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Theater buffs in Los Alamos and throughout New Mexico have been privileged with multiple opportunities to see Los Alamos playwright Robert Benjamin’s work. Now, the privilege is crossing state lines.
The Arizona Jewish Theater Company commissioned Benjamin to write a play and starting March 14 through March 29, Benjamin’s play, “Parted Waters,” will be performed at the Performing Arts Center at the Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.
Benjamin explained the production director really liked his work.
“She didn’t see another one of my plays, but she did read one of my plays,” he said.
Benjamin was requested to write a play on theme of “crypto Jews,” or Hispanics who have Jewish heritages from a long time ago.
The history, he said, was in the year 1492, when Jews were expelled from Spain, unless they converted to Catholicism.
However, some Catholic converts had an underground Jewish identity. Some of them came to Mexico, Benjamin said, and some ended up in New Mexico.
In “Parted Waters,” the story centers on three generations of a Hispanic family in northern New Mexico: a grandfather, father and son.
The grandfather is aware of the family’s crypto Jewish heritage and he embraces this heritage, Benjamin said, however, the father rejects his heritage and the son is not aware of this fact.
“In the story, which is completely fictional, the youngest one … he runs for political office and he blunders during a political debate and that blunder forces the grandfather and the dad to tell him about (their) heritage,” Benjamin said.
He is thrilled to provide this play to the Arizona Jewish Theater Company.
“I felt very excited to be invited to write a play for a professional theater company,” he said. “This is a big step for me.”
Working with the theater company has been a great experience.
“They have been very kind to me,” Benjamin said. “They have provided actors and a very talented director to help me direct the script.”
While getting other commissions is something that Benjamin dreams out, his work has been produced outside New Mexico in the past.
Last summer in Lubbock, Texas, three performances of his play, “Time Enough,” was held. Benjamin has also had plays produced in Colorado and New York.
“Time Enough” will also have another performance in Florida next year.
Benjamin has written plays for about five years.
“(I’ve) always been interested in the theater … I’ve always enjoyed attending theater,” he said.
“I’m not sure why I got into being a playwright. It felt like a calling. It felt like something I needed to do.”
Benjamin added, “I like challenges and playwriting is one of the most difficult forms of writing.”
For more information about the play go to, www.azjewishtheatre.org.