El Fuego, a hot sauce empireowned by the Cienfuegos family for generations, has recently been falling victim to the newer, sleeker Hielo Azul, a corporate giant that wants to crush El Fuego for personal reasons. The Cienfuego family includes Violeta, the matriarch with dark family secrets; Hector, the wandering vagabond who left the family and the business many years ago but has suddenly returned; Julio, the playboy son and heir to the empire; and Margarita, his brilliant and bookish twin sister. They, along with Julio’s supermodel girlfriend and Margarita’s secret love interest, the poor, but hardworking stable boy, Carlos, must think of a way to thwart the ruthless competitor, Maribel Maximillion.
The play includes four commercials, which should be filmed beforehand, and two original songs providing the opportunity for a talented singer to play the role of Alejandro de la Rivas, a singer who was once popular, but has fallen on hard times.
This play celebrates everything we love about telenovelas as much as it parodies the form. It’s a show that will leave the audience laughing and gasping as family secrets are revealed and surprise twists play out as the story unfolds to a satisfying conclusion.
With Terry Schwinge
What inspired you to write this play?
I teach at a school that is 99% Hispanic/Latinx, more than 40% of our families speak Spanish at home, and I have so appreciated our beautiful families that watch our plays, year after year, often without understanding the language. I wanted to create a play that would be performed in Spanish (which we did on alternating nights) and something that our audience would recognize as their own. A telenovela play would speak to my audience in a way that would really make our theater space a place that included and embraced our community’s cultural experiences. It is a parody, but I was careful to write it with genuine love and appreciation for the medium. It’s a parody and a celebration of everything we love about novelas.
What's your favorite part or line in the play? Why?
My favorite part of the play, and there are actually many, is probably Hector’s monologue to Carlos towards the end of Act II. He expresses the process of making their famous hot sauce and how that process is a metaphor for love and for the people and culture of Mexico. It’s a rare moment that, for me, transcends the otherwise silliness of the story and says something beautiful and meaningful and I really like that it’s there.
Where did the characters come from? Are they based on people you know?
I wrote this thinking about my soon-to-be seniors at the end of their junior year. I wanted to do a show that really allowed each of them (and I had a large class filled with dedicated, talented kids) to shine and have a great Fall Play their senior year. So the characters are not based on them, but I did very much imagine them playing these roles. It was helpful as a writer to hear a specific voice and see a specific face playing the role and saying the lines. I also researched the common themes and motifs found in telenovelas and quite literally went point for point to include all of them and, of course, I have been watching novelas for close to twenty years.
What did you try to achieve with this play?
I had two goals with this play. First was to give my students a fun ensemble show with characters that gave them interesting things to do and great lines to say. Second, I wanted to give my, largely Spanish-speaking community, a show that they would recognize as their own with familiar story elements, recognizable characters, a lot of Spanish words and phrases and also to make sure that it respected and celebrated the medium as much as it parodied it.
Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
I think all audiences would enjoy this show. Spanish soap operas, or telenovelas, have become a familiar part of our American cultural landscape and I don’t think it’s necessary to have experience with the medium to enjoy this show. Hearing the audiences laugh and gasp at each of the plot twists revealed was such a joy for us (cast and crew). I wrote it with a middle school/high school drama program in mind. There are a lot of fun roles for a large program, the songs are beautiful and fun and the commercials allow for collaboration with a school’s film program or for students themselves to create the videos. There are many reasons for students and audiences to enjoy this show.