Bilingual Theater for Youth Revives Old Tales with New World Issues

Illustration by Gabriel Toscano

With their production of “Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans: A Salsa Fairy Tale” by Deborah Wicks La Puma and Mexican playwright Karen Zacarias, UVU’s TYE (Theater for Youth Education) Center presented a familiar story with a singular twist. 

Following the recent arrival of Cinderella or “Cenicienta” in a United States middle school and her American counterpart Rosa, this well-known tale is tipped on its sides with the introduction of a Puerto Rican Cinderella, Spanish language, and a male ‘almost’ fairy Godfather. Throughout this bilingual piece, songs, dialogue and cultures work to manifest the contrasts between Cenicienta and Rosa’s cultural backgrounds.

Play director and UVU adjunct lecturer Megan Ann Rasmussen said, “To me, the play is about empathy and respect, and mostly about belonging so that regardless of the language we speak or cultural heritage, there is a play for everyone.” 

The story is driven through a series of quips and conflicts which tend to arise in multicultural contexts from the difficulties of learning a language, to dealing with standards of eating and dressing. In this way, Rosa’s own prejudices and insecurities are drawn into play as they come to the forefront of her relationship with the Spanish speaking, rice-and-bean eating Cenicienta. Meanwhile, the almost fairy Godfather— eager to earn his wings — pieces together a plan to help Cenicienta while his wife, the fairy Godmother, enjoys a spa-day. 

According to Rasmussen, this UVU TYE Center production was originally meant for touring and was specifically planned to fit in a van for touring in local community school districts, but wasn’t unable to be performed in person due to COVID-19. 

“This piece gives us a vehicle to talk to young people,” Rasmussen said,  “We want every student in Utah County to see themselves on stage. We celebrate the diverse cultures of our area and we’re proud to present a bilingual play for everyone to enjoy.”

Given current social-distancing limitations, the production team worked with UVU’s Digital Media department to film the play for virtual streaming. Despite difficulties in rehearsing, singing, dancing and acting with masks, the production capitalizes on a growing interest in multicultural theater and UVU’s commitment to building inclusive spaces across campus

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