Theater continues to keep coming back to life in San Antonio — some of in quite innovative ways. First we had the Classic’s Theater in the Rough, and now there’s going to be another unique venue to catch a live show courtesy of Danrie Productions.
Ernest Sauceda, founder and artistic director of the fledgling company, talked to ArtScene SA about the ambitous staging he’s planned for the upcoming show as well as his plans for the company’s future.
ArtScene SA: West Side Story coming up! Tell us about this production.
Ernest Sauceda: What makes this one way different than any other version is that it’s not at a theater, per se. It’s at an event space that we are making a theater. It’s at Hangar 9, which is an old, converted airport hangar at what used to be Brooks Air Force Base. It’s not an air force base anymore, but the hangar still serves as a historical monument
I chose that space because when you’re inside it, it feels like you’re in another land. And I thought that matched the West Side Story milieu very much. It’ll be done in the round as well. And it’s not just that the audience is surrounding the performance in the center. It’s more like the audience is immersed in New York City on the Upper West Side.
The scenes and the dancing will take place in the center, of course, but also throughout the pockets of seats that are scattered in a circle throughout the hangar. The audience will be more involved with the story, and they’ll be face-to-face with the characters — quite literally!
You said in a Facebook post that you’re flying in some of the best talent from across the U.S. Tell us about that.
Yeah…we’ve got people coming in from out of town, but we have local talent as well. We had local auditions at the end of the month, and we had a great turnout. We found who we needed from here, and then we looked elsewhere to see if we could find some other friends who could help us with this new venture of West Side.
All of them have reputable resumés. In fact, one of them is actually someone I worked with in L.A., and we did the show together. She has numerous Broadway credits and has been out on national tours for West Side, so we’re really excited about having people of that caliber come to do this version of the production.
I knew that a production this size could get crazy really quickly, so I have double the amount of people working on it. We have all the roles delegated, such as costumes, sets, assistant managers. We’re hoping to live stream the show as well, so there’s an audio-video crew. It’s a big technical monster.
I’m excited for it to happen, but I think I’m even more excited that San Antonio gets to see this level of production.
You seem to have hit the ground running! What else is the company going to do in the future?
Yeah! Someone brought up the point, “Wow! You started a theater company in the middle of a pandemic. You’re brave!” I know. I’m either really smart or really crazy. You have to be determined, you know?
Looking forward, we’re hoping to do a kid’s version of a Broadway musical show over the summer. That’s the next project on the horizon. After that, we’ll do another Broadway show, probably just a smaller one. We’ll probably end the year with a Christmas special, but that’s TBD.
My plan is to do one every quarter. When you look at the calendar, that seems like a lot of time, but the months fly by really quickly. It takes months of planning to do this.
In terms of the children’s shows, are you going to have an educational element involved?
Yes, the owner of the space where we are wants to start teaching creative classes, whether it’s painting, photography, theater…whatever it is. So he wants to offer those classes to that area of San Antonio. We’re going to run an Introduction to Video Basics course for teens, and at the same time have a Broadway Jr. production.
At the end of the class, we’ll have that video class record the kids’ production, so it’s all being put on by kids. We’re teaching them along the way about video production and theater. We’ll have an assistant director who’s a kid, just to get their feet wet with all the moving parts. Because there’s a lot of kids interested in theater, but not necessarily being on stage, I want to teach them that it’s perfectly acceptable, and there are plenty of roles out there.
West Side Story will be performed at Hangar 9, 8081 Inner Circle Dr. Showtimes are at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12, and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, with a special sensory-friendly performance. More information and access to tickets can be found here.