By Rebekah Weaver
UVU’s Tamales and Roses in Orem, UT is a sweet, sincere little play. While my husband and I enjoyed it, the target audience (kids ages 5-8) are sure to love this energetic and interactive performance in the Noorda Blackbox Theatre on UVU’s campus.
Tamales and Roses is an original 30-minute play commissioned by UVU’s Theatre for Youth and Education Center. The play is by Joanna Kraus, and it’s an adaption of a children’s book she had already written. This is the play’s premiere, and after the last two performances at UVU, the cast will perform at local elementary schools until the end of the semester.
The story centers on a young girl named Ana Luisa (Kiana Zimmerman), whose sister Sylvia (Abby Watts) is getting married to Eduardo (Logan Johnson). Ana Luisa is the flower girl and needs to help out with the preparations, but she keeps getting distracted — and when the big day comes, she has to deal with stage fright from all the people watching her walk down the aisle. As she makes mistakes, she learns that her mistakes do not define her relationships with her family members and that she can still move forward after messing up.
Tamales and Roses is set in Mexico, and the dialogue contains a fair amount of lines in Spanish. The grandmother, or Abuelita (Carey Ventura), speaks entirely in Spanish. However, if you and your children don’t know any Spanish at all, you’ll still be fine — the dialogue in English surrounding the Spanish lines will give you more than enough context. While I understood the majority of the Spanish dialogue, my husband didn’t understand any of it but still knew exactly what was going on.
Since Tamales and Roses is aimed at young children, the play is performed in the round, and the cast members invite the kids in the audience to sit on the floor at the edges of the stage. The cast frequently interacts with the audience, such as asking them to hold props or inviting them to dance while the narrator (Coco Galli) plays the guitar. The narrator also invites audience participation during the play, such as asking the audience to point and yell, “¡Mira!” (“Look!”) at certain points. The children I saw when I attended seemed very enthusiastic about participating, and I expect that the play will be a big hit when they tour the elementary schools.
The cast members thoroughly enjoy themselves onstage. Zimmerman’s Ana Luisa is bursting with questions and enthusiasm, and Mama (Melissa Bonilla) and Watts’ Sylvia seem realistically flustered about pulling off a big wedding celebration. I particularly enjoyed Jacob Thomason’s performance as Papa and the kindness that Johnson and Ventura radiate in their respective roles.
I was lucky enough to hear from the playwright and the director (Teresa Dayley Love) after the performance, and I’m told they’ll be speaking again after the performance Saturday evening. Kraus told us that she based the play on what happened during her son’s wedding when the four-year-old flower girl got stage fright and absolutely refused to walk down the aisle. Afterward, Kraus had to try to convince her that she didn’t ruin the wedding and that her family still loved her. The experience meant enough to Kraus that she wrote a book about it specifically to let children know that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Tamales and Roses is an earnest short play with a worthwhile message, and it’s really fun for the kids in the audience. If your kids are lucky enough to have this group come to their school, they’ll tell you all about it — but you can still come to UVU to see it yourself.
UVU presents Tamales and Roses by Joanna Kraus
Noorda Blackbox Theatre, Gunther Trades Building, Utah Valley University Orem, UT 84057
March 17, 2018 2:00 PM (sensory-friendly performance) and 6:30 PM
UVU School of the Arts Facebook Page
Tamales and Roses Facebook Event Page