One of the great things about living in Cleveland is the wonderful ethnic blend that our city has. We are truly a united city of cultures. Not only do we have this wonderful melting pot of backgrounds, each culture has a tremendous amount of pride in their traditions that include dress, dance, music and food that they are more than willing to share with all. Over the course of the year, festivals and celebrations abound highlighting cultures from around the world. This past year Clevelanders have had the pleasure of attending many such happenings around the city including the International Partners in Mission Namaste Gala, International Day at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Dragon Boat Races, One World Festival, Oktoberfest and the Cleveland Irish Festival just to name a few.
This past weekend many were especially thrilled as Teatro Publico de Cleveland’s A Recipe Para La Vida at the Cleveland Public Theater’s Gordon Square Theatre was presented. This event/show happened each evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this past weekend with two sell out crowds on Friday and Saturday and a near sellout on Sunday.
The celebration began at 6:30 p.m. with L.J.P (Latin Jazz Players) playing nearly an hour’s worth of wonderful Latin flavored music. As they were playing, the audience was invited to sample a multitude of absolutely sumptuous traditional and non-traditional Latin foods cooked up by Silvia Tejeda’s Catering that included: Peruvian Arroz con Pollo a la brasa, Papa a la Huancaina, Peruvian Ceviche, Peruvian Tamales, Aji de Gallina, Piononos (desert), Tuna Peruvian Sandwich, Fresh Fruit, Meat Balls with Golf sauce all with a set of hot Peruvian pepper sauces (Green, Yellow and Orange) or in English (and not particularly in that order): stuffed mushroom caps, shrimp and veggies on skewers, mini-meat balls, tamales, potato slices with a cream sauce, grilled chicken served on a bed of rice with hominy, walnuts in a mini pastry shell with cream sauce and more all with additional sauces that you could add to further spice up the foods.
Following the opening food and musical reception patrons were brought to the theater proper where a production of A Recipe Para La Vida or A Recipe for Life was performed. It consisted of a number of vignettes and skits that related to food and family and was performed by a mixed cast of professional and amateur performers (some of whom had never been on stage prior to this event). What was lacking in professional polish and timing was more than made up with the amount of heart that went into the show. The show was also presented bi-lingual in a manner that made it easy to understand by everyone.
The main storyline centered on Jorge’s Supermarket now run by his widow and brother in law with sometimes help from the widow’s two college age children. All of the money is going for the son’s college education and as a result they are behind on the rent by six months. The son wants to quite college and become a master woodworker while his sister dreams of college and has the grades to excel but not the money. One act has all the neighbors gossiping about the store and the people associated with it, another has a neighborhood meeting complete with “political representation” and “The Bank.”
Interspersed in the show are short dialogs from various characters who relate some very moving stories about growing up Latino, especially relating to their mother’s and grandmother’s cooking and sacrifice as well as acts of courage against all odds. It is little wonder why the shows were completely sold out for the first two evenings and nearly sold out for the third. By the end of the show, everyone is happy as momma keeps the store, her daughter gets a full scholarship and the son starts work as a skilled master carpenter.
In talking with various attendees to the event, Sunday evening was one of the most enjoyable times that many had ever had at the theater. Along with the food and music there were open conversations with a variety of patrons (Latino and Anglo) and everyone felt truly at home at the theater.
It is highly recommend that you get on the Cleveland Public Theatre’s mailing list or e-blast list and when notification of Teatro Publico de Cleveland comes around you make your reservations quickly. This is an event that will only get bigger and better with each passing year. ¡Gracias a todos mis nuevos amigos! (Thank you to all of my new friends!)