Since 2002, the Latino Theater Company has offered a free holiday gift to the community: its annual production of the pageant "La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin" at Our Lady of the Angels cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. More than 7,000 people attended last year's production of the show, which celebrates the Mexican Roman Catholic story of how the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, in 1531, in what was then colonial Spanish territory.
But this year a financial shortfall may require the company to break its tradition and cancel the production at the cathedral, José Luis Valenzuela, the company's artistic director and a UCLA theater professor, told Culture Monster this week. Despite vigorous fundraising efforts, Valenzuela said, the current economic downturn has made it difficult for the company to raise the necessary $50,000 to produce the free show Dec. 8 and 9 at the cathedral.
"I've been on the phone calling my friends saying, 'This is the time to help,' " Valenzuela said. "But I don't have 1,000 friends to give $50 each."
About 130 actors, dancers and musicians take part in the musical pageant. A handful are professionals, including Suzanna Guzman, an East L.A. native and internationally renowned mezzo-soprano, who performs the role of the Virgin, and Sal Lopez, a film and TV actor ("ER"), who plays Juan Diego. But the vast majority of performers are community volunteers, many of them Latinos, including some recent immigrants to the United States.