News and Features

Looking Forward to 2012: Adam Adolfo Dances the Tango

This week, KERA’s Art & Seek is looking to the new year, to people in the arts who’ll be doing work worth keeping an eye on in 2012. Today, KERA’s Jerome Weeks talks with Adam Adolfo of Fort Worth’s Artes de la Rosa.

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Artes de la Rosa is Fort Worth’s Latino cultural center; it’s housed in the Rose Marine, a renovated old movie house that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. When Adam Adolfo was hired to run it last year, he declared he’d bring theater back to the Rose. Teatro de la Rosa, Fort Worth’s only Hispanic theater company, had folded two years earlier.

So in addition to the Rose’s nationally recognized educational program, film screenings and festivals, Adolfo has been presenting Latino theater. But it’s Latino theater with some twists.

For one thing, he started a series of  classic American plays in revival — partly, he laughingly admits, because of an old grudge. In high school he wasn’t cast in a production of Death of a Salesman, even though, the director said, Adolfo had aced the audition. But he would have been the only Hispanic in the Loman family. He didn’t fit.

So at the Rose, Adolfo is reviving American classics with Latino casts. More importantly, he argues that great American dramas are often family dramas – and very relevant to Hispanics. At the Rose, the Southern clan in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the Italian-Americans in Arthur Miller’s View from a Bridge were troubled Latino families. Whether the drama was about a patriarchal legacy and repressed homosexuality or it was about an illegal immigrant and incestuous complications, it didn’t take much, Adolfo argues, to make the play work for the Rose’s North Side community.

Adolfo: “We didn’t want to change what it was. We just wanted to reinvent it for Latino eyes.”

But this spring, Adolfo has a far more unusual revival planned. It’s a tango chamber opera. [music of ‘Yo soy Maria” begins under]

Adolfo: “Maria de Buenos Aires! My baby! The cornerstone of our theater season.”

Created in 1968, Maria de Buenos Aires is the only opera by Astor Piazzolla, the great master of tango nuevo (left). Piazzolla brought jazz and modern dissonance to the traditional tango. Maria is popular in Latin America but has rarely been staged in the US — perhaps that’s because it’s the surreal story of a prostitute who’s murdered for the love of tango. She becomes a ghost. Piazzolla called the show his tango operita (“little opera”), and it’s more like a song cycle with narration and staging. It has puppets and circus performers, and it’s narrated – by a goblin.

But there’s also that music and the dancing.

Adolfo: “It has glimpses of Moulin Rouge, of Cabaret, of Carmen. It is this celebration of tango music as seduction.”

Maria de Buenos Aires, which will be staged in May, will demonstrate how far-reaching and ambitious Adolfo’s Latino theater can be. The tango, after all, is not from Mexico. It’s from Argentina.