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Repertorio Espanol

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Location
138 East 27th Street
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“We celebrate the theatrical heritage of all Spanish-speaking people and their descendants,” Executive Producer Robert Federico asserted. With over twenty nationalities that use Spanish as their official language, Repertorio Español was founded by Cuban immigrants René Buch and Gilberto Zaldívar to present these groups’ great works to New York’s audience. Being a repertory-style company allows Repertorio to produce a staggering 300 performances annually in its intimate 140-seat theater. “It divulges to young people, whether Latino or not, the rich legacy of what was written in the past and what is being written now.”

The company has staged archetypal Spanish productions such as La Celestina, considered one of the first known works of Spanish prose, and the instantly recognizable Don Quixote. Yet Repertorio does not shy away from the modern age. It introduced an adaptation of Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and has regularly commissioned new material from burgeoning playwrights. “We are equally proud when we do a classic as when we do a contemporary.”

Repertorio is also not constrained by language barriers. Its shows frequently take place in the original Spanish in which they were penned, with supertitles available for English speakers to understand the dialogue. This not only benefits New Yorkers looking to augment their cultural horizons, but it also bridges the gap between generations in a family with immigrant roots. “Many times, the Hispanic grandparents will know Spanish and will bring their grandkids to a play to help them learn by following the translations.”

Robert, himself, is not Latinx and comes from an Italian German background. Nonetheless, after a friend connected him with Repertorio in 1970, he “felt very much at home here. So I simply stayed.” He started as a set designer for one of the company’s summer plays, then slowly became involved in the production side of things. “I went from sorting mail to becoming the executive producer,” he laughed. Today, he remains a dedicated advocate for bringing Spanish-language theater to the forefront. “When outsiders who are not performers themselves support us with their hearts and their wallets, it’s very gratifying. It reminds me of Repertorio’s importance even to those who aren’t of Latino heritage but are inspired by what we do.”

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