Rose Hills Memorial Park celebrated the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec 4, by hosting an outdoor play performed by Rio Hondo College Theater students, followed by a celebration at Mission Hills.
The bilingual play, directed by Gabe Carrasco and executively directed by William Korf, titled “Juan Diego and the Beautiful Lady,” was short, but thorough; effectively conveying the story of Juan Diego’s meaningful encounter with the Virgin Mary by utilizing its outdoor setting and narration.
“Juan Diego and the Beautiful Lady” was based on the book “A story of Our Lady of Guadalupe Empress of the Americas,” written by C. Lourdes Walsh. “Juan Diego and the Beautiful Lady” follows the story of Diego, played by Jose Barajas, and his faith-testing journey with Our Lady, played by Vanessa Hernandez Madera.
Scenes that focused on Diego’s encounter with Our Lady utilized verticality and an unusual but bold and all-natural backdrop of Rose Hills’ aesthetic prominence. A total of three stages were used, one of Tepeyac Hill, another of the Bishop’s Palace, and the third being Diego’s home. This forced the audience to turn their attention to whichever stage was in use at the time. Narration, by Desire Alcantara, Jose Marroquin, and Oscar Vazquez, was present throughout the entire play in both Spanish and English, allowing audience members who only understood one language to be able to understand the play’s context.
The glare of the sun combined with the heat proved to be minor inconveniences in comparison to the magnificent hilltop setting of the play, which quite literally put the audience in Diego’s shoes, since he first encounters Our Lady at Tepeyac Hill; what is now Mexico City. Our Lady was placed atop of the Tepeyac stage, which towered over all of the other cast members in an obvious but effective effort to show her importance to the play, while at the same time holding accuracy to the story. Each time Our Lady spoke, Diego took a knee and looked up at her position atop of the hill, making each encounter with her meaningful and beautiful to watch. The all-natural skyline behind Our Lady helped implement a sense of realism as well; making it seem as if she were ascending from the heavens.
The play’s use of narration helped bring Walsh’s book to life, by going into detail in-between each scene; providing more context than any play recreation probably could. The narration flowed perfectly with the movements of the actors, but mainly with Diego, since most of the play revolved around his journey. Hiccuped line deliveries from Madera did prove awkward at times, but her recoveries and casting as Our Lady was perfect, so it was easy to look past it.
“Juan Diego and the Beautiful Lady” effectively payed homage the story of The Virgin Mary with solid performances and direction all around. The play’s setting helped pull the viewer into Diego’s journey; increasing its impact on the audience.
After the performance, audience members marched behind a painting of Our Lady to one of the chapels located atop Mission Hills, where people left a variety of flowers beside the painting to pay their respects to Our Lady.
CEO of ARAS inc.,Gabi Barbarena, who helped organize the celebration, explained why holding the celebration at Rose Hills was special. “Rose Hill’s was gifted a replica of the Tilma from the Basilica of Mexico City and they have it here, in addition to a stone from the original church that was built for her [Our Lady],” Barbarena said.
Antoinette Lou, Community Affairs Manager for Rose Hills, made it clear that the celebration was special to the community. “We want to take care of our community; This is home to them,” Lou said. “Not only [is] Rose Hill’s home to them because their loved ones are here, but the culture and the celebration is part of the heritage. That’s home to them also.”