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October 27th, 2011 by Terry Miller

A Boy, A Barrio, A Dream…
Performed by René Rivera, Written by Stacey Martino, Directed by Sal Romeo

North Hollywood, CA – CoActive Content, Stacey Martino, Founder/Artistic Director, and American Latino Theatre Company, David Llauger-Meiselman, Artistic Director, will present a new co-production of the critically acclaimed play, “The King of the Desert,” written by Stacey Martino, performed by René Rivera, and helmed by award-winning director, Sal Romeo, all Lifetime Members of The Actors Studio. The co-production will be presented in the El Portal Forum Theatre; 5269 Lankershim Boulevard (at Weddington Street), North Hollywood, CA 91601 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., October 28 – December 4, 2011. Opening Night is Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. There will be no performances on Friday and Saturday, November 11th and 12th at 8:00 p.m., or on Sunday, November 13th at 3:00 p.m. Instead, that week there will be performances on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, November 8, 9 and 10, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. After that, the performance schedule of Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. will resume for the rest of the run.

“The King of the Desert” is a play depicting a Mexican American boy’s journey of self-discovery through adulthood and the realization of his dreams. This co-production is made possible in part through the generosity of The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol and Pacifica Radio KPFK 90.7 FM. A portion of the proceeds from performances throughout the run of the show will benefit the National Latino Children’s Institute, The Oscar De La Hoya Foundation and The Youth Policy Institute. A Talk Back Question and Answer Session with members of the play’s cast and crew will be held at the conclusion of each Sunday matinee performance.

Concurrently throughout the run of the play an art exhibition celebrating Mexican American culture by artist Maja will be on display in the lobby of the Forum Theatre at the El Portal Theatre, along with Milagros (artwork created by young Spanish children representing their dreams and aspirations).

Originally produced at the El Centro Theatre in Hollywood, CA in 2010 under the direction of Valentino Ferreira, “The King of the Desert” has been hailed by BroadwayWorld.com as “astounding, electric, passionate and luminous.” Hoy, Los Angles wrote, “an inspiring and intense story with one extraordinary actor, and many, many souls.” The Los Feliz Ledger raved René Rivera’s performance is “a tour de force,” while Campus Circle mentioned “the audience is left totally spellbound,” and Latin Heat Magazine commented the production “has legs” and is “New York bound.”

This new co-production of “The King of the Desert” at the historic El Portal Theatre will be restaged by multiple award-winning director, Sal Romeo, on a three-quarter thrust stage on a completely new set, with a new lighting plot designed by multiple award-winning lighting designer, Jeremy Pivnick, with veteran video artist Mat Hale augmenting the visual elements of the production with the latest technology in the field.

Co-Producer and Playwright Stacey Martino describes “The King of the Desert” as one boy’s search to find out who he really is in an environment that does not encourage self-expression. His journey begins in a small Texas barrio and eventually leads to The Julliard School and appearances on Broadway. “My play is an ‘against all odds’ look at how cultural history and personal mythology which some may think might limit us, can actually set us free instead. The play takes us on a Mexican American journey that explores a universal struggle to become our most authentic selves.”

Co-Producer David Llauger-Meiselman said: “During the course of the run of this production, local students from East Los Angeles schools, including Locke Charter High School #2, Amino Ralph Bunche Charter High School and Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter, will be bussed in to see the production. These performances will be followed by informal discussions with actor René Rivera and the students, who will have an opportunity to learn how René changed his life’s path from his early beginnings growing up in a barrio to where he is in life today.”

Tickets are $20.00 each for General Admission. Tickets for Students, Seniors, Veterans and Guild Members are $15 each. Tickets for Groups of eight or more are $10 each. The running time of the play is approximately 80 minutes without intermission. For reservations and further information please call the Box Office at 866-811-4111 or 818-508-4200, or buy online at www.elportaltheatre.com. For Groups of eight or more, please call 323-315-0015. Parking is available in parking lots surrounding the theatre and on the street. For further information about the co-production, please visit the website, www.thekingofthedesert.com. To view some performance footage from the play, please visit http://www.youtube.com/user/CoActiveContent#p/u/2/z0wTLmFlYPw.

The Production Team includes: Stacey Martino, Playwright and Co-Producer, “The King of the Desert” and Founder/Artistic Director, CoActive Content; David Llauger-Meiselman, Co-Producer, “The King of the Desert” and Artistic Director, American Latino Theatre Company; Heather Mendoza, Associate Producer and Costumer Designer; Sal Romeo, Director; Toree Elston-Moore, Assistant Director; Danuta Tomzynski, Set Designer; Michael Brainard, Set Builder; Jeremy Pivnick, Lighting Designer; Jade Puga and Richard Montes, Sound Designers; Mat Hale, Video Designer; Maurie Gonzalez, Production Stage Manager; Ben Rotast, Assistant Stage Manager; Astrid Chevallier, Poster Designer; Erik J. Goodrich, Website Designer; Jack Reynolds, Web SEO and Enhancer; Ed Krieger, Production Photographer; Helen Ardon, Production Intern; Adriana Millan, Director of Development and Steve Moyer Public Relations, Press Representative.

About The Creation of the Play by Stacey Martino:
“‘The King of the Desert’ grew out of my hunger to understand my husband’s life and to learn about my daughter’s Mexican American heritage. It was my own journey into the past in order to bring our family closer and alchemize the more difficult aspects of life. It grew into a wish to empower other people with similar stories across diverse communities. It is a story that weaves together my version of my husband’s mythology, stories his family shared with me, and a rich cultural lineage that deserves to be explored at this time in America. Storytelling is one of the oldest rituals; it has a way of healing the past and crystallizing the present moment for both the storyteller and the audience. It is my greatest hope that this play not only provides insights into a unique culture but reminds us how much we have in common as human beings.”

About CoActive Content:
Led by Founder/Artistic Director, Stacey Martino, CoActive Content creates, produces and distributes a broad spectrum of media content focused on entertaining, educating and activating communities. The CoActive Content team is comprised of professional artists and grassroots activists. Presently CoActive Content members are in post-production with Smalltown Productions on a documentary, “Change Is Gonna Come,” www.ChangeIsGonnacome.com , under the direction of Director’s Guild of America and Emmy Award-nominated director, Tasha Oldham. “Change Is Gonna Come” focuses on the cross country journey of 27 strangers united by a belief in Nonviolent Conflict Resolution.

CoActive Content’s next project is “Footlz,” a series of children’s books teaching discipline through empathy rather than a system of punishment and rewards, as well as a remounting of Martino’s critically acclaimed play, “A Slow Craw Home,” a true story exploring homelessness. The group is committed to activating communities through art by impelling audiences to take action in their lives personally, locally and globally. CoActive Content believes in nurturing the reciprocal effects artists and audiences have on one another and the symbiotic relationship that develops between them. “The King of the Desert” is CoActive Content’s first theatrical production.

About American Latino Theatre Company:
The American Latino Theatre (AmLT) Company was formed in 2008 by Felipe Alejandro, David Llauger-Meiselman and Lawrence S. Smilgys. Having over 50 years of combined theatrical experience between them, the AmLT is known for their innovative and unflinching approach to theatre. Previously working under the auspices of Nosotros and the Ricardo Montálban Repertory Theatre Company respectively, the founders built a track record of success which included: “Transformations,” “Love, Lies and Revolution” and “Virgin Love.” All three productions received praise for their sophisticated commentary on social life, ethnic identity, and humor.

Through its Community Outreach Program, the AmLT provides free – no-cost productions to schools in the Los Angeles area. This program exposes inner-city children to the performing arts as well as providing an opportunity for their involvement in the theatre through classes, workshops and performance. Past children’s theatre performances include “Twisted Fairytales,” a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Peter Pan.” Past AmLT productions include the premiere of Katrina Elias’ full-length “Red Colombian Sky” (2008), a staged reading of Piri Thomas’ prison memoir “Seven Long Times” (2008), and Arthur Meiselman’s groundbreaking AIDS piece, “Hello And…Goodbye!” (2010). The AmLT continues to present thought provoking and cutting edge theatre that reflect the American Latino experience.

About The Actor, The Writer, The Producers and The Director:
René Rivera (Performer) (of Los Feliz), a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio, has performed extensively as an actor on both the East and the West Coasts. He has appeared on Broadway at Circle in the Square in “Salome” starring and directed by Al Pacino, a production in which Rivera played the role of the Page of Herodius, with Al Pacino playing the role of King Herod.

Rivera’s Off-Broadway credits include: “Richard II” directed by Steven Berkoff at The Public Theater; “In The Jungle of Cities” directed by Anne Bogart at The Public Theater; “Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2” directed by JoAnne Akalaitas at The Public Theater; “Hamlet” directed by Kevin Kline at The Public Theater in New York, Huntington Theatre in Boston and on PBS; “The Way of the World” directed by David Greenspan at The Public Theater; “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth” and “As You Like It,” all directed by Estelle Parsons at The Belasco Theatre.

Regional theatre credits include appearing in productions of “Boleros for the Disenchanted” at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago; “The House of Blue Leaves” at The Coconut Grove Theatre; “Don Juan” at Baltimore’s Center Stage directed by Irene Lewis; “Hamlet” at the Boston’s Huntington Theatre; “Salome” at The Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles; “True West” at Portland’s Center Stage; “Twelfth Night” at San Antonio’s Sunken Gardens Theater; “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” at Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles directed by Rick Sparks and “The Merchant of Venice” in Chicago, London, Hamburg and Paris, under the direction of Peter Sellars.

Rivera’s film credits include: “Disturbia;” “Before Night Falls;” “Bordertown;” “Oranges;” “Break A Leg;” “Lords of Dogtown;” “The Salton Sea;” “Me and Him;” “Light Sleeper;” “Carlito’s Way” and “It Could Happen To You,” among others. He is currently filming a new movie entitled “Smash” directed by James Ponsoldt, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul and Octavia Spencer. Rivera also appears in the film, “Wilde Salome,” starring, directed and written by Al Pacino, which recently opened at the Venice Film Festival.

Television credits include appearances on: “Prison Break” (FOX); “Shark” (CBS); “NYPD Blue” (ABC); “Thieves” (ABC); “Law and Order” (NBC); “The X-Files” (FOX); “E-Ring” (NBC); “Profiler” (NBC); “ER” (NBC); “Nash Bridges” (CBS); “Brooklyn South” (CBS); “The Out of Towners” (NBC); “Miami Vice” (the final episode – NBC); “The Old Man and The Sea” (NBC); “Hamlet” (PBS); and “Monsignor Martinez” (Pilot for FOX), among others.

Rivera has studied acting with Kevin Kline, John Stix, Eve Sharpino, Marian Seldes, Michael Langham, Ronald Ibbs and Maureen Halligan at The Julliard School from 1982 – 1986, where he was a Theatre Major awarded a full scholarship. Rivera is married to playwright Stacey Martino. They have a four-year-old daughter, Ava Fransisca Rivera, and a newborn daughter, Luna Gaela Rivera.

Stacey Martino (Playwright and Co-Producer, “The King of the Desert” and Founder/Artistic Director, CoActive Content) has merged her passions for art and activism by writing, performing and producing plays, films and events focused on creating a world that works for everyone. She is a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio. As a writer, Martino has just completed her first book, in a series of children’s books entitled, “Footlz,” which teaches children discipline through empathy and compassion rather than a system of rewards and punishment.

Other projects include: “If Not Me,” a collection of poems about America and “Damage Assessment,” a short story about her experience with The Red Cross during the 2005 hurricane season and a solo play entitled “Refuge,” about the effect genocide has on everyday people and those who stand up in the face of such atrocities; inspired by the people of Darfur and the dedicated team of volunteers she works with at www.StopGenociedNow.org.

Martino has taught acting privately for the past 12 years in Los Angeles. She has taught directing workshops in Los Angeles, CA for Propaganda Films and in Austin, TX for actors, teachers and directors, in addition to teaching acting workshops from 1998 – 2005 with noted educator and director Sal Romeo. She has also taught in Germany at the prestigious Neuschwanstein Theater in Münich conducting workshops for the cast of the long-running hit play, “Ludwig.” She currently teaches an acting workshop in Los Angeles.

She has collaborated with director Valentino Ferreira several times. The first collaboration was with her critically acclaimed one-person show, “A Slow Crawl Home.” a true story exploring the subject of homelessness; the production will be remounted in 2012. The second was a tour of her play, “The Gift of Peace,” which continues to be performed across the country. Locally the play was presented at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse in 2007 under the direction of John Rubinstein, featuring 27 high profile actors dedicated to nonviolence including Ed Asner, Amy Brenneman, Frances Fisher, Dan Lauria, Amy Smart, Wendi Malick, Esai Morales and James Pickens, among others. “The Gift of Peace” is now being made into a documentary film entitled, “Change Is Gonna Come,” www.ChangeIsGonnaCome.com, helmed by Emmy Award nominated and Director’s Guild of America Award winning director, Tasha Oldham.

David Llauger-Meiselman (Co-Producer, “The King of the Desert” and Artistic Director, American Latino Theatre) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He is the son of songstress, choreographer and educator, Milagros Llauger and renowned playwright and screenwriter, Arthur Meiselman. He has produced and directed numerous plays, poetry slams, television pilots, radio shows, documentaries, animated series and the feature-length motion pictures, including: “El Matadero,” “Paris Falls,” “The Saving of Jessie O,” “Urban Graffiti,” “Sunday Evening Haircut” and his latest film, “Strike One.”

Llauger-Meiselman is the principal owner and partner of Boricua Films, Inc. He was a member and co-founder, along with Felipe Alejandro, of the Ricardo Montálban Repertory Theatre Company, where they produced and directed respectively: “Love, Lies and Revolution,” “Transformations” and “Virgin Love.” Upon the success of these productions, Llauger-Meiselman and his partners went on to form their own theatre company, The American Latino Theatre Company.

Sal Romeo (Director) (of Los Feliz) is living proof that politics can lead to something good. This award-winning director, esteemed acting coach, and Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio started out an impassioned political science student in the early 60s. For Romeo, social activism soon merged with the art of theatre and by the time the 60s ended, acting and directing had completely taken over his life, for good.

He was hired to direct the West Coast premiere of “Viet Rock” in 1969. With an ensemble of 16 performers playing approximately 60 different roles, “Viet Rock” was an anti-war play that utilized the improvisational and confrontational techniques of experimental theatre. The stunning success of “Viet Rock” in Los Angeles, London, and at the World Drama Festival in Edinburgh Scotland landed Romeo his next directing gig, another socially relevant play about prejudice, “Futz,” the story of a farmer, Cyrus Futz, who falls in love with his pig. Casting a live pig in a starring role brought more critical acclaim and attention to Romeo’s work; it also brought harassment from the city of Hermosa Beach and defense from the ACLU.

The success of “Futz” resulted in Romeo getting his first theatre, The Century City Playhouse. In 1974, Romeo and partner, Tom Bradac, gathered a troupe of performers and traveled to a Pocono resort in Pennsylvania to do summer stock theatre. After directing his first musical, “The Fantasticks,” Romeo was addicted to the genre’s ability to move an audience. His work was such a hit that the three-month theatre season turned into seven months, and his one season contract turned into five years of work. In time, Romeo would go on to direct over 25 musicals and cabaret shows on the 500-acre Woolworth estate.

Ready for a new challenge, Romeo returned to Los Angeles and was invited to teach at several colleges in Southern California. He was granted a professional teaching credential and spoke or taught at several colleges including UCLA and Chapman University for seven years. On the side, he gathered students in his living room and coached them in workshop format for $2/class.

Interest in Romeo’s classes grew rapidly and before long he was charging double so he could rent a space to teach classes several night/week. In 1979, the same year he met the love of his life, Laurie Wendorf, he was asked to direct “The Taming of the Shrew” for the Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove and won his first Critic’s Award in Los Angeles.

Romeo went on to direct dozens more shows, winning over 30 Critic’s Awards. By the late 1980s, the Stanislavski system became Romeo’s passion, as did teaching. In 1987 he introduced FATE, the Friends and Artists Theater Ensemble, on Vermont Avenue in a pre-trendy Los Feliz, CA.

Fascinated by the challenge of the one-person format, he also made time to direct a number of critically acclaimed one-person shows including Eliza Schneider’s “Freedom of Speech” (which won best one-person show at the New York City Fringe Festival and is still being performed after 16 years); Sarah Stanley’s “All About Eggs” (sold to HBO); E.G. Daly’s “Listen Closely;” and Grant Sullivan’s biographical work, “Shadow Boxing” (nominated for an Ovation Award for best one-person show). It was Romeo’s direction of “Shadow Boxing” that earned him an invitation to become a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio Directors Unit.

Currently Romeo can also be found coaching, teaching and directing students at his two theatres, The Sidewalk Studio Theater (Toluca Lake) and (North Hollywood). Romeo takes great pride in and has a deep love for his students, some of whom have gone on to win Academy, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy Awards, including Tamara Braun, Sarah Brightman, Gregory Norman Cruz, Avital Dicker, Ricky Martin, Kelly McGillis, Dustin Nguyen and Euginio Zanetti.


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