Arts Desk

GALA Hispanic Theatre, Citing Shrinking Grants, Shakes Up Its Season

Earlier today, GALA Hispanic patrons got a worrysome email: Thanks to "the loss of some public funding," the Columbia Heights theater had to postpone its production of i put the fear of Mexico in 'em, an English-language play by Matthew Paul Olmos about immigration. According to GALA co-founder Rebecca Medrano, though, the changes aren't a sign of big trouble. "We’re not switching our mission or the things we do, we’re just adding what we feel will be more popular," she says. "We're just going after a wider range of people to target."

Medrano pointed to the poor economy—as well as the cost of advertising and the play's touchy subject—as the chief reason for Mexico's delay, explaining that shrinking pools of grant money mean GALA must rely more on box-office sales. "It’s not like, 'Oh all the sudden Gala lost grants.' The external world has changed, the funding world has changed. We still get money from [National Endowment for the Arts], but instead of getting from three different initiatives, now we might only get one because the rules are changing," she says.

In place of Mexico, GALA will produce three shows: Cinco Horas con Mario, Occupy GALA, and Pure Tango. Medrano expects Mario, in particular, to do well. Its star, Victoria Peña, tends to attract Spanish-speaking crowds; and she had sold-out two-show run at GALA in 2006. "We're betting on [Peña] now because it adds up to an easier sell," she says.

And, she added, it's unlikely anybody will lose work amid the changes—GALA may actually hire more technicians because of the new schedule's condensed turn-around time.

As for Mexico? Medrano couldn't say if it would return next season, but promised that it would hit GALA's stage sometime in the next two years.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Southeast Ken

    I wouldn't want to see any play about immigration or illegal aliens coming from Mexico and El Salvador. I am against illegal immigration and illegal aliens. I want to see a stop put to them continuing to cross our porous borders.

  • Tim

    It sounds like this theater is funded largely on grants. Why is that? It would seem if the theater was producing shows that people actually wanted to see, it wouldn't need grant money, but would be funded by ticket sales.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jonathan L. Fischer

    I'd say most theater companies in this town rely on grants, Tim. The challenge is creating enough of a cushion via other sources for when the grants don't quite shake out. GALA is hardly the only arts organization that's had to scale back its ambitions recently thanks to shrinking grant opportunities. See Arena Stage.

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