FIU alumni take audiences to the Caribbean with a revolutionized play of “Don Juan”

(Left) Janine Johnson as Donna Elvira, Sefanja Galon as Sergio, and Mikhael Mendoza as Don Juan | Photo Courtesy of Elijah Pestana

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director

FIU grads may have finished their time in university, but for the board administering “Don Juan: Pride and Paradise”, the curtain is not down.

Main Street Players, the Miami-Lakes based theatre company, is responsible for staging the “Don Juan” production, with the current board made up of three FIU alumni and a current student.

Originally by French playwright Moliere in the 1600’s, the comedy “Don Juan” follows the rich and privileged life of the titular character as he goes on sexual conquests, bouts of vanity and self-indulgence.

This production differs by placing the story in the Caribbean rather than in its original setting of Seville, Spain, as well as including alterations to some characters.

Though the play premiered last Friday, the production runs from May 3 up until May 11, with university students getting discounts and even a ‘get 2 tickets for one’ deal. 

Daniel “Danny” Nieves, Vice President of MSP and FIU alumni spoke on his passion for theatre.

“It wasn’t enough to just be in a play or direct one. I wanted consistency and I wanted to do it through administrative processes. I fell in love with MSP. The location was beautiful, the place is safe, and the community was nice,” said Nieves.

Nieves, who graduated in 2011 with a BFA in theatre, ended up being the one to recruit the next MSP board members.

“I joined MSP because I loved the people there; it felt like family. Because of this, I ended up recruiting the other two,” Nieves said.

Nieves recruited Amanda Sparhawk as technical director and secretary, while Angie Esposito became artistic director.

But in terms of the “Don Juan” production, Nieves claims the board doesn’t take all the credit.

“I served as more of an advisor. We put Sefanja on the board as well to be the director,” Nieves commented.

Though not related to FIU, Sefanja Galon is the director and playwright for “Don Juan”. 

Galon said that his inspiration for the piece came from his “sin cycle” series in which he focuses on plays that depict the seven deadly sins.

“I had started off with jealousy and greed, now I’m focusing on pride. In this piece I wanted to show how in modern society we tend to idolize vagrant lifestyles that inevitably lead to our downfall,” Galon said.

For Galon, directing is more than just a role.

“[Directing] is always fun and always a challenge. It has to be a collaborative approach. The actor’s body is the canvas–the tool for creation. You are limited to their range, and benefited by the wealth of experience that they have,” Galon said.

The production was a five act play with a total of six actors, including Galon, playing 10 roles. 

Another of the board members and current FIU junior in the theatre BA Alexander Tarradell was the sound designer for the project.

Among the production’s commitment to detail was the presence of Caribbean accents, tropical costumes, and ocean sounds, bongos, and ambience to fit the islandly vibe.

“Sefanja really wanted ‘moving sound’ in the space. To do this we had to throw sound out in different spaces to give off the effect that there’s motion,” Tarradell said.

Despite minor issues with the sound quality of the speakers, Tarradell was confident in trying to make the most of his role.

“I was able to play into MSP’s strengths. We’re a smaller space and a more intimate viewing. Sefanja and the cast brought more of an immersive space. I’m able to enhance a lot of the sounds from either the actors or the sound effects,” Tarradell said. 

“We’re all from different walks of life, but at the end of the day, we’re all theatre artists and we’re trying to make theatre happen,” Tarradell said.

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