Teatro ECAS Moves into the Limelight

The state's primary Spanish-language theater recently relocated to a new space in Providence's Valley neighborhood.
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Education outreach educator Jessica Smith; teachers Lia Lockhart and Rosalyn Tavarez; Francis Parra, executive artistic director. Photography courtesy of Teatro ECAS / Photography by Vamile Delisi, Emma Nordby and Xavier Delbrey.

Teatro ECAS, an independent arts organization that produces contemporary and classical Latinx plays, recently moved from its Parkis Avenue headquarters in Providence into a larger space in the Valley Arts district.

The theater underwent a $1.2 million renovation back in April and seats ninety audience members in the performing space, which offers English subtitles during plays so that non-Spanish speakers can follow along. “I see people, Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, laughing at the same joke,” says Executive Artistic Director Francis Parra. “It’s great.”

The group also offers acting, singing and dancing classes in Spanish for children ages seven through sixteen, along with workshops and summer camps. 

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Lia Lockhart with children in an acting class. Photography courtesy of Teatro ECAS / Photography by Vamile Delisi, Emma Nordby and Xavier Delbrey.

Since the April move, the theater has hosted three productions touching on Latinx household topics, historical events and political issues.

Yoleros tells of the perils faced when Dominican Republic residents leave the country in poorly made boats, while exploring the bigger themes of why they migrated in the first place. 

“You can learn a lot about the Dominican Republic, what happened with the government there in the eighties and how many people tried to travel in those poor transportations,” says Parra, who is originally from the Dominican Republic. “And it’s going on today.”

Jardín de Otoño, which demonstrated the effect soap operas have in Latin American households, was the first play housed in the new theater. 

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The new theater. Photography courtesy of Teatro ECAS / Photography by Vamile Delisi, Emma Nordby and Xavier Delbrey.

It featured the famed Cuban-Mexican actor Francisco Gattorno. Two women living in the same house are enamored with Gattorno’s character in the telenovela they watch together. Deciding that they want to meet him personally, they go through great lengths to kidnap him, only to realize that he’s just a normal human being playing a character who won their hearts. 

“The women portrayed him as an idol, and when they noticed that he’s normal, both were totally discouraged,” Parra says. “They realized that they were watching the soap opera but not watching him in real life.”

Parra is thrilled to be able to show stories about her heritage and hopes theatergoers will walk away with a better understanding of Latinx people and culture. 

“We want artists to come and use this space,” Parra says. “We want more adolescents to take advantage of our classes as well as the plays. These are stories that they should listen to about our population, along with others. We’re not doctors, but we can make the world better.” 679 Valley St., Providence, 421-3227, teatroecas.org

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Curtain call with the cast of Jardín de Otoño, from left, Juana Diaz, Francisco Gattorno, Varsobia Gallego and Emeyra de Jesus. Photography courtesy of Teatro ECAS / Photography by Vamile Delisi, Emma Nordby and Xavier Delbrey.