‘Evensong’ focuses in on city's working homeless population
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Nov 08, 2016 | 7375 views | 0 0 comments | 439 439 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Playwright Christina Quintana and director David Mendizábal premiered ‘Evensong’ last week at the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC).

The show follows Teofilo “Teo” Aguilar, a young Mexican-American gay man and Texan transplant who has become part of New York City’s working homeless population. ‘Evensong’ is a story of solitude and survival as Teo struggles amidst the shelter system while also dating and searching for stability.

Originally a ten-minute play, Quintana wanted to expand the production to explore the lives and feelings of people who are often voiceless.

APAC Artistic Director, Dev Bondarin, read the script twice and realized that the story stayed with her.

“There’s something about the play that is so intrinsically personal to the main character of the show and yet, there is so much to feel globally,” Bondarin said. “The majority of people who have seen this are probably not going through the very same thing, but [Quintana] puts the story up against global resonance which allows the audience in.”

The subject of homelessness was something that Quintana wanted to write about for some time but since her experience and understanding on the subject was limited, she felt it necessary to conduct experiential research. In 2013, Quintana started volunteering at the Friends Shelter in Downtown, Manhattan. The time spent there changed her life in more than one way.

Prior to volunteering, Quintana admitted that she, like many, wasn’t completely aware of the working homeless population in the city. Her eyes were opened through the experiences and interactions made at the Friends Shelter.

“There are people who are working their asses off that are getting up at 5 a.m. to hop on a train and go to work on a construction site,” Quintana said. “Or, another woman that I met, was a tour guide in the city for the past 30 years.”

“When we think about homelessness, we think of the guy with a can on the side of the road or in the subway station,” Quintana added. “It’s important to see both sides of this world.”

The show features a variety of homeless characters, from Tragedy, a panhandler who is a symbol of what most people think of when thinking about the homeless, to the show’s lead, Teo, who works as a bank teller.

The production’s casting director, Robin Carus, walked outside after initially reading the script and told Quintana that she began looking at everyone differently.Quintana wanted to convey that there is a feeling of invisibility amongst this group of the working homeless, and if you saw Teo in the street, you wouldn't be able to tell that he was homeless.

Today, 44 percent of the homeless population are working, according to the the National Coalition for the Homeless.

The show puts out the idea that even if you are not homeless, it really isn’t a foreign concept, Bondarin said. Bondarin added that homelessness can be the next move you make, totally unexpected.

Homelessness is Quintana’s biggest fear, especially because of her family’s history, her displacement from her native Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, and the reality of living paycheck to paycheck. To quote the character Bob in ‘Evensong,’ “I could lose it all in a second,” Quintana said.

After ‘Evensong’ premiered, Quintana felt like the entire show “locked in” with actors really living in the scenes.

“You’re living with the script for such a long time and suddenly you’re throwing in all of the technical elements,” Quintana said. “Especially with a show like mine, where there are a lot of different locales, there are all of these things to remember in terms of movement.”

The essence of the play is to bring to light isolation, community, mysterious ways the city works and how you can feel alone but still be connected to so many people.

“The piece puts this in a subtle way, but you walk away going ‘oh, I really show be more aware,’” Bondarin said. “It breaks down a barrier of ‘us and them.’”

‘Evensong’ will run until November 19th. For tickets and the schedule, visit www.apacny.org.

Photo credit: Michael Dekker

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