Mis Papás is a highly physical performance set as a 15-round boxing match.
Written and directed by Pedro Chamale Jr. — co-artistic director of rice & beans theatre — the bilingual (English and Spanish) performance follows Chamale’s parents Stella and Pedro Sr., years after making a life in Canada, where an illness “throws a monkey wrench into their life plans,” pushing Pedro Sr. to the edge of his life and back.
The Peak had an opportunity to speak with Chamale about the upcoming performance of Mis Papás at the rEvolver Festival.
The Peak: What lead you to perform Mis Papás again? What do you hope to achieve?
Pedro Chamale Jr.: After our last production, I wanted to do rewrites and tackle the script again. We also wanted to reach a wider audience by applying for the rEvolver Festival. I hope that the audience walks away with a sense of awe at the physicality of the performances and that the show will hopefully speak to those that have gone through a similar experience.
P: How closely does the script relate to the information your parents gave you?
PC: The script came out of scenes that I had written while taking Block A [a playwriting class at Playwrights Theatre Centre]. A lot of the text is from talking with my parents and from what I remember as a child. It is not verbatim text and I have taken liberties to imagine what had been said. The story about my grandmother threatening the doctor is all true though! What an amazing lady she was!
P: What were the reactions from other immigrated families/individuals?
PC: One night, after a talkback, a Mexican family had stayed behind. They told us that the play was their story; and how much it meant for them to see Latinos on the stage and to see a story that tells a bit of what life can be like after immigrating. Although the events are not exactly the same for them, it spoke to very similar situations that they have had to face.
P: Why did you choose the form of a boxing match to retell the story?
PC: My dad was an amateur boxer back in Guatemala. It is also something he trained me in. My playwriting teacher, David Geary, kept nagging me to think about boxing as theatre. So eventually I took the form of a boxing match and placed it into the show.
P: How was the process of preparing for this production and offering the actors real boxing training?
PC: Preparing for this show has been both a blast and a challenge — in the best sense though. It was important to get the actors’ bodies comfortable with hitting and being hit during the boxing scenes. With so much physicality and testing of endurance in the piece, it was essential that I could push the actors physically, and know that they would be capable and safe. With that said, a typical rehearsal begins with skipping rope, circuit calisthenics, shadow boxing, followed by mitt-training. This has all helped to make the fight scenes look as though two people were boxing and not two actors pretending to box.
Mis Papás is performing at The Cultch from May 11–15.