GALA begins its second act in a beautifully restored, state-of-the-art theater it can finally call home. But while having a permanent home relieves enormous pressure, it also creates a whole new set of challenges. GALA had much work ahead on both the business and artistic sides of the house.
After a fundraising campaign that raised more than $4 million, thanks to support from a wide range of government and private sector partners and individual contributors, there was still more to be raised for a second renovation phase that included the historic dome restoration and office build-out.
Creating a National Center for Latino Performing Arts was a huge undertaking, but one that had long been the objective of founders Hugo and Rebecca Medrano because, as Hugo says, “It is time for the nation’s largest minority to have a theater that honors and celebrates our rich dramatic tradition.”
With its expanded facility, GALA diversified its programs to include film, concerts, dance, presentation by other arts groups, and provided opportunities for outstanding Hispanic artists from across the nation and abroad. They have attracted local, national, and international audiences and visitors as GALA attains an increasingly national profile.
GALA’s inaugural season at the Tivoli featured a mix of style and themes, with the classic Lorca play Yerma, the contemporary Poet in New York, and an English-language version of the comedy Real Women Have Curves, presented with Spanish surtitles.
Another improvement was eliminating the headphones used for translation. GALA switched to projecting surtitles, with the aim of enhancing accessibility and impact.
Hugo and Rebecca were excited about bringing GALA back to Columbia Heights and looked forward to working with the community. For long-time neighbors of the Tivoli, the presence of GALA has been a welcome return to a once dynamic cultural venue.
“I see our Act Two as a challenge with potentially dangerous waters,” Rebecca explains. “Sometimes you expand so much that you dilute your mission. I think that part of our success so far is that we have never lost sight of our mission – to preserve and promote Latino culture through the performing arts – and we must stick to that and not get distracted. The question is, as that population changes, what do they want to see?”
Hugo assures that the answer to that question is “working specifically on our programming to meet the needs of the community as it changes, as well as our traditional audience. This requires careful selection of plays and groups to make it successful.”
And so they have done all along from that time on. As of 2016, GALA is entering its fifth decade and has produced nearly 220 plays in Spanish and English and provided a diverse program of theater (from classical to contemporary), poetry, music, and dance to a wide audience. GALA has cultivated relationships with actors in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, and a number of other Latin American countries while providing a cultural focal point for the growing Hispanic community in Washington, DC.
Hugo, Rebecca, and the rest of the GALA’s family remain deeply committed to their core audience. And if history holds true, their audience – that followed them to many locations throughout the city for the first three decades and has attended the theatre at Tivoli since 2005 – will remain loyal to GALA for the years to come as well.
3333 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
Tickets online: GALA Ticket Box
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