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Tomá​s and the Library Lady


By Chloe Rodriguez, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
November 28, 2016

On October 27th, 2016 the Latino/a Project put on a musical based off of the classic children’s book, Tomá​s and the Library Lady, by Pat Mora. The Latino/a Project is a theatre ensemble made up of undergraduate and MFA graduate students. It’s main purpose is to bring culturally diverse and responsive theatre to the community and to show Latinos/as in a different light than what the media tends to show. The play was held in the Culver Center, as all of their plays are, because their shows are directed towards the community and not just UCR. This year, it was the opening play, out of four, of the Rivera Conference, an annual event that celebrates his legacy.  The show displays how important the Rivera library is at UCR and in general.

The musical told the story of Tomá​s’ childhood as a migrant farmer and legitimate issues he faced in the educational system. As the story moves along, he learns from a German Library Lady, an immigrant herself, who understood what he was going through. Tomá​s Rivera was a scholar and an advocate for Chicano children having the best education they could have. He later became a professor and had Bestseller books such as the memoir, The Earth Did Not Devour Him. Later, he became the first Chicano Chancellor in the UC system. Rivera was also the founder of UC Mexus, an exchange student program for Mexican Students, but died before it could come into fruition.

The whole play was student driven; Melanie Queponds is a producing partner of the Latino/a Project and director of the play. Jose Cruz Gonzalez is the writer of the play as well as a professor at Cal State LA, who is known for children’s theatre and who writes a lot about the Latino experience. The play was made up of five actors, one of them was the female lead, Estefania Garcia, who played Tomá​s. “I casted a female actor because she embodied that spirit so beautifully” Queponds states, as she speaks of the actors. Along with Estefania Garcia was Edgar Guevara who played Florencio, Tomas’ dad. Sarah Garcia played as the Library lady, Bryan Sosa as Enrique, Tomá​s’ little brother, and Mercedes Floresislas, who is also a playwright, as Josefa, Tomá​s’ mom. The music director was Alberto Rosito, a music major. There were also two MFA ensemble members, both of whom are playwrights, Javier Hertado and Mercedes Floresislas, but this year Floresislas was an actor.

Over 160 people attended the play, all of whom were very receptive and understood the jokes that were being made. The audience was made up of the Rivera Conference, UCR, and the general public. In the audience was the CHASS Dean, Milagros Peñ​a who is one of the biggest supporters of the Latino/a Project. She makes sure they have rights to their plays and currently funds them, making sure they bring out the best theatre possible for the community. “She funded us for the Rivera Conference and ever since then it’s been more of like a partnership with the Dean’s office.” Queponds informs. Along with Milagros Peñ​a, Shannon Timmons, and Cindy Cardenas are the three main supporters for the Latino/a Project.

This coming Winter, the Latino/a Project will be collaborating with Model Minority, a theatre collective that specializes in the Asian American experience. They are currently working on a play called, “Water by the Spoonful”. 

Tomá​s and the Library Lady


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