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2011-2012 Season Statement

“I Like to Create Theatre for My Friends”

                                                          Fred Newman (1935 – 2011)

When Castillo Theatre founder and artistic director emeritus Fred Newman passed away on July 3, 2011, he had spent 40 years as a community organizer. It’s not surprising then, that our earliest theatrical events took place in the streets. Some were marches and demonstrations. Castillo attended May Day marches in Union Square, where Fred led a cast and crew dressed as revolutionaries from around the globe. Fred stood taller than most, and was certainly louder than most. His radical passion and lack of reserve inspired all who stood with him to be louder, and to stand taller.

Someone once asked him why he had waited so long to write his first play (he was 51 when he penned Mr. Hirsch Died Yesterday). Fred responded that he had to build the theatre first. A philosopher by training, Fred came to the stage and to playwriting by way of community organizing. He didn’t write plays to make money or to become famous. He wrote and directed 44 plays as part of Castillo’s collective effort to engage and transform the world from the bottom up.  Most were written to the tight production deadlines he said he needed in order to justify what he described as the audacious, ridiculous, even self-indulgent act of writing a play.  A production under Newman’s direction was never an end in itself; it was an organizing/growing experience for everyone involved — performers, designers, technicians, staff and the audience.

Fred Newman became artistic director in 1989. Castillo spent a lot of those early years as “an odd man out” on the political theatre scene. Later, as we grew and our work became better known, Fred and Castillo talked, played and created with some of the heaviest hitters on the scene: Robert Wilson, Bill T. Jones, Judith Malina, Desmond Richardson, Mario Fratti, Laurence Holder and Woodie King, Jr. For a self-proclaimed “non-theatre person,” Fred got around. He often reminded us that his interest was in creating theatre with and for his friends. Fred had many friends, and touched countless lives. This small theatre of ours grew to occupy a distinctive space in the world theatre community, impacting on thousands.

Under Fred’s direction, Castillo has become an established home of postmodern political theatre on West 42nd Street. What does that mean? Here at Castillo, you will see our repertoire of Newman’s plays; you’ll see Black theatre, often co-presented with Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre; you’ll see plays by new young playwrights; you’ll see improvisation; you’ll see the work of innovative international theatre artists; and from here you can travel to one of New York’s communities to watch the dynamic hip-hop performances of young people in the All Stars Talent Show Network. All of these elements have been part of our work from the beginning, nurtured by Fred and the dynamic creative team he organized and worked with for years.

As Fred liked to put it:  “Castillo is the star.” No one person, no one play is more important than the creative organizing activity that is Castillo. With that clarity and inclusivity, Castillo swaggers forward, proud of our history and accomplishment, humbled by the challenges ahead and driven by the creative dynamism he instilled. We’re inspired still and always by Fred, our dear friend, with whom it’s been our privilege to build and play and create, and who we will never ever stop missing; our dear friend who gave us the support, direction and love that we need to continue to grow Castillo. And now, standing loud and proud, we turn to give that same love and support to one another — and to you, our audience, our friends, our community.

Thank you, Fred. You are Castillo. And Castillo is the star.

Dan Friedman, artistic director
Diane Stiles, managing director