Jen Bush caught up with two of the stars of El Bacalao: The Catfish Man just days before opening to discuss the Greek tragedy themes molded to Cuban sensibilities in Desi Moreno-Penson’s gripping work premiering at the Flea’s Siggy Space in just three days.
El Bacalao: The Catfish Man will have two staged readings that will take place on Friday, May 5 at 7pm, and Saturday, May 6 at 2pm at The Siggy Space at The Flea Theatre.
Loosely based on Euripides’ THE BACCHAE, and taking place in the small, backwater town of Thebes, Florida, EL BACALAO: The Catfish Man tells the story of a cantankerous Cuban family on the verge of losing everything. A storm is coming; a restaurant is closed, a young girl is dead. And a Yoruban demigod is hell bent on vengeance. Cast members Susanne Pinedo and Kathy Tejada talked with us about their craft and about their experience in this show.
Kathy Tejada has been a fixture in the Latino theater for decades. She was thrilled to have an opportunity to work with the playwright. “I was drawn to this project because I was excited to work with Desi Moreno-Penson. I have worked primarily in the Latino theater for the past 35 years. After taking classes at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, I was hooked, and took acting classes and workshops wherever I could find them.”
For Ms. Tejada, being in this play mirrored some aspects of a Greek tragedy which is what El Bacalao: The Catfish Man is based on. “Being a part of “El Bacalao” is incredible. Like a Greek tragedy, it takes us on a journey. So much of this family’s journey and passions are caught up looking for explanations:
Why do we do the things we do?
Why do we feel the way we feel?
Why do we love the ones we love?”
Susanne Pinedo then chimed in.
Ray of sunshine, Susanne Pinedo was born in the sunshine state and moved to the East Coast to avail herself of the thriving art scene there. She demonstrated a talent for writing and orating in elementary school. That set her on her path as an artist. She has experienced success as an actress working with incredible people in the industry as well as success as a bilingual voice over artist.
“I began writing short stories and poetry when I was in the fourth grade and my teacher asked me to read out loud some of my assignments in front of the class. She told my mom that I should take acting classes and I have continued in the performing arts ever since.”
“I am originally from Miami, Florida and I moved to NJ/NYC in 2011, as theatre and arts scene here is always flourishing and is so vibrant. I began taking classes with Casting Director and Producer, Liz Ortiz and in 2014, I started my voice over training at Edge Studio. I have been so blessed to work with incredible playwrights, directors and actors on plays that are about social justice, the human connection and other themes that are close to my heart. It has been an honor to collaborate with several playwrights in the developmental process of their work and I even had the immense privilege to originate some characters in the last few years. Some of my favorite projects are playing the following roles in the following magnificent plays: Marisol in Jagged Journey (Industry Reading) by Elana Gartner, Sara in Speed Dating byCurt Strickland, Daniela in Arpilleras by Justin P. Lopez, Lola in Ghosts of Bogota by Diana Burbano, the Nurse in a modern adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, Simone in Caplata by Margo Rofe, as part of The Covid Monologues, and Carmen in Have to Believe We Are Magic by Sara Guerrero. I have also been very fortunate to have booked voice over projects in Spanish (my first language) for Marvel Comics, the NHL, Northwestern Medical and the B & N Store.”
Ms. Pinedo has a very comprehensive creative process when forming a character. El Bacalao: The Catfish Man really resonated with her for many reasons. “I believe in doing as much research as possible about the world of the play, writing a bio for my character, giving them a birthday, a favorite color, knowing their parents name, the street where they lived as children and fusing everything together. I wrote a backstory for Teresita, the character I play in “El Bacalao: The Catfishman” by Desi Moreno-Penson and I make notes about why she says certain things; why does she move and behave the way she does? The concept of an all Latinx re-imagining of a Greek Tragedy was so compelling and intriguing to me. I am a first generation Colombian and I was born and raised in Miami, surrounded by the Cuban culture. Amongst my school classmates and childhood friends, I was the only one with a single mom, who made the choice to leave her husband. Being married and having a partner (no matter how challenging the circumstances) were constantly drilled into my head by others and my mom’s liberal choices were frowned upon and at times I think envied by many around us who were in unhappy relationships. Jealousy was always prevalent, but my mom always stayed humble and honest and worked hard to persevere as an immigrant who did not speak English. I think it is ingrained in many Latinix communities that “you need to move forward with certain traditions because it is expected,” and the as my mom made many choices that were right for our family, but outside of the box for that time, many related these as bizarre or things that you just did not do. The characters in this play talk about traditional roles and what is expected, but many of them are frustrated and repressed and that often brings resentment. I love this play so much because it deals with so many themes that most people do not want to have conversations about and spotlights the consequences of unthinkable actions and poor choices.”
In addition to these two lovely ladies who graciously took some time out of their schedules to share some insights with us, El Bacalao: The Catfish Man has a talented cast and creative team that will be invoking Thespis to bring audiences a whirlwind of a show!
El Bacalao: The Catfish Man
Friday, May 5 at 7pm, and Saturday, May 6 at 2pm at The Siggy Space at The Flea Theatre.