From the Los Angeles Times
Thirteen years ago, when Octavio Solis was writing "La Posada Mágica," a Christmas play for South Coast Repertory, he decided to call the main character "Gracie." A little while later, his pregnant wife came to him and said she decided on a name for their daughter -- Gracie.
"I said, 'You're kidding. Are you naming her because of my play?' And she hadn't even read the play," Solis recalled. He took it as a good sign.
"Now I have a 13-year-old girl named Gracie who is the same age as the Gracie in the play, and she keeps needling me to play the part." But he adds, "She's not quite ready yet."
Since 1994, "La Posada Mágica" has been a tradition at South Coast Rep, which commissioned the play about a teenage girl facing her first Christmas after the death of her younger brother. The show has gone through four directors, two theaters and numerous performers, some of whom have stayed for many years, some who have left and then returned, and some who have transitioned to older roles. This year there's a new Gracie, Gloria Garayua, though the previous one, Tiffany Ellen Solano, stayed for eight years.
"It's a very closely knit family," says Solis, who also directs the play. "We only see each other once a year, but it's like we just saw each other the day before. People who are no longer in the cast, they still drop in and see the show."
Marcos Loya, who wrote the music, has performed in the show every year, playing the guitar, accordion, harp, harmonica and other instruments. "I'm kind of the keeper of the flame," he says. "There's lead sheets for all the songs, but in terms of the underscore, that's not written down -- it's all in my head."
The show also gets repeat customers. One family, Solis says, takes its photo every year by the "La Posada Mágica" banner in the lobby. "They said, 'Remember our daughter who we took to see the show? Well, this is her daughter,' " he says.
Like Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," Gracie isn't interested in Christmas at first, but she reluctantly joins a posada, a traditional Latin American Christmas ritual in which church members travel from house to house, reenacting Mary and Joseph's search for an inn. Posadas, which Solis used to see in his hometown of El Paso, are similar to caroling, and the participants often sing songs and are offered food and temporary shelter.
Solis hopes audience members will come away from the play with "a deeper connection to their community during the holidays, a real sense that we're all in it together, a sense that you can't simply dispel the bad stuff because it's a holiday," he says. The play, he adds, tells the audience to "deal with that sadness in a direct way and connect it to the meaning of the holiday, which is about renewal and rebirth."
La Posada Mágica
WHERE: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
WHEN: Opens 4:30 p.m. Sun. Through Dec. 23.
INFO: (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org