September 24 - 27, 2015

Performances


Benny Briseno in Rancho Pancho, Classic Theatre of San Antonio, 2008, / Photo: Sofia Piel

Rancho Pancho

by Gregg Barrios
directed by Diane Malone
starring Rick Frederick as Tennessee Williams, Benny Briseno as Pancho Rodriguez, Annella Keys as Margo Jones and Anna Gangai as Carson McCullers

The Classic Theatre of San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas USA

Excerpt from 'Life at ‘Rancho Pancho’
Friday, March 23, 2007 by David CuthbertThe Times Picayune

Director Elia Kazan, who directed both the original Broadway production and film of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, writes in his autobiography that long after “Streetcar” opened, “I kept puzzling about the play -- and the author. The more I thought about it, the more mysterious the play appeared. It was certainly not what it seemed to be, a moral fable of the brutalization of a sensitive soul by a sadistic bully. It was something far more ambivalent and far more personal.” He remembered Tennessee fleeing a brawl with then-lover Pancho Rodriguez, where the young Mexican-American tore apart a hotel room. And how Williams matter-of factly returned to Pancho as Stella did after Stanley’s poker night fight. “Wasn’t Williams attracted to the Stanleys of the world?” Kazan asked. “Wasn’t Pancho a Stanley? Yes, and wilder. The violence in that boy
attracted Williams at the very time it frightened him.”

“If Tennessee was Blanche,” Kazan concluded, “Pancho was Stanley.” In Gregg Barrios’ new play, Rancho Pancho, the playwright takes Rodriguez, “who has been a peripheral character (in Williams’ life) for
the longest time and I give him center stage. I wanted to give him his due, his importance to one of our greatest American playwrights.”

Barrios makes a case for Rodriguez being far more influential on Williams’ work than has been thought, not only in Streetcar, but in two other major plays, Summer and Smoke and The Rose Tattoo. In the latter
play, dedicated to Williams’ subsequent lover Frank Merlo, Barrios sees a subtext: Williams replacing a volatile partner with a more amiable one. In Summer and Smoke, the main female character is Alma, Spanish
for “soul,” and her rival for a young doctor’s affections is the wild Rosa Gonzalez. “Rose for Tennessee’s sister,” Barrios says, “and Gonzalez, Pancho’s mother’s maiden name.”

Barrios, a journalist (for Figaro, the 1970s-80s local weekly, The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News) is now a playwright who moonlights as a newspaper writer. “I met Pancho and
his twin brother Johnny when I was teaching summer classes at Loyola University in the mid-’70s,” Barrios said. “They didn’t want to talk about Tennessee at all. They were more interested in the fact that we both had
relatives in Crystal City, Texas. “Brother Alexis Gonzales, who had been my high school theater teacher
in San Antonio and taught theater at Loyola, told me what he knew of the Pancho-Tennessee relationship, how Tennessee brought him here when Pancho was 24, their bitter parting, his continuing to live in New
Orleans for more than 40 years, bringing members of his family here. “Then I read about Pancho, called ‘Santo’ in Tennessee’s ‘Memoirs.’” Williams wrote that “Santo” was “at the center of my life” for a time and
that “he relieved me, during that period, of my greatest affliction, which is perhaps the major theme of my writings, the affliction of loneliness.”

Note: This play by Gregg Barrios is the first time the story has been told in public, and so passes into history. The production has its own history. First seen as a reading at the New Orleans Tennessee
Williams Festival in March 2007, it is, in revised form, the inaugural production of the Classic Theatre of San Antonio, Texas. Fred W. Todd, a librarian from San Antonio, who for over forty years assembled the largest private collection of Williams material in the world -- before donating it to the New Orleans Historic Collection
-- has provided support throughout: archival and financial.

Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival was developed by terry barth design