March 21, 2008

‘Let The Eagle Fly: The Story of Cesar Chavez

CHULA VISTA— The Theatre Faculty of Southwestern College (SWC) School of Arts and Communication, in Association with Teatreo Mascara Magica, proudly present a musical chronicling the life of Cesar Chavez, ‘one of the heroic figures of our time.’ “Let The Eagle Fly: The Story of Cesar Chavez” was authored by John Reeger, music and lyrics by Julie Shannon and directed by SWC retired Theatre Professor William Virchis.

“Let the Eagle Fly,” opening March 27 in SWC’s Mayan Hall Theatre, tells the inspiring story of how an unassuming ex-farm worker with an eighth grade education challenged and overcame one of California’s most powerful industries. Cesar Chavez organized the first successful farm workers union in United States history, led marches and conducted fasts, practiced Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and convinced millions of consumers to boycott grapes and other products.

The story of Chavez and his United Farm Workers’ (UFW) struggle to win economic justice and improved conditions for the poorest and most exploited workers in America is one of the great David vs. Goliath battles in this country’s history. The musical tracing the arc of Chavez’ entire life demonstrates the roots of his determination, courage and self-sacrifice. The show focuses primarily on the grueling five-year grape strike and international boycott that culminated in 1970, when most California table grape growers signed their first-ever union contracts. Those dramatic events transformed this humble man, whom Sen. Robert F. Kennedy called “one of the heroic figures of our time,” into an internationally admired labor and civil rights leader.

In writing “Let the Eagle Fly” over a period of six years (the title hails from the UFW’s distinctive black eagle symbol), award-winning authors John Reeger and Julie Shannon enjoyed active involvement and support from many members of the Chavez family, the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation and numerous men and women who worked with Cesar Chavez to achieve rights for farm workers. Their guidance was crucial in ensuring the historical accuracy of the project.

Reeger and Shannon’s best-known work for the musical theater is “The Christmas Schooner.” Tony Award- and Pulitzer Award-winning Sheldon Harnick, whose shows include ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and other classics, was a creative advisor to “Let the Eagle Fly.”

“I find ‘Let the Eagle Fly’ a first-rate musical drama,” Harnick said. “The book and the score are remarkable, heartfelt, touching and inspired.”

Chavez never earned more than $6,000 a year, he never owned a home and when he died at age 66 in 1993, he left no money behind for his family. Yet more than 40,000 people turned out to march behind his casket during funeral services in Delano, California. “Let the Eagle Fly” is a fitting tribute to Chavez and his remarkable life.

Mayan Hall at SWC will host the musical beginning March 27 – 29 at 7:30 p.m.; April 3 – 5 at 7:30 p.m.; and April 6 at 2 p.m. The tickets for general admission are $10 per person and $7 for students and seniors. For tickets information and/or reservations contact (619) 482-6367 or visit www.swccd.edu/eventscalendar.

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