Jimmy A. Noriega, chair and associate professor of Theatre and Dance at The College of Wooster, is directing four plays for RomeroFest, an international theatre festival honoring the work of Latina playwright Elaine Romero. His work on the productions was supported in part by the Kendall-Rives Endowed American Research Grant. The performances will debut online and be available for viewing at any time during a four-day period, beginning the morning of March 16 and ending at midnight on March 19. The shows are produced with Noriega’s theatre company, Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre and will be available on social media and their website: www.teatrotravieso.org/.
“It has been an incredible experience working with twelve performers in nine different cities,” said Noriega. “The actors are located in Mexico City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, and Wooster, making this one of the largest projects in scope that I have ever directed.” One of the performers is Cristina Michaus, the Ariel Award-winning Mexican film and television star who has worked with Teatro Travieso for seven years. The cast and company members also include: Stephanie Castrejón, Gustavo Duran, Selena Gray, David Grunfeld, Janna Haywood, Daniel Jenkins, Benito Lara, Aviva Neff, Summit Starr, Brendon Taylor, and Tyler Whidden.
The four productions are being presented under the title “Elaine Romero Shorts” and include two previously unperformed plays. Swastika is based on the true story of a young Latino student who was charged with hate crimes for spray-painting racist and homophobic slurs inside an Evanston, Illinois chapel in 2016. The play stars Michaus as a mother who confronts her son over his actions while visiting him in prison. Baby Food is a satire on nationalism and anti-Chinese racism. It is a lesson on xenophobia and speaks to the ways we demonize other cultures and people in order to support our own misguided beliefs. Day of Our Dead is about two women who meet in the Arizona desert and, despite their cultural differences, come together to honor and remember their deceased loves ones. A Still Small Voice is about a young couple on vacation in Costa Rica, who come across a conch shell on the beach and unwittingly summon an unexpected truth.
“We are extremely honored to participate in RomeroFest and are eager to bring our amazing playwright’s stories to the public,” said Noriega. “It has been such a refreshing and joyful experience for all of us to come together online and to explore new ways to make theatre and spark our creative imaginations in the middle of the pandemic.”
Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre is one of fifteen companies that was invited to participate in the international festival. According to the press release, “Arizona Theatre Company (ATC), in collaboration with The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre and Winding Road Theater Ensemble, is producing RomeroFest, a month-long celebration of the diverse, thoughtful, and impactful works of ATC Playwright-in-Residence Elaine Romero with digital performances by theatre companies across the U.S. and in Mexico in March.” For a full list of productions and dates, please visit the festival website: atcromerofest.squarespace.com/.
Noriega has directed over 40 productions in English and Spanish, including invited performances at theatres and festivals in Ireland, Greece, Belgium, Romania, India, Israel, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Canada, and New York City. He founded Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre in 2012 on the premise that theatre can create positive change in the world. Their previous productions include: Women of Ciudad Juárez, Joto!: Confessions of a Mexican Outcast, Trouble Down South, Encuentro: Peru!!, and Walking My Dream. The company is currently at work on three new productions.
Above: Jimmy Noriega, chair of Theatre and Dance, directs the Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre group.