MIAMI – Forty years after its premiere, “¿Que Pasa, USA?” – the first series in Spanglish to air on US television – returns in its stage-play format, updated to the world of today with the actors of the original cast now seen as grandparents.
Producer Nelson Albareda was 8 years old when he saw, together with his grandmother, the 39 episodes of the series featuring the Peña family, Cuban immigrants to the United States, something he remembered so long and so deeply that he finally decided to update and stage it.
The result is “¿Que Pasa USA? Today,” the play that premieres this Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
“For any immigrant between ages 35 and 65, or for some recent arrivals, ‘¿Que Pasa, USA?’ means a lot, because the series captured what immigration was like and what being brought up between two cultures was all about,” Albareda, director of the Loud and Live company in charge of the production, told EFE.
According to the producer, the series that debuted in 1977 as a simple project on WPBT public television in Miami became “a social phenomenon, a cult.”
“A lot of things have changed and others no, but I’m sure not a few Americans learned Spanish with ‘¿Que Pasa, USA?’”
“We’re not trying to recreate the series, but rather update it. Miami now is not just Cuban. Here we’re neighbors of many African Americans, Venezuelans, Colombians and a new generation of Cubans, and they’re all represented in this show,” Albareda said.
For the director, this is a play that, besides moving ahead in time, “shows us as we see ourselves, how we laugh about our culture in a good way.”
According to Albareda, “it was hard to convince the original actors, because they objected that comebacks never turn out well.”
The cast brings back what was the youthful quartet of the series, made up of Ana Margo (Carmencita), Connie Ramirez (Violeta), Barbara Ann Martin (Sharon) and Steven Bauer (Joe), in the same roles but now become grandparents.
After several years away from showbiz, Ana Margo was totally surprised when she was called upon to recreate her role as Carmencita.
“This play could be staged on Broadway and it would be a hit, because it reflects what the United States was like at that time. It’s bilingual, and everything’s the same except so much time has passed,” Margo said.