UF screens ‘Theatre of Rice and Beans’ Jan. 13

When three pioneers of Latino theater come together for a meal of rice and beans, what do they discuss, debate, laugh and reminisce about?

That is exactly the premise of the upcoming documentary, “Theatre of Rice and Beans,” produced by University of Florida theater professors Tony Mata and Ralf Remshardt, which will have a special screening at the Constans Theatre Monday.

Mata and Remshardt provide insight into the world of Latino theater through candid discussion with René Buch, Miriam Colón and Max Ferrá, founders of New York City’s three most influential Latin playhouses.
“They’re the three most important Latino theaters in the country and a very important part of American theater history,” said Mata, commenting on the innovation of the film’s subjects.

For Mata, who personally worked with these pioneers, the film is not only an opportunity to pay homage to those who inspired his career, but also immortalize the work of groundbreaking artists.

Seven years ago, Remshardt approached Mata with the observation that the lack of information on these three theaters and their operators was truly a shame.

The duo then set out to capture and tell the history of the theaters while the founders were still around.
“I said ‘Let’s center them around a dinner table, cook some rice and beans, some Latin food, and we’ll have them over to a friend’s apartment in New York City,’ ” Mata said.

The documentary tells the story of the American theater and communicates with new generations of theater artists — discussing financial struggles, artistic breakthroughs, stereotyping and the future of Latino theater. In addition to the conversation with Buch, Colón and Ferrá, the film features commentary by playwrights María Irene Fornés and Nilo Cruz, Broadway directors Hal Prince and Graciela Daniele and Broadway actors Chita Rivera and Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others.

According to Remshardt, the production of this documentary was a learning process full of persistence and some luck.

Kelsey Stine