Tencha Ávila set her play, No Number Home, in the small, southern Colorado migrant community where she grew up. Based on events that transpired when Ávila was a toddler, the play takes place in the days before Christmas 1944. Eight-year-old Adelita prepares for her first communion as the community gathers for Las Posadas, a commemoration of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When the military police show up in search of an AWOL soldier from nearby Fort Carson, their aggressive tactics threaten the safety and security of the Mexican immigrants and their American-born children. How and how much, they wonder, should they help their neighbors, who are the soldier’s parents?
The play is character-driven, with family members representing different sides of the issues. Adelita (Fia Jones McCoy) and her father, Marcos (Henry Valdez), who want to help the soldier’s family, are dreamy and believe in ghosts and spirits, whereas Adelita’s mother, Carmen (Cristina Vigil), is more earthbound, concerned with what people might think of her family. The AWOL soldier, Jesús (Luca Pacheco), doesn’t want to participate in the violence of war, while his brother, Joaquín (also played by Pacheco), struggles with a disfiguring illness.
“I present the characters with all their warts, all their superstitions, fables, and folklore,” Ávila says. “Woven in are the rich cultural and religious traditions, and the glory and pageantry of the Mexican Posadas.”
Ávila, who now lives in Santa Fe, has been working on No Number Home for about 10 years. She has entered various versions of the play in contests around the country, and it has received several staged readings. Now, it premieres at the Santa Playhouse in the last production directed by the theater’s outgoing creative director, Vaughn Irving.
The playwright says that when she told family members that she was writing about the long-ago incident from World War II, some of them advised her against it. “They didn’t want me to tell this story. They thought it was an embarrassment to the soldiers who came back. But I thought it was important. I really feel this play is about the determination of these immigrants to hold on to their dignity and their love for family and community.”
No Number Home’s preview show is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12; subsequent shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays through Dec. 22. All performances are at the Santa Fe Playhouse (142 E. De Vargas St.). Preview tickets are $15; other shows are $25, $20 for seniors, teachers, and military, $15 for students. An opening reception ($30) is at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14. 505-988-4262, santafeplayhouse.org. — Jennifer Levin