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Actors savor detailed roles in ‘Flick’

November 23, 2018

Avery Padilla’s drama teachers at Alvin High School and San Jacinto College South introduced her to “immersive theater” as performed by Horse Head Theatre Company, a leading practitioner of that approach in Houston.

“You ‘bring in’ an audience, not with audience interaction but by enveloping them in the space so they experience the setting of the play,” explained Padilla, who stars, alongside Antonio Lasanta of Pearland, in Horse Head’s production of “The Flick” from Nov. 30 through Dec. 15 in Houston.

Annie Baker’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning script is set in a rundown movie theater; so Horse Head technicians built a facsimile inside the 100-year-old Houston Warehouse Studios at 1506 Lorraine St. in east Houston.

“You are going to feel like you are walking into a movie theater, down to the 35-millimeter projector,” said Padilla, 23. “We even have (movie) theater seats.”

Padilla, a 2014 graduate of Alvin High, plays Rose, the cinema’s 24-year-old projectionist who has a drinking problem and $20,000 in student loans to pay off.

Lasanta, who graduated from Dawson High in 2016, portrays a brainy, young man, Avery, who the audience meets on his first day working at the theater. For him, the janitorial job is a way-station before returning to college. Plus, he loves movies.

The play opens with Sam, a 35-year-old slacker portrayed by Greg Cote, showing Avery how to sweep and mop the sticky auditorium floor.

Part of the show’s appeal is its presentation of the repetition and monotony of the characters’ jobs, as their individual struggles of being black, poor or female play out against the backdrop of Hollywood films.

Like his character, said Lasanta, “I am also a huge movie buff.”

At Dawson, the son of René and Ann Lasanta of Pearland played Antonio Salieri in a production of scenes from Peter Schaffer’s play “Amadeus” that was his school’s entry in University Interscholastic League one-act play competition.

“At the end of my senior year, I realized I didn’t want to stop acting,” said Lasanta, 20. He enrolled at the University of Houston, where he is studying toward a bachelor of fine arts in theater.

“It’s funny, the first week I started college, the first play I read was ‘The Flick,’” said Lasanta, who described himself as “half African-American and half Puerto Rican.” “I was attracted to the role of Avery almost three years ago.”

In October, Lasanta portrayed a 5-year-old child in a production of Noah Haidle’s comedy “Mr. Marmalade” at the University of Houston.

Padilla, whose parents are Ruben Padilla of Alvin and Connie Padilla of Houston, was president of the theater club and voted “most likely to become famous” her senior year at Alvin High. In University Interscholastic League competition, she was directed by Alvin High’s technical theater teacher, Drake Simpson. He and Kevin Holden, who was Padilla’s theater director at San Jac South, were founding members of Horse Head.

After a year in college, Padilla moved to Houston, where she works as a server/bartender in Midtown and has acted in shows for Cone Man Productions and The Landing Theater Company.

“The Flick” was directed by Jacey Little, the artistic director at Horse Head.

For more about “The Flick,” visit www.horseheadtheatre.org.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net

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