here's a chance to see New Mexico in all its dusty sweat and charming beauty. When the Stars Trembled in Río Puerco sends you back to our state's rural history, to the time when cattle and crops meant relative prosperity to small ranchers, before grazing fees and dust-bowl drought made rural life impossible on the Río Puerco, leaving behind ghost towns and rich memories.

The Siembra Latino Theatre Festival kicked off with a performance of When the Stars Trembled in Río Puerco on September 25 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The play, written and directed by Santa Fe playwright Shebana Coelho, is an oral history based on stories of viejitos from the Río Puerco valley, collected and edited by New Mexico folk historian Nasario García.

Seven actors live out scenes of land, loss, and community from the 1920s through the 1950s in four communities on the Río Puerco that are now ghost towns south of Cuba. The live performance is mixed with still photos and video showing the actual people and the houses depicted in the play.

This is pure New Mexico, reminiscent of the writings by Rudolfo Anaya, whose novel "Bless Me, Ultima" will be performed in 2015 as part of the Siembra Festival. The play opens with the relatives and friends of Nasario Garcia. They welcome him home as he returns to capture the stories of his youth and decades earlier when the Río Puerco villages were thriving. The play captures stories of birth and death, courting and crushed hearts, witches and ghosts—even a mean cow.

The play is co-presented by Recuerdos Vivos New Mexico, a multimedia oral history project, and the Santa Fe-based Teatro Paraguas, where it premiered in April. The cast includes Rudy "Froggy" Fernández, Anna María Gonzales, Amador Gonzales, María Cristina López, Argos MacCallum, Oscar Rodríguez, and JoJo Sena de Tarnoff.

You can see and smell the New Mexico dust as the actors bring the Río Puerco stories alive. Most of the storytelling comes from Sena de Tarnoff as Abuels, Rodriguez as Bences, Fernandez as Adrian, and Lopes as Susanita. All four are wonderful as they enact snippets of the characters' lives, ranging from the teenage years to the eventual departure from Río Puerco as they migrate to Albuquerque. For comic relief, there's the young Gonzales who bursts with energy, playing everything from kids to the mean cow.

Siembra, the Latino Theatre Festival, is a collection of nine plays presented by 10 New Mexico theatre companies from September 2014 through May 2015. All performances will be held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) at 701 4th St SW. Upcoming productions in 2014 include The Boxcar, running October 16-19 and 23-26; and 26 Miles, running November 6-9, 13-16, and 20-23. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the NHCC at 246-2262, or go to

--Rob Spiegel

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