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School of Arts and Sciences

Welcome to Arroyo's Opens the Balch Arena Theatre Season

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Philanthropic Grant Brings Playwright and Graffiti Artist to Tufts for Programs Related to Production

Rehearsal for Welcome to Arroyo's
Yessenia Rivas (A14); background (L to R) Genesis Garcia (A15), Andy DeLeon (A15), Rebeca Pessoa (A16), and Montel Yancy (A14) rehearse for Welcome to Arroyo's.

Kristoffer Diaz's play Welcome to Arroyo's, directed by Drama and Dance Professor Noe Montez, will open the Balch Arena Theatre season on October 17, thanks to a generous grant from the Nat R. and Martha M. Knaster Charitable Trust.  The grant also allows Diaz to remain on campus for post-performance programming, and for nationally recognized graffiti artist ABBY TC5 to visit Tufts.

Welcome to Arroyo's, which focuses on gentrification in New York's Lower East Side, is produced in partnership with Tufts' American Studies program, Art Gallery, and Latino Studies program. The play narrates the parallel struggles of a brother and sister as they navigate the vicissitudes of life after their mother's death. To honor his mother, Alejandro opens Arroyo's with the hope of establishing it as New York's pre-eminent lounge, while his sister Molly's goal of becoming a graffiti artist is in conflict with her crush on a police officer. Along the way, their mother's mysterious past threatens to overwhelm their present lives and leave an irrevocable mark on hip-hop music. Published in 2011, Welcome to Arroyo's has also been performed at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego and The American Theatre Company in Chicago.

Welcome to Arroyo's playwright
Kristoffer Diaz will be in
residence at Tufts Oct 17-18.

Graffiti artist ABBY TC5 will visit
Tufts October 23-25.

A recipient of the 2011 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award and a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Diaz wrote Welcome to Arroyo's when he was just out of college. He notes that student performers tend to get into the spirit of the play — sometimes even more than professional actors. "It's a play that was written from a place of youthful energy and passion," says Diaz. "I wrote [it] before I knew all the things that you're not supposed to do when you write a play. I think that Noe's [Montez's] excitement about the piece is infectious, and I hope that the young folks working on the show connect to its spirit."

Welcome to Arroyo's is both conceptually and technically challenging for student actors and audiences alike. Tyler A. Beardsley (A16), who performs the role of Officer Derek Jeter, points out that the play focuses on a cultural group that is in the minority at Tufts. Professor Montez, says Beardsley, "has done an amazing job of pulling together an incredible cast for this production that will not only shift focus to the Latino culture here at Tufts, but enrich it."

Rebecca Pessoa (A16) will be playing Lelly Santiago, a graduate student researching the origins of hip-hop in an effort to resolve her struggles with her cultural identity. The play's central themes and tropes, and her character's role in particular, have encouraged Pessoa to reflect upon her own heritage and identity politics. "I connect to her on a personal level," says Pessoa, "Lelly is called a 'skank ass white girl' despite her Puerto Rican heritage, because she moved out of the Lower East Side to the suburbs to attend a 'smart' school. I have been called 'white washed' and although I am half white, have always predominantly identified as Brazilian, and those comments are problematic and hurtful to me. Because of my mixed heritage and upbringing, I don't always feel like I fully belong, just like Lelly." Pessoa, who has been auditioning for shows for eleven years, says Welcome to Arroyo's is the first Latino play in which she's had the opportunity to perform. "Latinos are underrepresented in the theatre community all over the country, not just at Tufts," says Pessoa, "and so being a Latina actress myself, this milestone makes me very happy."

In conjunction with the performance, Tufts will host graffiti artist ABBY TC5 on October 23-25 in a post-performance talkback and colloquium about her work.  "The play has so much to say about hip-hop culture, which includes graffiti, "says Montez, who, along with Tufts Director of Galleries and Collections Amy Schlegel, began the search for a graffiti artist who could create a freestanding mural at Tufts. They envisioned a piece that would "draw inspiration from the show, and live independently and beyond our October performance dates," says Montez.

ABBY TC5's mural "Summer in New York" will be installed outside Campus Center in conjunction with the performance of Welcome to Arroyo's.

"One of the lead characters in Arroyo's, a female graffiti artist, is a tornado of intensity," says Montez. He and Schlegel were delighted to find ABBY TC5, a female graf artist who began her career in New York City at a time when women rarely participated in tagging subways, walls and buses. "Her work is strong, feminine, and captures the emergence of hip-hop in New York City," adds Montez, "and her mural is appealing in that it reinforces the promise of graffiti and street art as high art forms." Montez hopes that the Tufts community will take the time to see the complexity and detail in the lettering of ABBY's banner mural, which will be displayed outside near the Campus Center.


Welcome to Arroyo's Performances and Events:

For additional information visit the Department of Drama and Dance website.

Performance Schedule
October 17-19 and October 24-26, 2013
8:00 PM at the Balch Arena Theater, Aidekman Arts Center
Tickets: $7.00 with a Tufts student ID, and $12.00 general admission
Admission for the performance on October 24 will be at a reduced rate of $1.00.

For more ticketing information, contact the box office at 617.627.3493.

Wed., Oct. 16 | 12:00-1:15pm | Aidekman Arts Center, Room 12
Sound Designer Dave Remedios, who is creating the hip-hop soundtrack for Welcome to Arroyo's, will offer a public talk about his work.

Thu., Oct. 17 | Balch Arena Theatre, Aidekman Arts Center
Playwright Kristoffer Diaz will participate in a post-show discussion following the opening night performance (show at 8:00 pm with the discussion to follow promptly in the Balch Arena Theatre, Aidekman Arts Center).

Related Programming

Fri., Oct. 18 | 12:00-1:00pm | Balch Arena Theatre, Aidekman Arts Center
Playwright Kristoffer Diaz will offer his insightful and humorous views of American art and culture from his unique perspective as a playwright, teacher, Pulitzer Prize finalist and wrestling aficionado.

Thu., Oct. 24 | Balch Arena Theatre, Aidekman Arts Center
Graffiti artist, Abby Andrews (a.k.a. Abby TC5), will participate in a post-show discussion following the October 24th performance (show at 8pm with the discussion to follow promptly.)

Fri., Oct. 25 | 12:00-1:15pm | Alumnae Lounge, Aidekman Arts Center
Abby TC5 will offer a public talk about her work and the inspirations for her innovative graffiti.