The Fonseca Theatre Company, formerly known as River West Theatre Company, just released the schedule for its inaugural season. Let’s just say from the outset that it’s not dinner theater fare.
These are plays that contend with some of the most controversial and relevant issues of the day, under the leadership of producing director Bryan Fonseca. Additionally, the plays in this first season are all either written by or about people of color.
Fonseca was producing director at the Phoenix Theatre until he abruptly departed the nonprofit performing arts organization at the end of May 2018.
It was only three weeks after Fonseca’s departure from the Phoenix that he formed the River West Theatre Company. Just before the season lineup announcement on Aug. 21., the new theater’s board made the decision to change the theater’s name.
“That has been a recent development,” says Fonseca. “The board decided that it is a strong brand, a recognizable brand, much more recognizable than just a River West Theatre. After a lot of deliberation I went with it.”
Fonseca sees his inaugural season as a reflection of the new theater’s mission. In the mission statement the Fonseca Theatre Company is described as “a company of artists (80 percent people of color) who will give voice to the disenfranchised in our community.”
Fonseca, for the time being, is operating out of Indy Convergence at 2611 W. Michigan St. The first two plays of its inaugural season will be performed there. In January 2019, the theater will move into a permanent storefront space at 2520 W. Michigan St.
In the end, the mission of the new theater is an extension of what Fonseca attempted to do as longtime producing director at the Phoenix.
On his 35 year history at the Phoenix and now, at his new venture, Fonseca says the goal is the same.
“It’s always been my mission to be inclusive.”
Here’s a season rundown:
The first of the plays is Building the Wall, running Sept. 14—Oct 7. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan wrote the play just before the 2016 election of Donald Trump, and considers the life of a former warden put into prison after his roundup of millions of undocumented immigrants—presumably after a Trump impeachment. Considering that ICE is ramping up to do just this very thing at the current moment, this play couldn’t be more timely or controversial.
“I was going to do it at the Phoenix this season,” says Fonseca. “It was on their pitch schedule but they chose not to do it.”
Hooded or Being Black for Dummies, running Nov 9–Dec. 2, is an exploration of growing up Black in America—penned by African American playwright, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. It’s about prep-school student Marquis who encounters Tru, a street-smart Baltimore resident, in jail. In order to help Marquis regain his “blackness,” Tru attempts to write Being Black for Dummies.
“This play,” says Fonseca, “is addressing issues of the Black community and using language from the Black community.”
The Ballad of Klook and Vinette, running Jan. 11-Feb. 3, might be described as a romance between two social misfits, by English playwright, actor, and theater director Ché Walker.
The musical Miss You Like Hell, running March 8-31, by Quiara Alegría Hudes combines the music of singer/songwriter Erin McKeown with a story about an estranged mother and daughter coming together.
Salt Pepper Ketchup, running May 3-26, is a play set in a Chinese takeout restaurant. In the wake of the opening of a trendy food co-op in the neighborhood, the restaurant becomes ground zero in a community redevelopment war.
Fonseca says this play “looks at exactly what we’re doing in the community; it looks at the gentrification of a neighborhood and the pluses and the minuses and how a community works together to try to hold onto their property.”
The Brothers Paranormal, by Prince Gomolvilas, running Sept. 6-20. It’s the story of two Thai American brothers’ ghost-hunting business, but it’s not quite Ghostbusters. Their business plan is to profit from the increase in the sightings of Asian American ghosts. One of their clients is an African American couple.
The July 4-Aug 12 run has yet to be announced.