YULAN, NY — C. Julian Jiménez is a Queer, Puerto Rican and Dominican playwright. And Lou Moreno is an artistic director and producer at INTAR Theater which, for decades, has produced …
YULAN, NY — C. Julian Jiménez is a Queer, Puerto Rican and Dominican playwright. And Lou Moreno is an artistic director and producer at INTAR Theater which, for decades, has produced workshops and world premieres of plays by Latin playwrights and artists. Both Jiménez and Moreno are residents of Yulan, in the Town of Highland.
They are bringing the celebrated rock-opera “Oso Fabuloso”—a non-traditional rock’n’roll story with music and humor—to the Tusten Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 24, and at the Cochecton Pump House at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 25. The programs are part of the Pride celebrations in Sullivan County, and the hope is to expand the theater and arts community in the area.
RIVER REPORTER: So what is “Oso Fabuloso” about?
JIMÉNEZ: “Oso Fabuloso” is about how you create your own superhero, so you can exist in the face of queer trauma. It definitely has a direct relationship with “Hedwig;” it’s that style of singer-storyteller.
MORENO: But it’s not your typical show. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show with a story attached.
RIVER REPORTER: You were recently performing “Oso” at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, which is definitely the bigtime, and now we’re lucky to have you bring the show out here to the country. How do you think the audience is going to be different in Narrowsburg than in downtown Manhattan?
MORENO: I think it will resonate well here. It’s a universal story; it’s a love story. And the music is so good that it doesn’t matter who you are… it really runs the gamut from ‘60s rock’n’roll to pop to 1980s; there’s a little R&B and a little rap, everyone will find a way to tap into it.
RIVER REPORTER: I think it is oh-so fabulous to have a gay, Latino, wildly talented actor, singer, and award-winning playwright as my neighbor, not to mention his fabulous producer with his wife and family. I think it speaks well to the diversity in Sullivan County that many people may not always see. So… how did you guys meet?
JIMÉNEZ: (Laughs) We met when I was doing a reading of a play of mine at INTAR and Lou liked it and stopped me and said, “Why don’t I know who you are?” He took me to lunch and saved my life—a giant umbrella came flying down 52nd street in a wind gust and Lou got up and caught it with one hand. Then he said he would produce my first play.
MORENO: There is an old saying in theater—it is credited to August Wilson—if you really want to help a playwright, produce his first four plays… In this economy, that’s not really possible, but I think the long-term commitment to playwrights is incredibly valuable, and playwrights need to find homes for their work where they feel safe to create. And it’s been an incredible journey—we’ve done many projects together, as well as bringing Julian in to work with our young artists, and out of that we became best friends.
RIVER REPORTER: We have some lovely theaters locally – from the Forestburgh Playhouse, to the Tusten Theater where the play will be performed on June 24—where do you see the local theater and arts movement headed in our area? Are you planning to do more here?
MORENO: In the city, there are more theater-seekers and theater-watchers, so I’m interested in seeing how much theater is sustainable up here. I would guess opening another theater would be hard, but I’d like to see developmental work up here. I don’t mean experimental or avant-garde, but for instance, we brought “Oso” here to rehearse. And the DVAA was really awesome; they gave us the theater—with free heat! They were very encouraging, so I’m looking forward to other partnerships.
Tusten Theater is great for workshopping, but there are also some pretty cool yoga studios and barns, and I can see real summertime or retreat-style theaters where we bring artists up here to work and we give them access to actors and directors to work with, for a few weeks or a month. We talk to theater companies in New York and they are always looking for a place for artists so they can create and bring their work back.
RIVER REPORTER: There is a great history of artist retreats in the Catskills.
MORENO: I don’t know why Sullivan County hasn’t been able to tap into that lately. It happens more in the eastern Catskills, but here it just seems so right. We have so much talent up here. And it is more economically viable to come here than, say, the more established Berkshires, where it is cost-prohibitive.
RIVER REPORTER: There are Pride celebrations in almost every town nearby. Why do you think there is such a strong foothold of gay culture in this area?
JIMÉNEZ: It’s such a beautiful area, and queer people are magnets for beauty. And there is something about the geography here, and the space—you can be as out as you want, or you can be insular, not like in the city where you are bumping into everyone all the time.
RIVER REPORTER: What do you guys love—and not love—about living in Barryville?
MORENO: Julian nailed it—the beauty, the access to different kinds of outdoor life, river life. The winters, as brutal as they are, are incredible. Having skiing at your doorstep is incredible. There is access and opportunity for everyone—you don’t have to have a lot of money to go fishing. Taking a tube down the river doesn’t cost anything. I wish there were a pharmacy—I don’t like how much driving I do these days. The three a.m. hangover hamburger isn’t here; that can be a bummer.
RIVER REPORTER: Julian, you are also an educator, and teach at Queensborough College. What do you tell kids who want to make a career in musical theater?
JIMÉNEZ: I tell them to go for it! If they love it, go for it. Our background singers are my former students! I teach theater, and there is an old saying that theater actors are the “acrobats of the theater.” But an appreciation for the arts can go in so many directions. I think it teaches empathy and compassion and love, and I think a lot of that is missing these days.
Purchase tickets for the Tusten Theatre show at delawarevalleyartsalliance.org/event, and for the Cochecton Pump House show at https://myrivertickets.com/events/oso-fabuloso-the-bear-backs-6-25-2022/tickets.
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