Keeping it in the family

Last night, The Good Man took me to see a play called “Perla” staged by Teatro Vision at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose.

The play was written by Leonard Madrid, a native New Mexican, and is set on the front porch of a home in Portales, NM. (funny, there in the theater, they didn’t capture that certain “wind off the feed lot” that I always associate with Portales.)

The story surrounds a pair of sisters who were raised by their very protective aunt after their father, a noted NorteƱo singer, ran off, and their mother died (both of sorrow and of cancer). The younger sister, Perla, goes on a quest in dreams and reality to find her lost father. However, finding him proves to be less fulfilling than she’d hoped.

Supporting a New Mexican playwright was my first objective. As an added bonus, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the Mexican Heritage Plaza, and the efforts the cast went to in order to capture their characters.

One of the main cast members is married to a man from New Mexico, so she used her mom-in-law for guidance.

They also had a New Mexico woman as dramaturge. Yeah, ok, I had to look up that word. It’s the person who helps set the time and place for the cast so they can build their characters. So the New Mexican dramaturge had the job to help the cast and crew understand New Mexico.

Mostly, they did a pretty good job. There were a couple anachronisms, but in general, they caught the flavor and culture of my home state.

I *might* be a bit protective about my home…you know, just a little. So of course I had an eagle eye out on everything.

As we went on a preview night, the cast hadn’t fully relaxed into their lines, but it was a wonderful story and well told by the actors. It felt like the director may have over edited the script a bit, as there were leaps in time that didn’t flow smoothly, but mostly, it was a sad tale that ends with redemption.

My favorite part was a young girl who led Perla around in dreamscape, much like the Coyote Angel from The Milagro Beanfield War.

As there is the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) Conference happening this week in San Jose, there were a lot of people from all over visiting San Jose who also came to see the show. It was fun to hear the New Mexico people in the audience finding each other.

“I’m from Taos, and my friend is from Silver City,” I heard a few rows back. And I smiled. My people.

The only sad part of the night for me was when one of the employees of the theater told me that on opening night this weekend, they are making sopapillas.

I gasped when he said that! I am going to miss the sopapillas?!?!

Then he replied, “yeah, that seems to be the reaction of all the people from New Mexico. I had no idea that sopapillas were such a big deal.”

Oh silly non-New Mexican yet very kind man…sopapillas are like a religion, second only to the cult of green chile!

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  • MysticMama

    OMG, that makes me hungry. Did you have to include a photo of such perfect ones? I haven't had a good sopapilla in ages!

  • Karen Fayeth

    MysticMama – I know, huh! Too pretty.

    I haven't had a sopapilla since January, but it was at Gardunos in Las Vegas, and it wasn't great.

    More like a sopa-mattress than a sopapilla! Too dense!

    The magic of a good sopa is unparalleled! :)

  • Mom

    Remember the glumpy sopapillas I made from scratch. Actually I'd even enjoy one of those about now.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Yup, Ma, I do remember. It wasn't one of the better cooking experiments.

    But yeah, I'd gladly have one of them right now.

    Thankfully, we'll always have memories of Gardunos!

  • Anonymous

    I have always spelled 'Sopaipilla' like this. NOT 'Sopapilla' as you spelled it.

    I started out to make a small point but I've been led through a whole bunch of other stuff.

    First of all: My family and I always pronounce it SO-PIE-PEE-AH not SOPA-PEE-AH as you spell it. The roots of the words are different. In one case the root is 'sopai' and in the other its 'sopa'. I believe that the word sopai is Indian and refers to bread. The word 'sopa' is 'pudding' and is most often used in 'sopas' which is a type of bread pudding. Sopas are frequently served as a dessert at a 'Matanza' (butchery of a hog) and is delicious.

    Second: Today's restaurant sopaipillas are too thin and are too puffed up. I believe that this comes from the recipe they use and the fact that they're fried with vegetable oil. Restaurant sopaipillas are good with honey as a dessert but the flavor is all of honey and very little of sopaipilla. Real New Mexican sopaipillas are seldom (if ever) served sweet. They're always fried in lard and they're closer in texture to the bread part of Indian Fry Bread than angel food cake. That is, they're bubbly puffy but not an air filled pillow. They were used as a flavorful substitute for flour tortillas.


  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – hmm, I hadn't known about the other spelling. I've always spelled it that way and that's the way I see it on restaurant menus as well. That said, a quick Google confirms what you say.

    As you well know, words tend to evolve over time. But I'll keep what you say in mind.

    And I'm with you, the sopaipillas (see, I used your spelling) should not be sweet unto themselves. They should be like bread that can, if the eater so chooses, be eaten with honey (my mom enjoys tortillas in the same way) or they can be filled with tasty savory fillings too.

    Any sopaipillas served with powdered sugar or ice cream or the like is not ok and must be immediately rejected.

    Finally…now you went and did it…you said fry bread. Now I'm really hungry.

  • Anonymous

    Muchisimas gracias for having come see PERLA. I directed the play and am the Artistic Director for Teatro Vision. Am also married to a great guy whose family is in Taos (we got married there). Best breakfast burrio – Mantes in Taos – is his tio. Have spent a good amount of time there since the 1970's. Hope you'll come back to see some other plays.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ms. Alvarado – Thank you for stopping by my blog, and for bringing a New Mexican playwright to the stage!

    We in the audience could feel your heart in the play, and it is beautiful.

    Yes, my husband and I are big fans of theater, so we'll be back soon!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for supporting the works of New Mexican playwrights. Our works don't often get outside of the state lines.
    I will let Leonard know about your blog entry. I think he will identify with alot of the things you wrote.

  • Karen Fayeth

    It is my pleasure to support the work of New Mexico artists. I'm so proud of the work the people from my home state are producing.

    Give Leonard my best wishes for writing "Perla" and for working to keep the magic of NM alive on the stage!

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