Sketch troupe hopes laughs lead to thoughts
Warren Polk (from left), Karla “Coco” Ibarra, Caryn Ruby, Ines Bellina, Brenda Aranda, and Eric Scott Curtis of Salsation Theatre Company. | Photo by Juan Carlos Pelayo
Salsation Theatre Company, Gorilla Tango’s Skokie Theatre, 7924 N. Lincoln Ave.
7:30 p.m. Fridays, July 27-Aug. 10 and Thursday, Aug. 16
(773) 598-4549 or visit www.gorillatango.com
Updated: July 27, 2012 10:09AM
Eric Scott Curtis is convinced that his “Daylabor Dreamin’” sketch comedy revue addresses universal themes. That’s why, even though he is Jewish, Curtis felt comfortable writing the show about minority empowerment for Latino-focused Salsation Theatre Company.
It’s a bonus that Curtis is a Skokie native and the show will premiere at Gorilla Tango’s Skokie Theatre.
Curtis’ desire to write this show grew out of his work as a drama and career/technology teacher at Simmons Middle School in East Aurora. “We do a sketch show every year,” said Curtis. “It’s been very entertaining to work with kids to write a sketch show. I decided I really wanted to do one for adults. So I went to Nelson and we hatched the plan out.”
That was Nelson Velazquez, Salsation’s artistic director.”He came through with a number of sketches that I really liked,” Velazquez reported.
Curtis chose Salsation because he had performed in the company’s touring show the previous year. “They’re a very nice, talented group of people so I thought I’d give them first option with this show that I had the idea of,” he said.
The show was inspired by Curtis’ desire to draw attention to “things that I thought needed a voice. Oftentimes minorities are looked upon as stereotypical. Through this show we try to fight the stereotypes.” His goal is to show that members of minority groups “have the same dreams as everybody else.”
“Salsation has always taken the stereotype and then empowered the stereotype to make fun of it,” Velazquez said. He added that, particularly in this show, “We take the stereotype to the extreme to show the absurdity of the stereotype. The goal by the end of the show is to have you thinking and questioning what it is that you thought of Latinos or stereotypes in general .
“We’re there to make you laugh,” Velazquez emphasized. “We’re not there to give you a civics lesson or an ethics lessons. We just want to get you to think about things. If we do that, we’ve accomplished a goal.”
“And laughter is a great way to do that,” Curtis added.
One issue addressed in the show is immigration reform. “A lot of the immigration reform that you hear today is, ‘We want to make sure that everybody is legal in this country,’” Velazquez related. “The key word that they don’t use is ‘Make sure that you’re not brown.’ There’s plenty of illegal immigration coming in from Eastern European countries. People will get visas and come here and those expire.”
Velazquez noted that the news seldom reports on that situation. “There’s a heavy implication that it’s all coming from Mexico,” he said. “When we show you who the Latino is, we’re going to catch you by surprise.”
The artistic director noted that women also have a voice in this show, “because they’re a minority within themselves.”
Curtis, who studied acting at the University of Iowa and Oxford School of Drama in England, performs in “Daylabor Dreamin.’” He revealed that the rest of the cast was involved in the creation of the show. “I had seven or eight scenes to start with going into the show and we played with them. I changed those sketches based on the strengths of everybody else and how everybody played together,” he said.
The artistic team, which included director Juan Carlos Pelayo, felt that the show was developing so well that they decided to lengthen it. Four additional sketches created by cast members were added.
“Laughter is great,” Curtis concluded. “But you always want [audiences] after the show to be talking about it, to be thinking about it, to be discussing it. And hopefully, to come see more theater.”