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SD Rep Debuts ‘Vamos!’ Monday Night

Herbert Siguenza hosts online show that highlights a different Latin American country each month

Photo credit: SD Rep

SD Rep's playwright-in-residence Herbert Siguenza debuts a new monthly online show tonight called "Vamos!"

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San Diego Rep and its playwright-in-residence Herbert Siguenza are launching a new online program called "Vamos!" tonight. The series comes out on the second Monday of each month on the Rep's social media and will highlight a different Latin country in each episode.

Aired: January 11, 2021 | Transcript

San Diego Rep and its playwright-in-residence Herbert Siguenza are launching a new online program called "Vamos!" Monday night. The series comes out on the second Monday of each month on the Rep's social media and will highlight a different Latin country in each episode.

SD Rep and Siguenza have a long history together starting with his work with Culture Clash decades ago and continuing through last year's acclaimed film version of Siguenza's one-man show "A Weekend With Pablo Picasso."

With all arts organizations struggling to keep audiences engaged without being able to do live performances, SD Rep continues to look for new ways to present content. The latest is a monthly show called "Vamos!" hosted by Siguenza.

"This is kind of a fantasy TV show that I've always wanted to see on TV. And since we're on lockdown, we're always looking for stuff to put online at San Diego Rep," Siguenza said. "And I told Sam (Woodhouse, SD Rep artistic director), 'hey, there's this idea I have that I've always had, I've always wanted to see a TV show like Anthony Bourdain's, something that just concentrates on Latin America.' And so that's what I did. I'm going to put out a show that each month. I'm going to pick a country and I can't go there, but I'm going to do the research and I know a lot about Latin American history. I've taught Latin American history. And I just want to show people the beauty and the diversity that each Latin American country has and what they offer to the world culturally and in the culinary world as well."

Food, in fact, turns out to be the perfect ambassador for getting people interested. Back in April and the early days of lockdown, The Rep did a series of online videos called "Lunch Break with Herbert Siguenza" and discovered something about people's tastes.

"We found out that when I did a recipe, when I did a live recipe of, let's say, ceviche or albondigas soup or tacos or whatever, those would get the best reviews and they would get the most views," Siguenza said. "So this is kind of expanding on that, using some of the recipes, using the cooking as as a way in to explaining other things like history and culture."

Although the pandemic has been challenging for arts organizations, Siguenza says there are silver linings to be found.

"I've always felt that the regional theaters were basically factories that were just on automatic. And I wasn't very happy with the institutions of theater overall in America. I think it was kind of a cookie cutter process (with) works that were safe, challenging work was always seen in the small theaters," Siguenza stated.

"But the minute you got to bigger theaters, the work changed because of economics. And I just think that's a shame. I think the pandemic and Black Lives Matter have shown us that we were way very much behind in equity and equality in the theater. It also showed us that the power structure in the regional theater, was primarily white. And so these are things that are facts and these are problems that have to be resolved. And I think this pause has been really very, very beneficial for a lot of theaters to sit back and say, what are we lacking? Are we really lacking representation here? And the answer is probably yes. And so now's the time to to recover and try to make things better. Now, The Rep has always has always been good about showing plays by people of color, writers of color. But it can always be better."

Working toward that goal of getting better, Siguenza points out that The Rep investing in and developing new work by people of color through programs like the Latin X New Plays Festival and an upcoming Black play reading series.

"So we're just reaching out even more aggressively looking for the new voices that are underrepresented in American theater."

He also worries about talk of when things go back to "normal."

"When I hear normal, it really worries me because when we were normal, we were not representing America and so hopefully the new normal will be a season that is more challenging, that is more diverse. The casting is more and more diverse. And hopefully boards and leadership in the theaters also have changed a bit because nothing's going to happen unless the leadership changes. And that's really the reality of things. I'm looking forward to the future, I think a lot of interesting work's going to come out of this but I'm also scared. I'm also thinking, wow, are the theaters going to double down on safe work, on Shakespeare, on Christmas Carols? Are we going to double down on work that we know sells because everyone's broke? They're going to want to make some money back immediately."

Siguenza plans to continue to work to make sure a diverse array of voices will be heard. And for the moment, he is focusing on showing how diverse Latin American countries are.

"Vamos!" debuts at 7 p.m., Monday, with the country of focus being Peru. Shows will remain available on the San Diego Rep's social media after they premiere. You can watch online on The Rep's Facebook page or watch The Rep's YouTube channel.

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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