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Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater & Music Theater presents "Gaucho: A New Musical"

originally published: 12/03/2023

Lewis Center for the Arts

Sydney Mullin '24 as Sofia and Aaron Ventresca '24 as Mateo in rehearsal for Gaucho: A New Musical. Photo Credit: Dylan Tran.

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater & Music Theater at Princeton University will present Gaucho: A New Musical, co-written by Princeton senior Aaron Ventresca, directed by Princeton alumnus and faculty member Nico Krell, and music directed by guest artist Gia Gan. Performances are on December 8 and 9 at 8:00pm and December 10 at 2:00pm in the Wallace Theater at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The show is free and open to the public; advance tickets are encouraged through University Ticketing.

The Wallace Theater is wheelchair accessible and an assistive listening system is available. The December 9 performance will be open-captioned. Guests in need of other access accommodations are asked to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.

In this new musical set in 19th-century Argentina, the gaucho community of San Antonio de Areco faces growing threats to its traditional way of life from large landowners’ newest technology—barbed wire fencing. With horseback riding and storytelling buffeting under the pressure of progress, a young gaucho named Mateo struggles to break free from his family’s dying cowboy way of life to become a writer. But with some unexpected help, Mateo escapes to the alluring promises of Buenos Aires. There, he meets Sofia, who shakes his provincial view of the world. As modernity takes shape, Mateo is torn between dichotomies: his family or the one he could create, his culture or the movements of the world, his duty or his dreams.

The book, music, lyrics and orchestrations were written by Ventresca along with his collaborator (and sister) Emma Ventresca, a sophomore at Yale University. At its core, the show honors gauchesco heritage, boasting an entirely original score that combines Argentine folk music, Latino pop, and contemporary musical theater. Krell was born in Uruguay and also grew up with tangos and milongas in his home. The musical was further shaped in the rehearsal room with the cast, live band, and music director Gia Gan, a member of the staff of TADA! Youth Theater in New York City.

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Ventresca is majoring in economics and pursuing certificates in finance, Spanish, theater, and music theater. He has appeared in a number of Princeton productions, including as Comendador (Fuenteovejuna), Leicester (Mary Stuart), Professor Bhaer (Little Women), and Brett (Early Decision), among others. His first original musical—Laid Off—premiered at the University in April. He is the current president of the Princeton Playhouse Choir and has served as the director of New Work Development for Princeton University Players for multiple seasons. On campus he is also involved with the Triangle Club and the Aquinas Schola Cantorum. After graduation, he plans to pursue theater professionally.

Krell is a lecturer in the Program in Theater & Music Theater, a stage director of plays, operas, performance art, and a member of Princeton’s Class of 2018.  He is a recipient of Princeton’s Louis Sudler Prize for his cross-disciplinary research on the ethical dynamics of presenting media depicting violence. He is creator and director of the Program in Theater & Music Theater’s Try on Theater Days, a holistic and generative alternative to traditional auditions. Krell has directed stage projects at Lincoln Center, Heartbeat Opera, The University of Toronto, the wild project, Mercury Store, TheaterLab, Princeton Summer Theater, Princeton University, Lucid Body House, and PlayGround NY. He has supported work at Soho Rep., Opera America, and Berkshire Theatre Group, and he serves as an associate artist with Sanguine Theater.

In addition to Ventresca, the cast includes student actors Drew Comstock, Miel Escamilla, Rowan Johnson, William K. Li, Joe McLean, Sydney Mullin, Raquel Ramirez, and John Venegas Juarez. The student band, conducted by Gan, are Louis Larsen, Marko Petrovic,  Michael Salama, and Jay White.

The student production team includes lighting designer Alex Slisher, scenic and props designer Sahaf Chowdhury, and sound designer John Wallar with Le’Naya Wilkerson as stage manager and Xander Constantine Rocco as assistant stage manager. Faculty advisors include Elena Araoz, R.N. Sandberg, and Miriam Crowe.

Visit the Lewis Center website to learn more about this event, the Program in Theater & Music Theater, and the more than 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented each year at the Lewis Center, most of them free.

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