Aria Creative Productions proudly presents the world premiere of Patricia Zamora’s new comedy Un Nuevo Capitulo: An American Novela, a comedy about two families coming together despite their cultural and societal differences. The production will open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The play stars Julio Sepulveda, Jacob Reese, Melissa Martinez, Lacy Lansford, Kristian Chen, Yvette Cardenas, Sharon Beales, Janie Sauceda, Joe De Mott, and Karen Ross Garrett. Jade Esteban Estrada directs.
Ms. Zamora and Mr. Estrada were kind enough to answer some questions for us about this new production.
How great is it that this show is making its world premiere during Hispanic Heritage Month?
Patricia: The timing couldn’t be any better! Sometimes in the busy nature of life, Hispanic Heritage Month can be overlooked. When we have powerful markers, such as the world premiere of a new play honoring our Hispanic culture, it brings this important month to the forefront.
Jade: Exactly. We traditionally celebrate Latinx culture around this time of the year, so we thought it would be exciting to open the play on the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Patricia, how much of this play is inspired by your family? How many characters will we recognize from life?
Patricia: This is a hairy question! It is not a secret though, that there are specific lines and characteristics that do honor my real-life family members and they are all so endearing! I mean, who doesn’t have a family member who is an extreme penny pincher? Or the family member who is fabulously over-the-top dramatic? Or an abuela or “Wela,” as we call her in the play, as a principal part of the Hispanic family? These characters will resonate with everyone.
You mention that the play is reminiscent of a 70s sitcom. What TV shows will it remind us of?
Patricia: I LOVE situational comedy! I spent the better part of my life “researching” sitcoms to prepare for writing this. One of the aspects I really adore about this genre is how each character has this one audacious quality that really defines who they are and how their role is played.
The overarching theme of this show is about two very different families coming together and how one family deals with the rapid changes coming their way. Central to that is love, acceptance, and a lot of laughter. When I think of sitcom families I think of One Day at a Time and Good Times, with the comic timing of Three’s Company. That is why it is so perfect that Jade Esteban Estrada is directing this. He is not only a master director, but a professional stand-up comedian! My only words to Jade when he directed last year’s staged reading of the show was “Have fun, this is a comedy.” His direction has taken the show to another level.
Jade: Thank you, Patricia. The comedic style of Three’s Company has specifically been an inspiration for me during this process.
In fact, this whole experience has been a directorial exercise on how to approach a light comedy. Though my background is in comedy, I have a history of directing cerebral, sometimes emotionally dark plays, like Leslie Powell’s Heart-Land and Michael John McGoldrick’s Backstage Fairytale, which Aria Creative presented earlier this year. In March, I directed the staged reading of a play called Lucky Numbers by Hope Hommersand, an extremely funny, light comedy. The play’s insouciance really struck me. I thought to myself: “Not every play needs to be The Crucible. Un Nuevo Capitulo falls into that category of light comedies, very similar to the sitcoms of the 1970s. Audiences won’t have to overthink this one. They can just sit back and laugh.”
Jade, What was the best part of directing the show? How’s the cast?
I’ve talked about the importance of casting in our previous conversations. I’d say that the best part of directing and choreographing this show has been working with this cast. We were fortunate enough to have found the right actors for each role. If a director casts well, the majority of the work is already done. Our actors are not only talented, they also have the ability to take my direction and build upon it immediately. Every rehearsal has been an absolute joy.
Additionally, four of our cast members: Joe De Mott, Karen Ross Garrett, Lacy Lansford, and Jacob Reese, are stand-up comedians. I’ve never had this many stand-up comics in any of my theatrical projects before so it’s been a rare treat to collaborate with performers who understand and actively study the intricacies of comedic timing. Joe played our leading man in The Back-Porch Gang, a show I directed earlier this year at the Overtime Theater, Karen has been a part of San Antonio’s stand-up community since the late 80s, and Lacy and Jacob are newer comics that I’ve been working with on the local comedy circuit.
I also love the LGBTQ+ component in the show, as well as the fact that one of the characters is a diabetic. There’s a showbiz aspect to the story, too. One of the characters, played by Melissa Martinez, is an aspiring actress who’s vying for a role in a famous novela.
How will it appeal to San Antonio theatergoers of all demographics?
Jade: Because the title of this play is in Spanish, that’s a fair question. We have received questions from the community asking if the play would be suitable for non-Spanish understanders. With the exception of a handful of lines that I believe will be contextually understood, the play is performed in English. Patricia added the subtitle “An American Novela” as an additional signal for ticket buyers. Another marketing consideration for me is the possibility of Spanish-language patrons coming to see this play, based on the title, expecting it to be in Spanish as both Patricia and myself have an association with the bilingual Guadalupe Theater. I hope that discerning theatergoers will read the play’s synopsis to learn what the play’s about.
Patricia: This show is almost entirely in English. Even non-Spanish speakers will understand the gist of the Mexican “isms,” so I don’t want the title of the play to discourage anyone from coming to see the show. “Un Nuevo Capitulo” means a new chapter, and that is key to the story. San Antonio, this show is for you. It is really a love letter to our culture. Everyone needs to laugh, so everyone needs to see this show.
Jade, Can you give us a hint about Aria’s future plans? Collaborations with other companies, for example?
Jade: Nicole Erwin, our executive director, and I have been discussing the possibility of reviving How Burlesque Saved Christmas, our 2017 holiday musical, which was wildly popular.
In the long term, we’d like to continue to collaborate with local playwrights and present new works for audiences to enjoy. With each production, we are gradually seeing our network of writers, actors, and directors grow. In many ways, “Un Nuevo Capitulo” marks the beginning of a new chapter for Aria Creative.
Un Nuevo Capitulo: An American Novela runs Thursdays and Saturdays (There will be no Friday performances) at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Sept. 15-25, 2022. Performances will take place at Black Potion San Antonio located at 1900 Fredericksburg Road, Suite 101, in the Woodlawn Shopping Center. General admission tickets are $17. VIP tickets are $25. Tickets may be purchased at unnuevocapitulo.bpt.me.
Feature photo (left to right): Janie Sauceda, Jorge Flores, Sharon Beales, Melissa Martinez, and Yvette Cardenas in a rehearsal for Un Nuevo Capitulo: An American Novela. Photo: Jade Esteban Estrada.