Texas Border Business
By Pat Rodriguez
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – UTRGVs Department of Theatre opens its 2021-2022 University Productions theatre season on Friday with Tomás and The Library Lady, based on the life of Mexican American author and educator Tomás Rivera.
Performances will be Oct. 1-3 at the Albert J. Jeffers Theatre, in the Liberal Arts Building South on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus.
Tomás and The Library Lady is based on a popular children’s book by Pat Mora, and tells the story of a young boy from Texas who goes to Iowa for the summer to pick crops. While there, he meets the library lady and begins a magical journey celebrating the transformative power of imagination, books and reading.
Richard Edmonson, a lecturer with the Department of Theatre and director of the production, said this show was chosen as the first of the season due to its message.
“We chose this show for a number of reasons, the main one being that it’s something that is heartwarming and uplifting,” he said. “That was really important to us as faculty and staff members. We wanted to do something as the first show that will make people feel welcomed back to the theatre and make them feel good in general.”
This will be the first live production hosted by UTRGV since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonson said.
“It feels so great to be back. Everyone is super excited too,” he said.
With COVID-19 still a concern, crew and cast continue to follow university safety guidelines and extra precautions are being taken to encourage social distancing.
Eutan Hurtado, a senior majoring in theatre and stage manager for the production, said special safety measures are being enforced for the cast, crew and audience.
“For this show specifically, having a small cast has helped keep everything safer. We make sure to wear our masks during rehearsal,” he said. “During performances, the actors will only take their masks off when necessary.”
To help keep the audience safe, social distancing will be in place with seating spaced out between audience members.
“The seats will be distanced, and we encourage mask-wearing,” Hurtado said. “We want this to be as safe as possible.”
Tomás and The Library Lady will have two shows that will allow accessibility for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and those who are sensory sensitive.
“At the Saturday matinée, we are doing a sensory-friendly performance for people who deal with sensory issues. At the Saturday night performance, we will have an ASL interpreter so the Deaf and hard-of-hearing members of our community can enjoy the show. We hope to implement more of that in future shows,” Edmonson said.
Hurtado said the sensory performance will be “less bright, and the house isn’t going to be completely dark.”
“Noises won’t be as loud and everyone has the freedom to come and go as they need,” he said. “The cast knows this, and they’re prepared.”
Individuals dealing with sensory issues, especially children and young adults, often avoid theatre productions because the lights and sounds can cause sensory overload and panic attacks. But these adjustments mean less stress, and audience members know they can leave and come back into the theatre, should they feel overwhelmed.
Admission to Tomás and The Library Lady is free, and seating is open. It is recommended you arrive at least 15 minutes early to have your choice of seats.