MUD (Barro) is the story of three people living in a rural area who form a bond out of a need for survival. May is a spirited young woman who works as a manual laborer, Lloyd is sick and can’t afford medicine and Henry’s philosophical mind provides May with another way to see herself. Director Rose Cano is excited to bring the play, written by avant garde playwright Maria Irene Fornés, to Seattle. Cano originally translated the play nearly 30 years ago and directed the show while living in Lima, Peru. Recently she came across her notes from that performance.
“It just reminded me of the purpose of theater,” Cano said. “The connection between the artist and society.”
Cano is the artistic director of eSe Teatro, an organization empowering Latinx artists. The group highlights the stories of people who are marginalized through art and MUD fit perfectly. The play is closely aligned with present-day issues happening in Seattle, particularly homelessness. May, Lloyd and Henry could easily be found here.
From the first conversation between May(played by Monica Cortés Viharo) and Lloyd (played by Marco Adiak Voli,) it’s clear the two have a complex relationship. While raised as brother and sister, the two aren’t related. Both are illiterate. May tries to convince Lloyd to go to the doctor for treatment for a sexually related illness but he’s resistant. Later, she brings home a pamphlet from the clinic that explains the condition he might be suffering from but neither one of them is able to read it.
Enter the third character played by Fernando Cavallo. Henry is an older man who can read the pamphlet but doesn’t completely understand the medical terms used. As the scenes progress, it’s clear May is enamored with Henry and she asks him to move in with them. With the addition of Henry, their relationships with one another become fraught with tension.
Rather than just letting May say she can’t read, the audience gets the opportunity to see how far behind she is. While reading aloud from a book about marine animals May struggles to say the words “little,” “hermit” and “starfish.”
Cavallo, Viharo and Voli give compelling performances. They’ve taken on the weight of each character's life and the struggles they face not just in their inflection, but physically as well. The trio have genuine chemistry.
“It’s a really interesting play and it deals with so many issues about people just being lost,” Meg Savlov said. “It’s emotional. It’s immediate and it’s tender and it’s also a difficult play. Difficult relationship.”
Savlov is the community outreach coordinator for eSe Teatro. During the rehearsal phase the actors performed scenes from the play at three shelters as part of “Dialogues on Dignity.” Afterwards those who watched shared their reaction to the play. After their performance at Chief Seattle Club last month, audience members said they could relate to the experience of the characters, from feeling discriminated against while seeking medical treatment to not being able to express themselves well verbally. Cano said the dialogues are a way to immerse art in the community, rather than art being a separate entity.
“People have said they really appreciate being seen and being acknowledged,” Savlov said. “And being part of the process and having a chance to talk about their experience.”
“Theater can serve as a catalyst for great conversations in a different way than oh let’s have a focus group, talk about some of your problems being homeless,” Cano said. “That might not get you anything.”
In 2014, eSe Teatro produced “Don Quixote & Sancho Panza: Homeless in Seattle.” Before the performances at ACT Theater they held “Dialogues on Diginity” at shelters, day labor organizations and drop-in centers.
Cano works with Spanish speaking people who are homeless and diabetic. Many of the patients she assists are also undocumented. She’s able to relate to the realities presented in MUD.
“Although the play shows a very crude side of extreme poverty I intend to show the survival aspect and the search for dignity,” Cano said. “Dignity can be found even in the most precarious situations but you often need help. It’s a struggle.”
Performances of the show are being held at The Slate Theater July 13 through July 30. There will be both English and Spanish performances of the show. It was important to Cano for the show to be near Pioneer Square, where many “invisible populations” live.
“I think art does have that ability to reflect society and to heal. Art is healing that’s what motivates me,” Cano said. “Equal access to health is equal access to arts. Art equity is health equity.”
WHAT: MUD (Barro) by Maria Irene Fornés, Directed and translated by Rose Cano
WHEN: July 13 – July 30, Tickets $20
July 13, 14, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 30
July 15, 16, 22, 23, 29
WHERE: The Slate Theater, 815 Seattle Blvd. S, Seattle (inside the Inscape Arts building)
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge, Facebook
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