Coyotes, talking dogs, mythical two-headed beasts, a bogeywoman with good intentions and family-napping soldiers are all obstacles on 12-year-old Miguel’s quest to both literally and figuratively find his voice in ¡Bocón!, a play produced through Corvallis’s The Majestic Theatre this February.
Performed on the theater’s main stage this February, ¡Bocón!, written by the playwright Lisa Loomer (co-writer of the film Girl, Interrupted), is a bilingual production (English and Spanish) for all ages and a moving story about the importance of heritage and culture, regaining one’s confidence and overcoming adversity. This will be the second education-directed production directed by Willow Norton, a native of Eugene and a South Eugene High School alumnus who has done most of her theatrical work in New York. The Majestic Education program teaches area teens and children about the performing arts, confidence, creativity and communication via “studio-style” instruction.
The connection to Oregon doesn’t stop with her. She will be working with a costume designer out of Portland, Alenka Loesch, a fight choreographer from Salem, Ivy Farrel, and a protagonist played by Eugene actor Ulises Ordonez. “It’s an Oregon kind of project,” she says.
The year is 1989, and the play’s protagonist Miguel launches into a journey from El Salvador to Los Angeles, Calif., after soldiers take his parents away. Miguel is known for speaking his mind and being “bocón,” meaning “loudmouthed” in Spanish, but when his parents vanish he loses his voice. Along the way to the City of Angels, Miguel encounters strange, fantastical characters like La Llorona, the “weeping woman” famous in Mexican and Central American folklore.
The play was originally written in response to the turmoil in Central America during the late 1980s, but its allegorical examination of freedom of speech and the effects of war are still relevant today.
“In the little forward at the beginning of the play Loomer writes that the time of the play is any time there is war and refugees,” Norton says. “So I think that is something very poignant. The play is all of these different places because it is a journey play. But it is also a memory play.”
Norton set out to create a unique adaptation that is suitable for children. In accomplishing this, she balances dark scenes with light ones and incorporates puppets, mask work and new original songs into the production. She believes in the intelligence of today’s youth and thinks ¡Bocón! will tailor to that.
“I truly believe that children are very smart and very aware of what is going on in the world around them,” she says. “And by engaging in their creativity and their curiosity and their know-how about what is happening around them through theater, they are much more engaged in the art.”
With its poignant storyline and Norton’s dedication, ¡Bocón! will be an educational journey for all ages.
¡Bocón! runs 7:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 9 and 16, and 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 10 and 17, at The Majestic Theatre; $8 children, $12 adults. Visit www.majestic.org or call 758-7827 for more information.