The late British actor Alan Rickman once said, “Unless we tell stories about ourselves, which is all that theater is, we’re in deep trouble.” Now, Rhode Island’s only Latino theater company, Teatro ECAS, has a permanent home where they are telling fascinating stories about their community and their heritage.
Located in a tidy storefront on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Parkis Avenue, Teatro ECAS was founded in 1997 by a group of educators who wanted to use the arts as an educational tool. Among those was Francis Parra, a teacher at the International Charter School in Pawtucket. Francis has served as the theater’s artistic executive director since those early days and has staged dozens of performances and workshops in high school and university auditoriums, libraries and even in Roger Williams Park.
“It’s great to see how people respond, especially in this intimate space,” Francis added. “We want to expand our audience by exploring bilingual shows and also offering English supertitles for our Spanish language shows in the future.”
Until recently, the theater rented office space at the Southside Cultural Center, not far from its current home. Last July, they entered into an agreement with One Neighborhood Builders, a local community development corporation, to lease this space.
The theater is a small—with a capacity of 50 seats—and intimate space. Yet Teatro ECAS has had great success staging several plays and hosting a monthly open mic night and a regular children’s afternoon variety show. Recently, Teatro ECAS received a RI State Council for the Arts grant to purchase much needed equipment for the venue.
Francis is excited about the theater’s future, and its potential for growth. “We used to perform about six weekends a season,” she said. “Now we are looking to fill 30 weeks of programming. There are many opportunities for growth.”
Recently, Teatro ECAS presented the play La Criolla, a folk comedy from the Dominican Republic written more than a century ago, with great success. All five performances were sold out, and many people were left asking for additional dates. The group is now working on a production of the play The Fox and the Grapes, based on one of Aesop’s Fables, which will be presented in June.
Even though they have been around for nearly twenty years, this new chapter for Teatro ECAS is a welcomed addition to a neighborhood on the rebound and a great option for anyone looking to explore Providence’s many cultural offerings.
Written by Francis Parra
To learn more about Teatro ECAS, visit their Facebook page.