“Don Quixote & Sancho Panza: Homeless in Seattle” begins in the emergency room of Harborview Medical Center.
Sancho Panza had fallen into a diabetic coma at a nearby shelter, and Don Quixote found him and brought him to the hospital. From there, they find work at a day labor center and as Wi-Fi hot spots, mirroring a 2012 incident when a marketer paid homeless people $20 a day to carry mobile Wi-Fi devices at an arts festival in Austin, Tex.
Playwright and eSe Teatro Artistic Director Rose Cano has been working on this play for years and first read portions of the play at shelters, day labor organizations and drop-in centers in 2011. She spent two years gathering feedback and revising the play.
Now the play is complete, and eSe Teatro is producing the play, which will run at ACT Sept. 12 – 28. The Central Branch of Seattle Public Library is hosting a 30-minute portion of the play Sept. 13 at 2 p.m., followed by what Cano calls a “Dialogue on Dignity.”
The dialogues mirror the way she presented the unfinished play while she was still revising it. Following the performance, the theater group will lead a conversation on homelessness.
“Theater has a way of eliciting feelings and dialogue in a different way than giving a lecture,” Cano said.
The concept fits with eSe Teatro’s history of socially conscious productions. Cano said they produce professional work with a community focus, always staging performances for the people closest to the story.
When the theater group produced a show called “Passport” about immigration, one performance was held at Latinos for Community Transformation, an immigration advocacy group.
While the conversations can be serious, Cano is presenting this play first as a comedy, much of which is derived from the mistranslations between Don Quixote, who speaks little English, and Sancho Panza, who speaks some Spanish.
The play is bilingual, and not all of it is directly translated. Don Quixote will speak whole monologues in Spanish while Sancho Panza picks up just a little bit. The translation comes in body movement, vocal inflections and mood.
“In general, I think it’s balanced enough so people will understand,” Cano said.
Director David Quicksall — who directed Cano in a more literal adaptation of the book in 2005 — has actor Will Rose sweep across the stage as he speaks and communicates with his whole body.
“I like him,” Will Rose said of Cano’s Don Quixote. “I’ve found many ways to relate to him as a character in terms of his values and condition in life.”
Rose appreciates Quixote’s idealism and chivalry. While Cano’s version of Don Quixote does not ride a horse, he is keenly aware of how people treat each other and will not be pushed around.