GALA Hispanic Theatre returns from pandemic with newly-renovated space

GALA Hispanic Theatre has constructed a set encased in plexiglass, which both protects audiences during the pandemic and doubles as a symbolic representation of the characters’ emotional state. (Courtesy GALA Hispanic Theatre)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews GALA Hispanic Theatre (Part 1)

It’s one of the only Hispanic theaters in the entire region with decades of rich history.

This week, GALA Hispanic Theatre returns under a D.C. pilot program with a 50 person max capacity, meaning only 25 people in the audience and 25 on stage and backstage.

“We shut down in March,” co-founder Rebecca Medrano told WTOP. “Over the summer we finished restoring our beautiful historic dome. … We put in a new HVAC system [that] turns the air over six to eight times every hour. We deep cleaned all the seats, we replaced all the rugs, we painted, so we really have prepared to reopen.”

The fall season kicks off with “El Perro del Hortelano” from Oct. 29-Nov. 22.

“It is a comedy about class warfare,” Medrano said. “A Duchess falls for her secretary who’s from a much lower class, very humble. She can’t have him, but she will not let him have anybody either. So it’s that typical sort of the dog that won’t eat but won’t let anybody else eat. … It moves very quickly, it’s very funny, lots of gender bending.”

Prolific playwright Lope de Vega remains criminally underrated.

“He was, you could say, the Shakespeare of Spain [and] wrote just as many plays,” Medrano said. “I don’t know why everybody knows Shakespeare and people don’t know Lope de Vega. … I think it’s because the Spanish Armada was defeated, so Spain didn’t export and didn’t market their cultural riches the way England did.”

As always, the GALA shows are presented in Spanish with English captions.

“We do have English surtitles and we will have English synopses in the programs,” Medrano said. “We call them surtitles because they’re above the stage, but they’re to the sides. They’re low enough so that if you’re sitting right in the center or even on the sides, you can just look up, there’s two screens, one on each side, so it’s pretty easy.”

Before the pandemic, GALA was having a banner year, as its 2019 production of “Fame: The Musical” upset Constellation Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors” to win Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Ensemble at the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards.

“We were just overjoyed because it was a very large cast, a very big risk for us to take with such a large musical,” Medrano said. “People were in tears, all of the cast. It was such a labor of love, especially for Luis Salgado, the choreographer and director.”

The venue sits in Columbia Heights at 14th Street and Park Road with $4 parking.

“GALA is one of the oldest [Hispanic theaters] in the whole region and probably also within the United States,” Medrano said. “This will be our 45th anniversary. When we started in D.C. there were only like eight other theaters in 1976. … We still feel there’s a tremendous need within our community to celebrate our culture.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews GALA Hispanic Theatre (Part 2)

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