The Loop Players bring life to 'Santos & Santos'
By Antonio Garcia
Audience members begin to slowly file into their seats as the spotlights begin to dim. The spotlight then shines solely on a bald, bearded, middle-aged Hispanic man sanding a long wooden table in silence. Next to him, emerges a young man, and utters two words in Spanish.
“Mi Padre,” he says.
“Santos and Santos”, written by Ocatvio Solis, and directed by Harold Washington College’s assistant theatre professor Rachel Sledd Iannantuoni, is the latest in a long line of plays produced by HWC’s theatre company, The Loop Players.
“I am a theatre person and have been involved in theatre for many years, and so has Rachel”, said Kathryn Nash, an HWC English professor and Artistic Director of the Loop Players since 2010.
The Loop Players, whose name stems from HWC’s former name “The Loop College”, have been around for 40 years and were founded by Sydney Daniels, Professor Emeritus of Speech and Theatre at HWC, according to Nash.
Iannantuoni, who will be taking over for Nash next year as Artistic Director, is no stranger to the Loop Players latest production.
“For me it’s the theatricality of the piece, it’s very ‘take no prisoners’ in my mind as far as using what I think makes theatre compelling as opposed to other art forms,” said Iannantuoni, who starred as the character of Felecia Lee Tomlinson in a production of “Santos and Santos” when she was in college. “I just really fell in love with the play at that time.”
“Santos and Santos” tells the story of Tomas Santos and the rise and fall of the Santos family through the compelling use of multiple scenes, flashbacks, and the breaking of the fourth wall, according to Iannantuoni.
What spoke to her the most about “Santos and Santos” was the theme.
“For me the themes of the play, what it means to be an American and what it cost to be an American, are really compelling,” she said.
For others, like Daviel Bavilon, first-time member of the Loop Players who portrayed U.S. Attorney Gonzales, it was the notion of family.
“I think it’s very universal, and it’s about family, and about things that you have to do to move up in life, even when they are not legal,” said Bavilon.
Unlike most schools, The Loop Players have been producing shows without the luxury of a set stage, which the director and her team use as an opportunity to show just how creative they are.
“There is an incredible amount of time, work, thought, energy, planning, creativity, and ingenuity, that goes into transforming a conference room into a theatre space every time we do a play at Harold because we do not have the luxury of having a theatre like some of our other sister colleges,” said Iannantuoni.
The Loop players and stage manager are able to position the stage, lighting, sound, and even audience, exactly where they want, so that everything is perfectly in sync with their vision of the play, according to Iannantuoni.
Although The Loop Players include some of HWC’s very best students, they also house some of Chicago’s best local talent.
The 2016 – 2017 rendition of the Loop Players included two City College students, and 11 professional actors whose credits consist of television, movie, and local theatre appearances, according to the “Santos and Santos” program.
“That’s something that the Loop Players has been doing for 40 years, and the great thing about that is students are working with professionals who bring work ethic that is inspiring,” said Iannantuoni. “We really see the Loop Players as a professional training ground and it’s not just a ‘little school play’, this is a professional level production that our students are able to participate in.”
As premiere night comes to an end, the entire cast comes to the forefront of the stage to conclude their first performance of the season, and together take a bow in unison.
“There is certainly an extra excitement and energy when you say it’s opening night that naturally infects the cast and the audience with a kind of enthusiasm,” she said. “Theatre, I think, is a celebration of life and what it means to be human, and opening night is the pinnacle of that celebration.”