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TWO RIVER AGAIN SHOWCASES LATINO WORKS

Director and curator Jerry Ruiz, playwright Tanya Saracho and actor-writer Carlo Albán return to Red Bank for the second annual CROSSING BORDERS festival Thursday through Sunday at Two River Theater.

When the event known as Crossing Borders makes its second annual stand at Red Bank’s Two River Theater this week, it will do more than roll into town with a precious cargo of four new works by Latino playwrights. It will cross between matters of cultural curiosity and personal identity — and it will cross over into some surprising settings that range from chilly Wisconsin to some of the lesser known stretches of Sesame Street.

A follow-up to last year’s successful series, Crossing Borders takes over the black-box Marion Huber space at the Bridge Avenue arts center for four days between Thursday, June 28 and Sunday, July 1 — a four-day interval in which audiences will be treated to “bare bones” readings of acclaimed new plays, bookended by public-welcome parties, and all presented free of charge.

As returning curator Jerry Ruiz tells it, last year’s event drew good-sized audiences (including approximately 40 patrons for a Spanish-language reading), with the crowd consisting primarily of Two River subscribers and other regular theatergoers.

“Everyone seemed receptive and open to what we were doing,” says the native Texan and veteran stage director. “The audiences were curious about the cultural themes and settings we were presenting.”

Ruiz, who worked with John Dias at the Two River Theater Company artistic director’s previous company Playwrights Realm, is not the only member of last year’s creative team to return for another Crossing. Ecuador-born Carlo Albán, a former resident of both Sesame Street (on which he appeared as a cast member for five seasons in the 1990s) and Sayreville, is the author and performer of Intringulis, a solo show that contrasts his professional success as a child actor with the realities of life in a family of undocumented immigrants. Erik Pearson directs the show that will be performed in English on Thursday at 7:30 pm, as well as in Spanish on Sunday at 5 pm.

“I think this one has a good chance of making it onto a mainstage schedule,” Ruiz says of Intringulis. “There’s a hope that at some time in the next year or two, one of these plays might strike a chord.”

The state of Wisconsin — in the era of President Ronald Reagan — is the scene for Andrea Thome‘s Pinkolandia, a “deep and inventive” tale of two Chilean-American sisters who find different ways to deal with life in a troubled family unit — including seeking escape into a fantasy world. Jose Zayas directs Friday’s featured reading, going up at 7:30 p.m.

Another Crossing regular, playwright and director Tanya Saracho, returns to Red Bank with Enfrascada, an ensemble comedy (with a definite dark side) in which a group of “modern, upwardly mobile Latinas” convince one of their own to use folk magic as revenge against the strayings of her cheating fiancé. Saturday’s 3 pm performance is directed by Ruiz.

In Christopher Oscar Peña‘s Icarus Burns, the lives of six strangers — including two brothers with issues, a TV journalist, and a family of new immigrants trying “make a better life” while fighting a cycle of abuse — intersect against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election. Daniella Topol directs the reading, presented at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 30.

The festival kicks off on Thursday with a 5:30 pm Block Party, and concludes on Sunday with a Closing Party at 5 pm. In between the two Saturday screenings, cast or creative team members from each of the four featured shows will conduct a Q&A with the audience during a 5 pm Panel Discussion.

“It can take several years to develop a new audience,” says Ruiz of the groundwork being put in motion by outreach events like Crossing Borders. “Two River Theater is really making an effort to reach out to the Latino community.”

All offerings on the Crossing Borders schedule are presented free of charge and general admission. Check back into the paperless pages of redbankgreen for updates on more summertime happenings at Two River, including the Intimate Evenings concert series, Joe Muccioli’s Summer Jazz Cafe and the BOLERO Red Bank dance project.

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