Santa Monica College will present a newly reshaped “Cesar and Ruben,” a musical about civil rights leader Cesar Chavez written and co-directed by Emmy nominee Ed Begley, Jr. from Oct. 14 to 23.
The award winning and critically praised musical, which has had just three productions since its premiere in 2003, will be held at the SMC Theatre Arts Main Stage, located on the main campus at 1900 Pico Blvd.
“I’m proud and excited to be working on this production,” Begley said. “The play has found a wonderful home at Santa Monica College.”
“Cesar and Ruben” chronicles the life of Chavez through music, imagery and a conversation with slain Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar, who often wrote about Chavez. The show mixes humor and drama, music and dance, history and personal struggles, with songs in Spanish – and supertitles in English – by Sting, Ruben Blades, Carlos Santana and more. It also features a multi-ethnic cast of 26 and a significant audio-visual component.
“It’s a great partnership,” said Theatre Arts Department chair Perviz Sawoski, who asked Begley to be co-director with her. “Ed is easygoing, fun and has great energy, and the students really like him.”
Although Begley has been busy as an actor and director in film and television – including a role as Anna Faris’ father in the new comedy, “What’s My Number?,” opening Friday (Sept. 30) – he has found time to attend about one-third of the rehearsals so far and intends to be at every remaining rehearsal five times a week until the preview Oct. 13.
“Perviz is so wonderful to work with,” Begley said. “And the students are amazing, so talented, energetic and eager to get this play up and running.”
Begley, who has been an activist and leader in the environmental movement through such organizations as Heal the Bay since 1970, first met Chavez in the early 1980s.
“Cesar told me, ‘I love that you’re saving whales and the oceans, but what about people?’” Begley recalled. When Chavez told him about the health hazards of pesticides on farmworkers, Begley was immediately intrigued and thus began a 10-year friendship and activist partnership that would last until Chavez’s death in 1993.
“I had the sadness and honor of carrying his coffin in Delano,” Begley said. “But what really struck me was when I looked back, there were thousands of people, as many as 35,000, in the funeral procession behind me. It was powerful.”
Yet, it wasn’t until several years later that Begley had the idea to write a play about Chavez’s life.
An actor who first came to audiences’ attention for his portrayal of Victor Ehrlich on the long-running hit television series “St. Elsewhere,” and who has appeared in many major films, TV shows and plays, Begley had not previously written a play.
Tickets are $20 general admission with discounts for students, SMC employees and senior citizens.
For tickets call 310.434.4319 or go to www.smc.edu/theatre.
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