Photos: Hyde Square Task Force’s Latin American Spectacle on Memorial Day Weekend

The Double Edge Theater put on a fantastic Latin American Spectacle show in the soaring vaulted hall of the former Blessed Sacrament Church this past Saturday and Sunday nights during Memorial Day weekend.

Stiltwalkers open the performance

Richard Heath

Stiltwalkers open the performance

The show was part three-ring acrobatic circus, part political theater and part High Mass. The ensemble of musicians and dancers from Charlestown Working Theater and the Hyde Square Task Force put on a story-song about a community in change.

The audience was part of the performance although the audience weren’t quite aware of that during the Sunday evening performance.

The program began with a costumed vocalist singing traditional songs with her accompanying guitarist standing on the church steps. Then came two costumed women, mother and daughter, circulating with bunches of long stem flowers that the younger one gave away; Following them was a merchant in dark suit coat and flowered fedora pulling a kiddie wagon with samples of his wares, working the audience with jokes and comments as his assistant gave away watermelon slices saying “eat it quickly” as he warned one tyke “or it’ll melt.”

Then came muffled drums off to the side and soon dancers in traditional dress, a pounding samba band, horn players and stilt walkers appeared marching through the audience and up the church stairs.

“Welcome to the Latin Quarter!” shouted an exuberant Brenda Rodriguez Andujar, director of arts and cultural programming at the Hyde Square Task Force. “This is our second night and last night was something I will always remember.”

Speaking later she said, “We shut down Centre Street for two nights!”

Led by the thumping samba band the ensemble turned and walked into the former church followed by the audience.

What was once a hushed auditorium was filled with long billowing colorful sheets hung floor to ceiling and draped between the pillars from which dancers and acrobats swung, twirled and swayed.

The audience filed in and was greeted by ringmaster Carlos Uriona standing on a  ladder. Uriona, a former street performer from Argentina, joined Double Edge in 1994 and is one of the creators of the Spectacle. For an hour Uriona directed the audience to turn first right, then left and then turn around as one action or music or dance was performed at all corners of the hall.

Scattered between the pillars were built sets depicting a store and houses from which storytellers in traditional dress appeared who spoke of their past culture and families and the changes in their new land that Uriona, who knows his New England History, called Shawmut.  At one “house” lovers kissed on a balcony to the sounds of an accordion player below; Next door women swept their veranda floor as young men  outside said, “We cant afford to live here. The rents are high. We will be displaced.”

Then a stage opened up to show a club dance floor. Up bounded a burly man announcing his intention to turn Hyde Square into gleaming towers. With the samba band booming the accordion player and the club dancers chased the developer off the stage and he swiftly climbs up a ladder and sweeps from the rafters above the audience on a trapeze cord.

The dancers and samba band performed and then with the drums leading the troupe, they made their way through the church, and with the audience following, moved down the stairs and out to Centre Street.

The audience clapped and danced behind stilt walkers, a New Orleans horn section, dancers and the samba band, and followed the procession down the street to the Mozart Playground where more dancing and drumming took over; Then the troupe led everyone back to Blessed Sacrament where the ensemble bowed and said good night.

This was the first time Blessed Sacrament Church had been opened to the public since it was closed in 2004. The Hyde Square Task Force acquired it in February 2014.

The production was funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Boston cultural Council, The Boston Foundation, the Art Place and the City of Boston.

Singers open the Latin American Spectacle Sunday night

Richard Heath

Singers open the Latin American Spectacle on Sunday night.

New Orleans horn section back up the stiltwalkers

Richard Heath

New Orleans horn section back up the stilt walkers

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The cast says thank you Sunday night

Richard Heath

The cast says thank you on Sunday night.

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The stiltwalkers lead the parade to Mozart Playground

Richard Heath

The stiltwalkers lead the parade to the Mozart Playground.

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The samba band

Richard Heath

The samba band

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An accordian player serenades two lovers

Richard Heath

An accordian player serenades two lovers.

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Chasing out the gentrifyer

Richard Heath

Chasing out the gentrifyer!

Stacey Klein founder and creative director of Double Edge Theater

Richard Heath

Stacey Klein, founder and creative director of Double Edge Theater

The ringmaster Carlos Uriona

Richard Heath

The ringmaster Carlos Uriona

Brenda Rodriquez of the Hyde Square Task Force, welcomes the Sunday night audience

Richard Heath

Brenda Rodriquez of the Hyde Square Task Force welcomes the Sunday night audience

The audience becomes part of the performance

Richard Heath

The audience becomes part of the performance

 

  • Econ 101

    “Chasing out the gentrifyer!” What a welcoming neighborhood…

    • Monster

      The incredible irony is that half the people complaining about gentrification ARE gentrifiers. I know people who’ve lived here for less than five years and complain about “gentrification.” It’s like a real-life Portlandia skit sometimes, I swear.

    • Hugo_JP

      I think Richard may have let a bias show through here. I was at the performance and didn’t hear anything about gentrification.
      It would really be ironic if the performer did shout that because a majority of the audience was non-Latino, i.e. potential gentrifiers.

  • supply&demand band

    what about all the current owners that are selling their multi fams for 10 times what they bought them for and moving to other parts of the city? are they getting displaced too? I would like to see some hard evidence of actual people who are getting displaced. From what I have seen its either opportunists that work with City Life, high school kids that are brain washed in to protesting for City Life, or the legends of City Life Vida Urbano themselves. Gentrification is a positive word that gets spun in to a negative context. Gentrification reduces crime, is great for local business and economy, as well as brings diversity to the neighborhood. The more new housing we build, the less expensive it will be. Anyone that argues with that is uneducated and ignorant.

  • Malena

    It looks beautiful! Thank you for the great pictures. I’m sorry I missed it especially because I used to go to Mass in the sanctuary. I hope they do it again. Viva Hyde Square! Viva Jamaica Plain!