KJ Sanchez wrote, performs, and co-directs (with Lisa Portes), PlayMakers Repertory Company’s PRC2 cureent production of Highway 47, a compelling story of a family feud that erupted in the 1960s, concerning property in Tomé, New Mexico (formerly New Spain, settled by the family in 1680, and granted to them in 1734 by the King of Spain). This version of the play, rewritten after her mother’s death — as she requested — has been thoroughly researched in both her family’s memories and also in news, court, and other legal document sources.
Sanchez’s late father instigated the bad blood among the by-then widespread family — Sanchez refers to Tomé as the Appalachia of the Southwest — and the import of her story is coming to grips with being the man’s daughter. It is a long, arduous journey for her; and her courage in baring her (and her family’s) soul from onstage is apparent throughout the performance. Sanchez’s acting style is gently magnetic, low-key attention-grabbing with occasional soft bursts of energetic emotionality. She is humorous and sober, and sings mariachi and dances Folklorico Ballet with fervor and style.
Her team consists of scenic designer Tommer Peterson, who created intricate parchment hangings, subtly inscribed with icons and language from legal documents, barely noticeable and yet arresting; sound, lighting, and production manager Zach Williamson, who provides precise, understated lighting from a variety of angles, and occasional emotion defining under-music that enhances KJ Sanchez’s sensitivities.
Media designer Alex Koch includes both introductory video and intermittant projections from old photographs and documents to give the audience a closer identification with her story. The team is rounded out by production stage manager Denise Cardarelli. (Sanchez made a note of mentioning them as a full team during an after-show dialogue with the audience.)
KJ Sanchez is also the founding CEO of American Records, “a theatre company devoted to making work that chronicles our time, work that serves as a bridge between people.” American Records has become well-known for its production ReEntry, “… An unflinching look at the lives of Marines getting ready for and returning from deployment,” which has been acclaimed for performances at many military bases from Camp Pendleton to Camp Lejeune and many bases overseas, as well as in theaters from California to New Hampshire.
Many audience participants in Wednesday night’s after-show talkback had not been aware of the history of New Spain and its evolvement into New Mexico, nor of the kinds of events that occurred during that transition. KJ Sanchez came across as a modest and personable woman, with a deep interest in the lives and experiences of her audience.
There are only three days left to catch this wonderful show.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 7th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7774; Jan. 7th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with KJ Sanchez, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/new-mexico-town-ripped-apart-along-highway-47#stream/0; Jan. 6th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Wood: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/highway-47/Event?oid=4802998; and Jan. 1st Chapel Hill, NC Chapelboro.com interview with KJ Sanchez, conducted by Aaron Keck: http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/highway-47-brings-family-drama-to-playmakers/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 6th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell and the Jan. 8th review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/in-prc2s-highway-47-kj-sanchez-turns-her-family-history-into-a-powerful-one-woman-show/ and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/in-highway-47-kj-sanchez-transforms-her-familys-story-into-capital-h-history-at-playmakers-rep/, respectively.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents HIGHWAY 47, written and performed by KJ Sanchez, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8 and 9 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: Tickets start at $15. For single-ticket discounts, click https://playmakersrep.org/box-office/single-tickets/.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-7529 or https://tickets.playmakersrep.org/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=9831.
GROUP RATES: 919-962-7529, email@example.com, or https://playmakersrep.org/box-office/groups-and-special-events/.
SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/show/highway-47/ and https://www.playmakersrep.org/kj-sanchez-brings-highway-47-to-prc%C2%B2/.
UNC NEWS RELEASE: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/12/15/playmakers-continues-prc2-series-with-kj-sanchez-in-highway-47/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE: After each performance, there will be a post-show discussion between the theater artists and selected subject-matter experts and the audience.
Highway 47 (2012 Chicago play): http://www.amrec.us/current-projects/2011/2/16/highway-47.html (American Records page).
KJ Sanchez (playwright and performer): http://www.amrec.us/about/ (American Records bio), http://www.playmakersrep.org/artists/kj-sanchez/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), and https://www.facebook.com/kj.sanchez.9 (Facebook page).
Lisa Portes (Chicago director): http://theatre.depaul.edu/about/faculty-and-staff/theatre-studies/Pages/lisa-portes.aspx (DePaul University faculty bio), http://www.playmakersrep.org/artists/lisa-portes/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.facebook.com/lisa.portes.3 (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/lportes67 (Twitter page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.