By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published January 13, 2005
When Mexican soap opera star Alberto Mayagoitia reached 33, he planned to record a CD of several classical poems from Mexican and Spanish literature as a gift to himself. But the project evolved into a Catholic dramatization concerning the crucifixion that he’s performed nationwide and internationally 300 times.
He was rummaging through a dear friend’s old records looking for a piece for his project when he came across an old 1960s vinyl record of “Mi Cristo Roto” (“My Broken Christ”) recited by José Antonio Cassío. He was enchanted by both the simple parable and eloquent narration of the story of a priest in Spain who barters in an antique shop to buy a broken crucifix and his reflections with God about its significance. Mayagoitia then read the book and the sequel “Mi Cristo Roto de Casa en Casa,” both written by Father Ramón Cué, SJ, and decided to dramatically narrate from them for his personal project, getting permission from the Jesuit Order in Spain. “Immediately I knew it had the potential to become something big,” he said.
The Mexican actor of 25 years holds a degree in dramatic literature and theater from the National University of Mexico and has appeared in 15 soap operas and 30 plays as well as other TV programs. He was invited in 2002 by a priest-friend to do his first public performance of the work in Los Angeles. He was amazed by the positive response to it, which showed him it had more “theatrical possibilities” and encouraged him to continue applying his skills to spread this message. But in the meanwhile he fell under enormous pressure while starring in the play “Barefoot in the Park,” which lost $75,000, and suffered a heart attack that year. “My heart said I just can’t go on with this much stress.”
And after his heart attack in 2002, the project became more personally profound.
His thoughts in his own brokenness returned to “Mi Cristo Roto” and his desire to serve God, and as he traveled to Europe to visit his sister he delved deeper into the project. He started taking pictures, including an image of Jesus in Munich, Germany, and images of corpses at a concentration camp to add visual images to the dramatization. He premiered it in Lent 2003 at Mexico City’s metropolitan cathedral through the invitation of a priest friend there. What began as a personal project has become an international one, as in three years he’s done over 300 shows across Mexico and Central America, and in U.S. cities including Tucson, Ariz., and Los Angeles. One of the milestones has been performing at the 2004 international Eucharistic Congress in the historic Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara’s most prestigious theatre.
He will perform in Atlanta in both Spanish and English on Jan. 29-30 at the Gwinnett Center. “I can attest that the Lord is in this theatrical project and wants this message to be delivered. We have never had any problems on the road, missed a plane or been late, never lost any luggage. It’s been clear to me since the beginning,” he said.
God has revealed the scope of the project to him gradually. He never dreamed how big it would become. “God never tells you everything he has in mind. You just have to let yourself be led by the hand of God. My wife is the director. We have just been led and let ourselves be led by what he wills. That’s why we have gone so far with a one-man show,” he continued. “In Mexico City from a professional business standpoint, three years on stage for a one-man show where the guy doesn’t speak on politics or sex…is a very treasured achievement. That’s why we are so happy.”
Laura Torres-Pezzotti, a member of Holy Cross Church in Atlanta, discussed the book with other participants in the Spanish Cursillo movement and after reading it and learning of the theatrical adaptation decided to bring Mayagoitia to Atlanta as a way to promote more Spanish Catholic fine arts in Atlanta. “I’m a big supporter of theatre, and as Spanish speakers we need to be educated to be here in the U.S. and to be educated we have to have some kind of culture…I really believe we need more things to get involved in, other types of evangelization.”
The actor, now 36, feels a sense of privilege and responsibility to bring an elegant night of theatre to even the smallest parishes in rural Mexico. His good friend is focusing on marketing and created the Web site. They developed a guidebook to help pastors use the event as a fund-raiser for parishes, through which all are enriched. He believes theatre needs to be better used as an evangelization tool. “To see a professional show very well staged, I think sometimes we do not use that as an evangelization tool because it’s difficult to do it well.”
In the adaptation Father Ramon is writing the book about how he bought the broken crucifix and begins discussing with God his desire to restore it, when Christ tells him not to fix it but to seek him in the broken and suffering people around him and to pick up his own cross and “restore” them. Some 1,000 images are displayed throughout. In one part Father Ramon wants to replace the missing head on the crucifix with a beautiful image of Jesus when the Lord tells him rather to seek his face in everyone, even despised persons who hurt him. Jesus says “I died for all of them, for those you like and those you don’t like,” Mayagoitia said. “Christ will help you bear your cross.”
Torres, who had viewed a video of the show, thinks it’s “beautiful” and noted how the show reflects how the faithful can barter with God and crucify Christ in daily life. “This is what we do in life—we try to give less for Christ, and he gives everything for us. It’s a good parable, a good reflection,” Torres said. “It’s really going to stay on your mind and on your heart.”
For now Mayagoitia is between soap operas and happy to perform the play full-time, which he will also perform in Chicago January 13-15. His acting colleagues and past teachers came to see the show and expressed deep appreciation. “‘Broken Christ’ has been so good for me and my family and the other six families involved that I really have been (happy). TV hasn’t been very much in my life lately.”
The show, which is not for children under 8 years old, will be performed on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., both in Spanish, and on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. in English and 7:30 p.m. in Spanish. Tickets cost $25 and may be purchased at the following parishes (if tickets remain they’ll be sold at the door), through the Hispanic ministry at Holy Cross, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cathedral of Christ the King, all in Atlanta; St. John Neumann, Lilburn; Duluth Mission; St. Pius X, Conyers; St. Joseph, Athens; Our Lady of the Americas, Doraville; St. Michael, Woodstock; St. Patrick, Norcross; Transfiguration, Marietta; Christ Our King and Savior, Greensboro; St. Benedict, Duluth; St. Michael, Gainesville; Holy Trinity, Peachtree City; Corpus Christi, Stone Mountain; and through the pastor’s office at St. Brendan, Cumming, and St. Bernadette, Cedartown.
For information contact Laura Torres-Pezzotti at (678) 361-2417 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gwinnett Center is located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, GA 30097.