March 12, 1999
By Ken Pagano
A dazzling performance piece loosely based on a historical encounter between the Aztec King, Moctezuma and the Spanish Conqueror, Hernan Cortez will have its world premier at Southwestern College Mayan Hall March 17. Ollin is an original epic poem, written by Daniel Valdez, star of Zoot Suit, and adapted by South by adapted by Southwestern College Professor, William Virchis.
This modern mythological story delicately weaves together two historically intertwined cultures, as the Aztec Nation struggles to preserve its culture, while Sixteenth Century Spain broadens its nationalistic religious pursuits. In this allegorical Valley of Mexico, only a single princess holds the key to maintaining diplomatic negotiations between the contrasting cultures. Removed of her noble status, and sold into slavery, La Malinche is restores to her birthright to serve her people.
Embodying the culture and spirit of the Aztec Nation, Moctuzuma coils with thoughtful concern, that the most honored Aztec deity, Quetzalcoatl, the resplendent serpent with feathered wings may or may not return. The final cyclical year is nearing its end and an unexpected rebirth for the Aztec people slithers within reach.
A transatlantic quest for power and wealth begins with Hernan Cortez as the Spaniard journeys toward his destiny. Carried across the ocean waves aboard an allusional barc, Cortez radiates the essence of Spanish romanticism.
Transporting the audience back to those final climactic hours, as seen through the eyes of Moctezuma (Jose Covarrubias), Cortez (Agustin Castañeda), and La Malinche (Mari Pilar Heriot) the theatrical voyage across time drops the audiences into the "eye of the hurricane," said Virchis.
Structured with episodes, narration, music and dance, the performance art piece includes multimedia art film and visual imagery. Choreographed dance movements by Jean Isaacs, and indigenous dance pieces by Yolanda Beniquez, illustrated natural rhythms found in nature, metaphysical manifestations and in the human expression. "Through the movements we are trying to bring out the origins of the roots of Mexico," said Beniquez.
Ollin features live original musical compositions, written by Valdez, performed with percussion, guitar and electronic synthesizers, with six major themes sung in Spanish, Nahuatl, Latin and English. The traditional lamentation "La Llorona" will be performed as a vocal solo by Heriot.
The premiere release is a giant energetic whirlpool as the entire cast and crew continue fine-tuning production. Without a previously released production, actors, dancers, musicians, set and lighting designers, and everyone involved with the performance is "composing the production as it is being rehearsed," said Virchis. "They are making it happen, and they are breathing the life into it."
Reliving the personalities of historical figures that fundamentally changed the outcome of two cultures has been a thrilling undertaking, cast members have said.
To date, Ollin has been performed as a radio drama, and circulated as a short feature film at the IMAX theater in Mexico City's Chapultepec Park.
Southwestern College Ollin will run March 17-20 at Mayan Hall on the college campus, 8 p.m. General Admission $10, Students/Senior $7 and for groups with 20 or more members $5/person.