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JUNE, JULY 2014
JUNE, JULY 2014
1531. Mexico. A Christian, an agnostic, and a secular live together. Each respects the other’s unique interpretation of life. Into this blissful environment comes a stunning development – a disturbing vision. Aztec Mexican peasant/new Christian Juan Diego is confronted by Mary ‘the Special Lady,’ who demands that he persuade Zumarraga - bishop of all of Mexico - to build a house of prayer for all the people in the region– to heal, to pray, to find comfort and salvation. Juan Diego is not remotely interested. He has a satisfying existence with his elderly, frail uncle Juan Bernardino and with Orita, the magical, golden secular cat. Juan Diego pushes back very hard on Mary’s request. He underestimates her power and persistence. For heavenly rewards on earth that she promises him, and with his friend Orita’s urging, Juan Diego finally agrees – at the risk of depriving his uncle of his attention – to pursue the bishop to do Mary’s bidding.
Bishop Zumarraga – loyal to church doctrine - rebuffs Juan Diego, telling him that for such a thing as a new church, he will need irrefutable evidence of the vision authentic enough to warrant the undertaking of such a monumental task. Juan Diego – the one who was chosen and browbeaten into accepting the challenge, is devastated, humiliated by this rejection. But – as the result of another unexpected encounter with Mary – and with admonition from his feline friend Orita, who recognizes the hero’s need to summon his courage and attend to this challenge – Juan Diego forces himself to a final confrontation with the bishop. Zumarraga remains adamant in his demand for proof that Mary appeared to the insignificant peasant.
An astounding set of events brings the story to a glorious conclusion.
21 deliciously varied, original songs, including pop, salsa, Aztec melodies and rhythms, rock, contemporary flamenco, mariachi, and ballads, fill the drama with beautiful, moving, memorable music. The production I WILL required months and years of research in Mexico and the United States. This served to augment and deepen writer/composer Luce Amen's previous awareness of the Guadalupe story which she had grown up with as a child and young adult in San Antonio.
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SUMMER 2014 THESPIS THEATER FESTIVAL NEW YORK CITY
Luce Amen's musical production I WILL met with enthusiastic response at its three-night run at the Cabrini Repertory Theater June 16, 21, and 22, 2014 in Manhattan's Thespis Theater Festival! With director Michele Farbman, a sparkling seven-member cast, and musical director Luce Amen conducting the Fiesta Four musical ensemble, I WILL portrayed a fresh, new musical version of the Guadalupe story, with some enticing additional characters and unexpected dramatic turns. Prior to these performances, the music and story received numerous accolades in twenty-three one-woman and small-ensemble presentations in Mexico City, Lima, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and New York City.
Due to sold-out festival shows and standing ovations, I WILL was chosen for an unprecedented extended (fourth) performance in the Thespis Theater Festival - Saturday, July 26, 2014 - at the Times Square Arts Center!
Archival Programs: June 2014, July 2014
One day in 1995, Luce Amen walked into a record store in Texas, where her albums were on sale. While she was chatting with the salesman, he handed her a small book . On its cover was a picture of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. This was his own personal volume. He presented it to Amen and said, "You should write about this." It was a story Amen had grown up with as a child in San Antonio - a beloved, popular story well-known for generations throughout Mexico and the Southwest. Amen took the book, thanked the salesman, and left, wondering when and how she would ever be able to return the book to him.
When the playwright arrived back home in New York the next day, she put the book on a shelf. Some time later, Amen's two-year-old son pulled the book from the shelf and opened it. Surprised, Amen glanced at a few of the pages, finally read the volume - and found that it had an unexpectedly new, compelling interest for her. She started taking notes and, over the next weeks, months, and years, found herself reading more books and researching online about the subject, writing songs, and developing scenes for a drama. Amen states, "I was very busy being a mom and professional musician, so I could only work on the project in bits and pieces. Sometimes weeks went by with time for only ten or twenty-minute segments to give to the project, and other times I was able to carve out longer periods, usually late at night. In fact, I wrote one of the show's most popular songs, I'll Always Care for You, on a plane, flying just before daybreak out of Atlanta after singing and playing guitar with a large band at a gala the night before. I've learned to carry music staff paper and pencils with me, because you never know when you might come up with some new lyrics and melody playing in your head.
The musician and writer also comments: "Growing up in the Southwest, I was familiar with the Guadalupe image - in churches and also prevalent in many other forms - throughout the cities and towns in that part of the U.S., as well as in Mexico. The story of Juan Diego's struggle to surrender to his calling and to persevere against all odds is universal in its appeal. Through these many years of working on it, I kept getting signs along the way to continue, even though I often didn't see how I could find the time to do it. This project just won't let me rest until I see it through to completion, until it's up on a major stage."
"My belief, my hope, is that this musical will inspire those who come to see it - that it will give them a fresh dose of courage, faith, and perseverance to face challenges - or just brighten their lives with a beautiful story and music."