“After all these years, there is something magical about the huge old building with it’s aluminum exterior, some of it brown from years of baking in the hot sun and from weather aging, sitting tall, strong and mysterious,” said Pedro Garcia who co-wrote the script, Tales of the Hidalgo Pumphouse, and is Artistic Director for the Pharr Community Theater Co. and Co-Producer. “The high, white concrete smoke stack that touches the clouds and the deep pits inside the building where huge and heavy Corliss and Hamilton engines rest on top of strong cement beds are still there, as well as the gigantic furnaces where mesquite wood was once burned to help create the steam that would pump millions of gallons of water from the Rio Grande every day for crop irrigation. I grew up in Hidalgo and I have fond memories of my childhood and coming of age around the Pumphouse with my friends.”
Lucio G. Rivera who co-wrote the story and also grew up in Hidalgo said, “My grandfather Bartolo worked there before I was born and my uncle Luis for nearly 50 years up until he retired when the old pump house shut down in 1983.”
Luis Rivera who worked at the Pumphouse for more then 50 years is a character in the play, played by Gustavo Saucedo, as well as his wife Paula, played by Atenea A. Garza, who once baked a small tortilla where the face of Jesus appeared. Another real life character in the play is Rufus Wisdom, played by Larry Weinreich, who was a long time foreman with nearly 40 years working at the Pumphouse.
“It was our public swimming pool and fishing hole of sorts,” added Rivera. “Water that was stored in the huge receiving basins before heading out through the canals became a fun place for swimming and fishing for me and the other boys growing up there, including the Wisdom family.”
The play tells of Luisito, played by Gilberto Castro, Jr., and his buddies as they come of age and search for a hidden treasure while the girls are writing a historical-report about the old Pumphouse and practicing an ancient dance in honor of the Rio Grande (River). The story is also about the parents and ancestors who worked and lived around the Pumphouse since it was built in 1909 and closed in 1983.
Today the old Pumphouse still stands in the same place and has become a Texas Historical marker and a Museum and World Birding Center open to the public.
The tale is laced with history, folktales and adventure including the creepy and sometimes funny fantasmas/spirits such as, La Llorona/The Weeping Woman, played by Rhiannon Garza, La Lechuza/The Witch Owl, played by Alma I. Izaguirre, La Muerte/Death, played by Francisco Crisanto, and El Hombre Sin Cabeza/The Headless Man, played by Sergio Luna. Together the youth and adults with help from a historian named Mrs. Stonewall, played by Connie Garza, and a magical Pirate named Hidalgo, played by Cielo Barrios, save the Old Pumphouse from destruction.
The story is bilingual, predominately told in English with nearly 23 local cast members, including ten adolescents, who have been in rehearsals since early June.
Director Seres Jaime Magaña who is a local poet and writer, from McAllen, TX, says directing a play is a fresh start for him in having to adapt a story into a visual form, “A lot of the approach is letting the story tell me where it wants to go and then me being able to show that and to translate it, Not only is it a historical and fun play for the whole family, it’s also got a lot of heart,” added Magaña.
Thirteen year old Arianna Compean from Edinburg, TX, plays Janie in the play and attends Barrientes Middle School. “I do theater because I listen to broadway tunes and it’s a dream for me to perform there one day. This play has helped me learn about the Rio Grande, about where you live and about remembering childhood stories.”
Later this year, authors Rivera and Garcia plan to publish the entire play in a book of the same name to share with everyone and in hopes that other theater companies and institutions may want to produce the play as well.
The Play opens August 22-26, 2018 at the Elva and Kieth Michal’s Performing Arts Center (Pharr Community Theater) at 213 W Newcombe Ave., Pharr, TX. The show runs Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $6 kids under 12; $8 seniors, veterans and students and $10 general admission. (Seating is limited to 60 persons per show)
For advanced tickets call 956-239-0412. Tickets will also be sold at the door, starting one hour before curtain upon availability. The show has a viewer rating equivalent to a PG movie.