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Casting The Wall

By Alan Jordan

As soon as I read Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, I knew I had to produce this play. It is powerful, socially relevant, and a challenge. My kind of play.

Building the Wall
By Robert Schenkkan
Starring Cynthia Simmons and David Galitzky
Directed by Alan Jordan
Wed‒Mon, July 5–10
Shelter Theater, Calle Vicente Guerrero 4, Col. San Rafael.
250 pesos
Tickets on sale in:
Tesoros Boutique, La Biblioteca
Reserved Seating on Request: 154 7524

The first challenge was to secure the rights for this “rolling premiere” that is being produced throughout the world in 2017. I had recently co-produced and directed By the Waters of Babylon also by Robert Schenkkan, which was very well received. I think the success of that production may have helped me with the powers-that-be in New York.

After receiving permission to produce the play, the next challenge was to cast the two main roles. I needed two strong actors, a Caucasian man and an African-American woman. Naysayers said, “forget it…you’ll never cast the female role in San Miguel.” A challenge!!…I like a challenge. I put the word out on social media and met with local candidates and heard from actresses in Mexico City.

I met with Cynthia Simmons, a New York trained actress with strong theater credits, who is now living in San Miguel. She didn’t jump on board right away but I was thrilled that she finally decided to take the journey.

For the male role, I had seen several actors in plays around town and had a few ideas of who would best portray this complicated character. David Galitzky’s strong background in improvisation impressed me. I had worked in Toronto and New York with a lot of Second City actors. I have great respect for the spontaneity that traditionally trained improv actors display.

Some very accomplished actors do not audition well. And, since in San Miguel there are few chances to audition…that skill is often not honed. Therefore, I like to see an actor in performance. After being a working actor for over 40 years, I seem to be able to recognize an actor being truthful on stage as opposed to acting truthful. Big difference.

My experiences casting for Caja Negra has proved fruitful.

Jill Gottlieb and Erik Zavala were magic in By the Waters of Babylon. As a matter-of-fact, Erik will star in An Act of God in November. And Don Krim brought The Tricky Part to life, so much so that many thought it was autobiographical.

For me, a successful production depends on a collaborative artistic effort of all concerned. Trust is imperative. For me, a play’s success doesn’t mean selling all the seats…a crowd pleaser…It is taking a piece of well-written literature, interpreting it through fresh eyes and ears, and then, hopefully, taking an audience on an emotional journey.

Cynthia Simmons, as Gloria, and David Galitzky, as Rick, are worlds apart. Both come to acting from very different backgrounds. Perfect for this piece.

“When asked what drew me to Building the Wall… I wanted to add my voice to the resistance,” says Cynthia Simmons.

“The story is relevant, raw, and frighteningly plausible. A wake-up call,” says David Galitzky.


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