Even for the worldly and cultured, there’s something special about coming home. For the California International Theatre Festival, that means returning to the city where it was born: Ventura.
For three evenings next week, the annual festival will present three quite different shows at the rebuilt and recently reopened Museum of Ventura County. Fans of gay coming-of-age stories, Eastern European folk culture, and intellectually stimulating physical comedy (that means you, Lit Moon patrons) should take note.
The festival began life in 2008 as the Rubicon International Theatre Festival. Under the auspices of that professional company, and the leadership of veteran actress Linda Purl, it presented a series of well-received performances at various locations around Ventura.
Then the recession hit, and the Rubicon, facing a huge budget deficit, severed ties with the operation. Determined to press on, Purl incorporated it into a stand-alone nonprofit organization. For the following two summers, the city of Calabasas hosted the renamed California International Theatre Festival.
At the end of last season, Purl stepped down as director (she remains involved as a participant) and was replaced by Joe Peracchio, who runs a similar festival in New Mexico. Under his leadership, the festival has expanded geographically: This year, shows are being produced in Ventura and in downtown Los Angeles, as well as in Calabasas.
“It was very clear to me when I took over that the festival needed a broader base of both audience and funders,” he said in an interview. “We decided to create the same model we have in Calabasas in other communities — including going back to Ventura. We have an audience there that wonders where we went!”
The Ventura portion of the festival will include the area premiere of ¡Gaytino!, Dan Guerrero’s one-man show about growing up gay and Latino. The son of legendary singer Lalo Guerrero will perform the critically acclaimed piece in Ventura at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, and again at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 15. Both shows take place in the Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Pavilion at the Museum of Ventura County.
“It’s about a young man who goes off to create art and find his voice, and a family that accepts him for doing that,” Peracchio said. “It takes us through the Chicano rights movement of the ’60s and the AIDS crisis of the ’80s. It’s a piece of American history. It’s a wonderful piece that brings people from many walks of life together. We all put people in boxes. I’m sure there are people who think, ‘There are gay Latinos?!’”
From Germany comes Scenario for a non-Existent, but Possible, Instrumental Actor, created by Boguslaw Schaeffer and performed by André Erlan. It will be performed at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 14, and repeated at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 15, at Smith Pavilion.
“The title is meant to make you say ‘What does that mean?’” Peracchio said. “It’s a physical comedy piece in which a man gives a fictitious lecture about the difficulties of making art — and then demonstrates what he means. He is frantically trying to make art in front of you, and failing miserably. Among other things, he attempts to build, and play, a stringed instrument. It’s a brilliant buffoon/clown piece. It’s in three languages — German, English, and French — but it doesn’t matter if you understand every word. American audiences just fall off their seats laughing.”
Ukrainian actress and singer Marjana Sadowska will give a concert on the Plaza at the Museum of Ventura County at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, and Wednesday, September 14. “She performs music she has resurrected on expeditions in the Balkans and the Middle East, and tribal cultures throughout Eastern Europe,” Peracchio said. “These are songs and stories that are not written down. She’s something of a musicologist, keeping alive these traditions that would otherwise die. I brought it into the festival because theater, as it’s defined around the world, is not always what we think of as theater in the U.S. A lot of these cultures do put on plays, but for others, communicating ideas occurs through song around a fire. That’s part of what we’re doing with this festival:demonstrating that ‘theater’ means different things.”
The California International Theatre Festival is September 13-15 at the Museum of Ventura County (100 E. Main St., Ventura). Tickets are $30 general, $25 for seniors, and $17 for students (for each show). For more info, call (888) 712-2483 or see citfestival.org.