San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

School of Theatre Television and Film presents ‘The Weight of Dreams’

The 90-minute musical explores themes of “machista” culture, spirituality and the plight of immigrants
Photo by Amina Idoui
Chencha Luna, played by Camelina Cedillo, alongside her grandma as she decides not to marry Mateo and forge a better path for herself.

San Diego State’s School of Theatre, Television and Film department showcased “The Weight of Dreams,” written by Velina Hasu Houston, an internationally renowned playwright. From March 17-24 at the Don Prebys Theatre, the musical took viewers on a theatrical journey, illustrating the power of dreams and the challenges undergone to achieve them. 

Real stories from real people in the SDSU community were taken and infused with theatrical, spiritual elements. The musical follows Chencha Luna (Camelina Cedillo), a junior theater arts major, as she grows up in a rural area of Mexico with her spiritual abuela. 

Luna rejects the traditional practices of her ancestors off the jump. She later connects with those practices as they guide her through a treacherous, migratory journey to America. But she’s not alone. Luna is accompanied by domestic violence victim Pilar Vega (Julia Lloren) and Kristoph Guzman (Jaiden Sanmarti), an LGBTQ+ character from Guatemala who is also abused by his father.

Valerie Sanchez, a first-year theater performance major and understudy for the show, related to certain aspects of the musical, identifying as Mexican American.

“It feels very real,” Sanchez said. “There are certain things I can relate to. Some aspects were close to home, but I think it depends on the person.”

The performers alternated between song and spoken word, conveying feelings of love, betrayal and hope. 

Spanish was seamlessly interwoven with English. The lighting and music heightened the drama and connected viewers with the expansive range of emotions. 

The characters also did well once they settled in and got comfortable on stage. Audience members as well found themselves at the edge of their seat, laughing at moments of comic relief and sharing the sadness and despair. The lighting and music enhanced the varied emotions and provided a cohesive element to the storylines.

“The tech really stood out to me. I loved the lights, the oranges and pinks and the butterfly that comes up when abuela passes away,” Sanchez said. “It helps sell the point that abuela is not dying, she is passing on to another life.” 

Throughout the musical, audiences are enveloped in a deep feeling of loss and hopelessness. That feeling is invoked repeatedly as the three companions – Chencha, Pilar and Kristoph – reveal more of their backstories. They have each lost loved ones, or were betrayed and hurt by those closest to them. 

The group of immigrants are well aware of the reality of the journey that awaits them. They understand the prevalent racism and discrimination against immigrants from the South, yet they still choose to embark on this journey. This is a narrative shift from previous generations who believed in the American dream due to false characterizations.

Elements of Latinx culture were highlighted with traditional practices, language, food and dress. 

Throughout the musical, a tree is displayed — one Luna loved to play with, something her love interest Mateo adored, but also ridiculed her for. The tree remains steadfast and unwavering throughout her journey. She eventually returns to the tree to see its importance and connection with all her ancestors and her predecessors.

The musical clearly nods to the “Dreamers” and the harsh conditions they face, yet their unwavering resilience and bravery does not end. The actors were clearly passionate in their portrayal and support.

“No white fence. No equal pay,” the three companions sang. 

The characters love their home and where they are from. It is evident they do not want to leave.

The musical speaks to the deep, rich history of the natives, “long before the Spanish,” nodding to the history of Spanish colonization. The musical delves into “machista” culture, exemplified by Mateo (Kaleo Astorga.)

Astorga, a junior psychology major, found his mainstage debut with this performance. 

“The machista wants second class citizens to stay under their rule. Machista is not region specific. It is a way of saying ‘toxic male dominance,’” Astorga said. “(Machistas) think there are other people below them. (Machista culture) is very prevalent everywhere.”

The moment Luna lost her grandmother felt raw and real. The pain the abused wife felt, Mateos’ warped sense of love for Luna and the grandmother’s relentless love were deeply illustrated. Their depth shone in their song and portrayal.

It is difficult to command a stage presence with two or three characters on stage. The characters had strong voices and interacted dynamically throughout the entirety of the show.

Rin Sato, a sophomore theater major, enjoyed the show but felt some of the characters fell short of her expectations.

“Not them using the queer character as comic relief,” Sato said. “I joke when I say that because it’s not a flat out bad representation. It just lacks the depth that I look for.”

Sato spoke of Kristoph, a Guatemalan LGBTQ+ character that felt artificially placed. The bricks thrown at him alluded to the trapped feeling he had in his situation, likely a metaphor for the obstacle that his sexuality brings and lack of opportunities. However, Christoph’s placement lacked a cohesive feeling with the rest of the plot and seemed lazily inserted. 

Beyond that, Christoph served the purpose of breaking stereotypes pertaining to his multiple intersectionalities: being an LGBTQ+ immigrant from Guatemala. 

The show ends with Luna seeing a predecessor, and connecting with her ancestry and her blood. The ending was an unnecessary attempt to tie up loose ends to show that Luna did in fact make it and her story was told fo

It missed the mark as the grandmother had just asked the audience what they thought happened, seemingly leaving the question as a rhetorical one. The idea of ancestral bonds and connection was well developed, and did not require a physical manifestation of one. 

The companions watched Mateo die in the desert at the hands of a rattlesnake. Despite the significance and importance of his so-called sacrifice, a lack of attempt to help him did not align with the character of Luna. 

The production was the first in the United States, and the relatively new script was a challenge to work with. Although there were no high standards to adhere to — brought about with the pressure of putting on a well known production — a new script comes with a unique set of challenges. 

Lloren, a senior theater arts performance major who played Pilar Vega, is going into her eighth and final debut performance at SDSU. 

“It was a learning experience for everyone and it was fresh to everyone,” Lloren said. “Everything was constantly changing and we were on our toes. Our songs changed in key and lines were changing even during rehearsal. We did not even know how one song was going to sound until the day before.” 

Reflected in the multiculturalism of Houston, the musical explores several different identities. The performance was overall well done and successfully sold out almost every night. 

The passion and dedication was apparent throughout the project. These are real stories and relatable ones to the plight of marginalized communities around the world.

The musical is a constant reminder that what happened could happen to anybody, and these are people with relatable issues and stories that occur worldwide.

More information and future shows can be found on the Theatre Department’s Website.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
School of Theatre Television and Film presents ‘The Weight of Dreams’