A Family Affair at the Theater – An Interview about “Don Pedro de la Cebolla”

Theater is a family affair for Rachael and Matthew Harrington. The director and author of Don Pedro de la Cebolla, a story about the illegitimate son of royalty sent on a heroic quest, are also father and daughter. While the close family ties might cause tension in some working relationships, this team of two work quite harmoniously together – except when Mrs. Harrington is waiting for them to come eat dinner.

When visiting her parents during the holidays, Rachael spent an evening holed up with her father, hammering out work on the play. Rachael said the two were deep in focus and very productive, despite her mother calling up the stairs, “DINNER’S GETTING COLD!”

The result of that hard work – and cold dinner – is the world premiere of Don Pedro de la Cebolla. Produced by the Interart Theatre Development Series and the and the Royal Family Productions Emerging Directors Program, the play tells the story of the illegtimate son of a King who has passed away. Don Pedro is banished from his hometown, so he will not realize he has claim to the throne and is sent to the remote village of Piedra de las Rocas in search of five wise men to help him on a quest of glory and riches. However, only five men live in the village and they are less than skilled at being adventurers. However, Don Pedro continues with his quest until the townsfolk learn that the Crown wants Piedra de las Rocas to be his caretaker for “the full term of his life as determined by local law and custom.” Now the “wise” men determine the fate of Don Pedro on their own.

Don Pedro de la Cebolla is not the first time Rachael and Matthew have worked together, and the ease of their collaboration is obvious. As they discuss the play, the two frequently finish each other’s sentences or laugh at the same time and at the same thing. They are also extremely complimentary of each other. Rachael, who works as an actress and director, has acted in Saturday Night Circlet, which Matthew wrote, earned effusive praise from her father, who said, “She is so good. I just give it to her.”

Don Pedro de la Cebolla was inspired by Matthew traveling to Florida and visiting Fort Matanzas, which is built on an island where trade was handled between the French, Spanish and English. Described by the playwright as “broad comedy,” the show is an extremely physical and energetic show, filled with laughs. After running a scene a recent rehearsal, Rachael told the cast, “That was amazingly energetic and energizing. I need to go take a nap after watching it.”

“We as a team want the audience to come and experience an hour of joy,” Rachael said.

“There’s no message…no Chekov moment,” Matthew added. “We hope people can come and have fun and celebrate life.”

Rachael said her ability as a director to understand and interpret her father’s work can be credited to how familiar the themes of the show are. One example she cited was in Don Pedro de la Cebolla, a character gets a tattoo and is promptly faced with disgrace from his community.

“As I said to the cast,” Rachel began saying, then burst into laughter, “Welcome to my childhood! It feels so natural! If my sister and I had ever come home with a tattoo, HORRIBLE things would have happened!”

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