Theater creates two-way communication for bilingual production

One Triad theater isn’t just incorporating Spanish and digital technology into its production; its also opening a line of communication with its audience, asking for their input on a developing new play.

In its sixth season, Paper Lantern Theatre Company is raising the bar and working with a children’s book illustrator to create a new bilingual musical, The Little Matador.

“I think that The Little Matador makes a great concept for a play or musical, because it’s an instantly recognizable and universal story, but told through a more specific and personal lens,” said Julian Hector, writer and illustrator of the children’s book.

The free event is considered a “workshop” rather than a production since the play is technically in the development stage, although it will be much more than a simple staged reading.

The workshop, with the support of the Arts Council of Winston Salem and Forsyth County and Summit School, will debut a fairly fleshed-out version of the play, complete with music, off-book actors, colorful Spanish costumes and a set inspired by the illustrator himself.

Amy da Luz, co-founder of Paper Lantern Theatre, says the playwright, visiting author and songwriter will be available for talkbacks after each performance, and they are eager to hear firsthand what the audience, especially the children, think of the piece so far as they continue to develop the story into a full-length musical.

The invaluable feedback on the unique performance may just help the theater to spark a new trending genre in the Triad.

“Like most places in the country, the Triad has a burgeoning Hispanic population, and like much of our creative content (especially content for children), depictions of diversity are far too infrequent,” Hector added about the musical’s unique bilingual quality.

“Even in places like Texas, California and Florida where Hispanic culture is firmly established, there just isn’t much access to bilingual performing arts.”

Not only will the new work target the Triad’s growing Hispanic audience, but it will also reach children and teach them on their own playing field—with digital technology. Working closely with Hector, Paper Lantern is incorporating “live” digital projections with the musical.

Da Luz says that while “the little matador” is drawing onstage, the children will see a projection of what he’s drawing as it happens.

“I’m still digesting the experience of seeing my book come to life,” Hector said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching what the playwright, Janet Allard, who is especially amazing, has done to fill in the gaps and give the book a new and different life.”

Both the book and developing musical feature a young boy who dreams of being an artist, even though he comes from a long line of bullfighters. In the end, the young dreamer must learn to follow his heart.

Although The Little Matador has some English dialogue, the songs are entirely in Spanish.

“I made every effort to convey a feeling in each song that will come through whether or not you are a Spanish speaker,” said songwriter and musician Kari Sickenberger.

“We wanted the music to focus on bringing out the flavor of the setting, which is a non-specific Spanish-speaking country.

We also wanted to honor the Latino community, both locally as well as at large.”

Sickenberger, who is also a children’s Spanish teacher, said the music in the performance emerged from a wide array of influences, including her travels to many Spanish-speaking countries.

“Salsa and Afro-Cuban dance have been passions of mine through the years,” Sickenberger said. “As an Appalachian old-time musician and Americanastyle songwriter, I could not help but to draw from those local, traditional sources as well.”

Working with Sickenberger is keyboardist Cesar Oviedo, from Franklinville, who plays in the band West End Mambo. “With him, the Latino flavor will be felt, and songs come to real life,” Sickenberger said.

The workshop will also propel Paper Lantern’s next adventure, a new children’s theater, which will launch next year.

Da Luz says that they have partnered with Summit School and the home of the new children’s theater group will be in the Black Box Theater at the school in Winston-Salem. They also hope to take to the road and visit different organizations, like Boys and Girls Clubs. !



The Little Matador workshop will be hosted on May 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and May 11 at 2 p.m. at the Black Box Theater in Summit School, 2100 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem. Admission is free but reservations are required. For information and reservations visit paperlanterntheatre.

org or email Space is limited.