Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jose Rivera - Writer, Producer and Director

Back in 1986, I remember tuning in to PBS’ American Playhouse to see a TV adaptation of a play, “The House of Ramon Iglesia” by Puerto Rican playwright Jose Rivera (born in San Juan, PR on March 24, 1955). The story totally drew me in, as it was one of the rare occasions where I felt that I was watching something I could relate to. The story revolves around a Puerto Rican family living in Long Island. Retired, Ramon wants to sell the house and move back to Puerto Rico. The eldest son graduated from college and comes back to inform his family that he will not be moving back to Puerto Rico. With a twist in the dream, the story of assimilation and cultural pins father against son.
The playwright, Jose Rivera wrote other plays but I personally had not seen anything recent from him, or so I thought. It turns out that he moved to Hollywood and wrote for television and film. He was the screenwriter for “Motorcycle Diaries”, the story of Che Guevara’s motorcycle trip with a friend when he was younger. The screenplay won an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay, making Mr. Rivera the first Puerto Rican to have that honor.
In addition to his film work, his television work includes writing for sit-coms such as “Diff’rent Strokes”, “Family Matters” and “Goosebumps”. He was also co-creator, writer and producer of the acclaimed but short-lived series “Eerie, Indiana.”
Currently he has two movies in production, a remake of the Korean movie “Failan” and a screen adaptation of the Jack Kerouac book “On the Road”, the latter with the same director as “ The Motorcycle Diaries”, Walter Salles. In addition to writing, Mr. Rivera has directed and written a short movie, “The Tape Recorder.”

Bilingual "West Side Story"

With the success of "In The Heights" on Broadway, it was inevitable that someone would try to duplicate the Latino theater experience. One would think that they would be searching Latino theaters and talent to bring something new. That would be too much effort for a Broadway that has made its business with revivals and musicals based on movies.
The new big idea, ironically by the same producers of "In The Heights", is to do a revival of West Side Story but to have the Puerto Ricans speaking Spanish! This would have been innovative about ten years ago.
As much as I appreciate "West Side Story" as a classic musical, it has haunted my life as well as most Puerto Ricans who grew up in New York in the sixties and seventies. When I was younger, I could not tell you how many people I met who upon learning where I was born, brought up the fact that they loved "WSS". The ones who felt the impact most were Puerto Rican women, especially if they had the misfortune of having the name Maria.
The one positive aspect of this revival is that, hopefully, some Latino talent will be hired for the starring role and not just the chorus line.
To read the story click here. Registration may be necessary to read the article in The New York Times.

La Bloga: Review: South by South Bronx.

Here is a review of a book I am currently reading, "South by South Bronx" by Abraham Rodriguez, author of "Spidertown" and "The Buddha Book"

La Bloga: Review: South by South Bronx.