by Michael Meigs
Rupert Reyes puts "home-made" theatre onstage. And I mean that as high praise.
He and JoAnn Carreon-Reyes founded Austin's Teatro Vivo ("Live Theatre") in 2000, and the program notes for his Cuento Navideño which closed just before Christmas at the Rollins Theatre, Long Center, record that it was their 27th full-length production.
Rupert is friendly, serene and gently humorous, as is JoAnn. This pair stood before the audience at the December 18 closing performance at the Rollins, not in the least rattled by the fact that they'd had to add an extra 40 chairs to accommodate the overflow crowd. The performance was starting almost half an hour late because of that press and because of the logistics of getting folks from the senior home into their seats in the front rows. Rupert was carrying his granddauighter, a two-year-old who immediately charmed everyone.
Cuento Navideño -- "Christmas Story" --was Rupert's recrafting of Dickens' Christmas Carol. Or "regifting," to use the expression of Austin Chronicle arts editor Robert Faires. To quote from Rupert's remarks in the program,
I have been attracted to Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens long before I appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge in our high school production. Not much of a story there, I promise. Then there was the cartoon version with Mr. Magoo, the Disney version with Mickey Mouse, a version on TV that may have been imported from the BBC and one of my recent favorite movie versions, 'Scrooged.' The attraction has been the story about a person who has a second chance at life. Every time I drive to the intersection of I-35 and 38 1/2 street, I think of this story. Here are people asking for spare change to eat (or drink), homeless and probably in poor mental and physical condition, in need of help. WWJD? We all have a chance in life to make a difference, small or large, in someone else's life. And I am not just talking about money.