The King of the Desert at NoHo’s El Portal Forum Theatre


René Rivera in “The King of the Desert” by Stacey Martino.

Audiences feel connected with the story about a Mexican American boy and his journey to adulthood, reports Stacey Martino, the writer and producer of The King of the Desert, playing at NoHo’s El Portal Forum Theatre from Oct. 27—Dec. 4.

“People with Irish, Italian, or other backgrounds come up to me and say, ‘That’s my story. This play is about me. I felt like I was seeing me up there.’ It is a very universal story, and you will see some of yourself, even if you might think that it’s a story that might not be familiar to you,” explains Martino, the Artistic Director of CoActive Content, which is presenting the show with American Latino Theatre.

Award-winning director Sal Romeo is at the helm of the production that follows one boy’s search, against all odds, to find out who he really is in an environment that does not encourage self-expression. It explores how cultural history and personal mythology might make some think we have limits. But the journey explores the struggle to become our most authentic selves.

Also wonderful about the show is the performance by René Rivera, who Martino says “is just a dynamo on stage. You will truly feel like you have seen a full ensemble, but it’s him playing all the different roles. That amazes me every time I see the show. I truly forget that there’s just one man up there. I find that a very exciting thing about theater.”

The chemistry of playwright Martino and actor Rivera working together is also tremendous. “We’re married, so we certainly have trust and respect. This show is like a third child for us. A labor of love. I thought it was an important time in the world to put this out there, a story about Mexican Americans who have been here for several generations, and to share that history.”

It is a boundary-crossing story that everyone can understand, and maybe walk away with a deeper understanding for others. “Because we never know what someone is going through. Everyone has a story, and it causes us to look at people differently when we pass them in the course of our daily lives,” says Martino.

The National Latino Children’s Institute, the Oscar de la Hoya Foundation, and the Youth Policy Institute will benefit from the performances. “Our company CoActive Content is dedicated to presenting theatrical events that lead to direct action. We do that by donating a portion of our proceeds to causes that benefit the community. We are having special Saturday morning performances for students, after which René will participate in Q&A sessions. For us, that’s the most exciting way to give back, to give the students the gift of theater, which can inspire them and maybe change their lives.”

The King of the Desert starring René Rivera is at NoHo’s El Portal Forum Theatre, October 27 to December 4. Call the El Portal box office for tickets (818) 508-4200, or buy online at Mention Code Tolucan and save $5 off each General Admission ticket purchased.

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