Evita – A note from the Artistic Director

Evita – A note from the Artistic Director

Initially, I selected Evita for our 2023/24 Season because I knew it was going to be an election year in the U.S. and our democracy was certain to be on the line. I thought, “wouldn’t it be interesting to look at another time and place where a very charismatic populist leader rose up with his incredibly charismatic, popular wife to be elected to office and then — at least as the musical and some historical narratives say — began to dismantle essential elements of democracy?” But, because I was fortunate enough to have Juan Rebuffo working at the Playhouse, who had grown up in Argentina and whose family still lived there, I suggested he serve as a cultural consultant and dramaturg for the play, and he was delighted to lend his perspective.

Juan and I ended up having many utterly fascinating conversations. I started by learning how the libretto, written by a couple of Englishmen, was based upon the first biography of Eva Perón written in English, which had a very colonial, imperialistic, European, “look down your nose at South American” bias. These conversations with Juan convinced me that, although the cautionary political message was still valid, there is a much more complex and layered story that Argentines know. Juan and I went through every song, lyric by lyric, searching for layers of truth we could add. “What really happened on the Rainbow tour? At the Casa Rosada? Was Eva merely an opportunist and fashion addict, as Che suggests, or did she actually serve her descamisados?”

Was Che correct that Eva had slept her way to the top? Not exactly. She was the most successful radio performer in the country with her own station and her own capacity to influence public opinion before she even met Perón. When he was arrested shortly before the election, Eva raised a crowd half a million strong to demand his release, whereupon he was released and elected. Was her foundation a front for siphoning off money for the Peróns? Not exactly. Eva built hospitals, created a path to college education for the poor, helped women win the vote, and enabled the very poor — like Juan Rebuffo’s own grandparents — the chance to own their own house.

Truth is elusive. Now and then. Is Che’s point of view reliable, or does he have his own agenda? Did Eva Perón serve the poor from which she came, or only herself? Our production humbly attempts to balance the scales and send you away with more questions than answers.

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Bill English is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of San Francisco Playhouse, and in twenty years with Susi Damilano, has guided its growth from a bare-bones storefront to the second-largest theater in San Francisco.

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Amanda Gough - 20. Jul, 2024 - Reply

Very interesting note. I love the show by the way, and your production, which should be ambiguous, yes. May I take this moment to wonder if you would consider doing Threepenny Opera, the Lenya Weill version? Would love a revival!