‘Gazoline’ Explores the Dreams of Five Latino Youths

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

On March 25, New York’s renowned Hispanic theater company IATI Theater opened its spring 2017 season with the play “Gazoline,” by Spaniard Jordi Casanova. The piece was inspired by the serious street riots that took place in France in 2005 and 2006, involving the country’s large Muslim community.

Updated to 2017, this version of “Gazoline” takes place in New York, has a Latino accent, and could take place in any neighborhood or city in the country, whether Paterson, Compton, East LA or Miami.

“Gazoline” explores the complex world of the millennial generation, a group of youths seeking to demonstrate that they are much more than “selfies,” hanging out and video games. These young people are an up-and-coming voice: They long for change and are fighting for it.

Directed by Jorge B. Merced, from Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, the show is playing at IATI Theater (64 E 4th St, between Bowery and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan) until April 16. “Gazoline” is performed in Spanish with English subtitles.

Emerging local theater actors Frances Arroyo, Diego Chiri, Gilberto Díaz, Mateo Lamuño and Idalia Limón are in the cast.

“Gazoline” – which features a minimalist but effective set design – is a visual poem seeking to inspire reflection on New York’s current sociopolitical climate. Five Hispanic youths find themselves at a crossroads. From each of their corners, they watch a world in chaos and make a call for peace and justice for all. They do not resign themselves to the status quo. Rather, they are fed up with it.

There is an anti-immigrant context, filled with frustration and anger. Under this premise, the youths navigate the complex relationship between their parents’ immigrant past and the subtle way in which groups often manipulate these communities for political gain, in addition to the culture shock that brutally brings together teens of diverse ethnicities in schools and neighborhoods.

“There is nothing better than art to shed light and strengthen our civic duty in tough times. The relentless war declared on immigrants by the current U.S. government makes the reaction of artists even more indispensable to defy the oppressive environment that our immigrant communities are being forced to endure,” said Merced, from Carolina, Puerto Rico, who has a solid trajectory on local and international stages. His credits include “El apagón,” “El bolero fue mi ruina” and “Baile cangrejero.”

“In ‘Gazoline,’ the social, cultural and political circumstances separating the characters are also the engine that explores the power of violence or lack of it when a person is pushed to the limit,” added Casanova, a Catalan actor and the author of 30 plays including “Idiota,” “La ruina” and ” “La revolución.”

The origins of “Gazoline”

“Gazoline” was developed through Cimientos, IATI Theater’s study program that works with unpublished plays. The Cimientos 2015 community was founded in 2014 by 10 playwrights. An ensemble of writers, IATI’s literary director and the company’s artistic staff, along with the directors selected to oversee the staged readings, greenlighted the plays, including “Gazoline.” For five months, the artists met in groups to develop each script, and the process culminated in a public reading to gather audience opinions.

“Beyond the writing and development process, what attracted us the most was the political aspect of the play and its symbolism. It is based on real events that took place in Paris [in 2005 and 2006], when hundreds of cars were burned by groups of young people,” explained Winston Estévez, IATI’s associate artistic director. “The events were linked to immigrant communities, who were protesting the political moment. The symbol of the gasoline, the youths confronting the political storm, those are some of the elements we want to explore on stage and to connect them with the reality of North America in 2017.”


What: “Gazoline,” written by Jordi Casanova and directed by Jorge B. Merced
Where: IATI Theater, 64 E. 4th St. (between Bowery and 2nd Avenue), Manhattan
When: Until April 16. Thursdays through Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 3pm
Tickets: General admission $30; students and seniors $25
More information: (212) 505-6757 / www.iatitheater.org

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