Pacheco Directs Vanity Theater Production
by Steve Charles
June 4, 2004
"Reynaldo, Reynaldo," one of the youngest Lost Boys called out as he ran down the Vanity Theater’s darkened aisle last Wednesday. It was almost 8 p.m., the cast members of "Peter Pan" had just finished their final dress rehearsal, and the young actor was looking for the show’s director, Wabash College sophomore Reynaldo Pacheco.
Reynaldo Pacheco fires up the cast of Peter Pan
"I didn’t come out when I was supposed to," the Lost Boy said, his face smudged with make-up and eyes clouded with frustration. "I’m sorry, Reynaldo. I missed my line. I just missed it."
The 21-year-old looked his young actor in the eye.
"Don’t worry; you’ll get it back," Pacheco said. "You’ll get another chance. You are doing great up there!"
Re-energized and smiling, the Lost Boy ran back to the stage.
"He’s really one of our best actors," Reynaldo told me. "You can see how dedicated he is, how determined to get it right. He’s got so much energy!"
Energy, talent, and dedication were jammed onto the theater’s small but imaginatively designed set in 44 young actors who have captured delightfully the rambunctious spirit of Peter Pan’s Never-Neverland. But the cast’s several missteps at dress rehearsal meant they’d have to run through the show again, from the first flying scene forward. It made for a late night. But Pacheco believed they could do better, and his actors were game to try again for the young director, actor, and playwright who revels in theater in any venue. Pacheco began acting at age 12 in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia and Reynaldo’s hometown. He performed in his high school’s productions and spent an extra four hours a day rehearsing other plays with friends. As an exchange student in Brilliant, Ohio, his own play, "Vida," was staged by his host high school.
Back home in La Paz, Pacheco performed in national productions of "Cats," "Oliver," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and played Pontius Pilate in Filharmonic de La Paz’s production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Top South American actor David Manducco became his mentor, and Reynaldo, who was invited to audition for the Juilliard Conservatory, instead joined the small theater group La Rodilla del Telon. Pacheco says many of his most important lessons in theater come from La Rodilla and other small ensembles.
"I was in theater with gypsies in Bolivia, and we performed where ever we could," he recalls. "We didn’t have a building or many costumes—we had a mat we’d lay over the floor to keep from getting splinters. But I learned more about practical theater there than anyplace else. They are so passionate; they do this because they love it."
The cast of Peter Pan with Pacheco in the back row
Pacheco, whose play "The Doll" was performed during the College’s One-Acts last winter, says he’s grateful for the chance to direct "Peter Pan."
"You always learn new things when you direct, and these people are very open to new ideas, to creating something fresh," he says. "It’s been a great experience for me—it’s always great to do theater like this.
He says that choosing the 44-member cast from the 128 young actors who auditioned was the most difficult part of the process.
"During auditions, I separated the names of the actors into four piles: those who did an excellent job; a good job; a fair job; and those who wouldn’t make it. There were so many people in the excellent group that I wasn’t able to use some who were also very good.
"I was shocked to find so many children with such talent in a community this size. Crawfordsville is a much more artistic town than it seems on the surface."
Last summer, Pacheco directed the Indigenous Theater Project in Chiapas, Mexico, and he returned late last week to work with that group again. The "Peter Pan" cast that he’d have to leave after their first performance.
So on opening night, Pacheco called them all to the stage and huddled them up. He called for quiet a couple of times, then took the hands of the "Lost Boys" on either side of him. The other actors followed his example, holding hands and tightening the circle.
"There comes a time in a every show when the actors don’t need the director anymore," he said, bringing a hush to the usually boisterous group. "This is that time. This is your show now. Now it’s your turn to enjoy the rewards from all the hard work you’ve done. Come out tonight and make this show yours."
He bent his knees, crouching forward, as his actors following his lead. Then all arms were thrown skyward as the cast let out a cheer.
"Make it yours," he repeated. And they have.