Feb. 14, 2006 – Audiences of Caribbean Community Theatre have something in common with some off-Broadway audiences in New York: They both have seen Chester Delacruz's scene designs.
Back as a full-time student on scholarship at the H-B Studio in New York City, Delacruz was hired as the production manager of the first Playwright's Showcase for the theater school. During this period in the '60s, his scenic art was viewed off Broadway in theaters such as the Renata, the Mermaid, and the Wurlitzer.
His scenic designs and art have been seen on St. Croix in such CCT productions as "Big River," "Sarah and Addie," "The Spitfire Grill," "Steel Magnolias," among others.
However, his recent return to St. Croix is being marked by a different aspiration. He is here to direct his first play for CCT, "Anna in the Tropics." The play runs weekends from mid-March until the end of the month at the theater in Orange Grove.
In addition to being excited about directing this Pulitzer prize-winning play, Cruz says he's also relishing the "opportunity to work again with many friends and acquaintances." He moved to Florida from St. Croix two years ago.
Delacruz's interest in the theater has never been confined strictly to staging and scenes. In his hometown of Biloxi, Miss., he directed plays, musicals, opera, operetta, children's theater and reader's theater for organizations such as the Gulf Coast Opera Theater, Gulfport Little Theater and Biloxi Little Theater. Also, he has directed productions for Shreveport Opera on Wheels in Louisiana, Surflight Summer Theater in New Jersey; and recently, Pensacola Little Theater in Florida.
He has also written a play that he hopes will soon be produced.
His interest in directing began in college when he was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. In his senior year he was awarded the Best Student Director Award. At Southern Miss, Delacruz received a bachelor's degree in art, with a minor in theater and full-time study in music: pipe organ and piano.
He has also done acting and been a makeup artist for various productions.
About Delacruz's move away from St. Croix, he said recently, "After six months I knew it was a mistake, and it did not get any better."
He is optimistic about being able to move back to the island. In the three years he lived on St. Croix before, besides working with the theater, he played music professionally at churches and restaurants. He hopes to get back to that and also exhibiting art here.
He says his artwork has always done well here and that he plans to have seven or eight watercolors in the Botanical Gardens Flowers and Fine Art show in mid-March. But he has not yet found his niche on the Big Island and will be returning to his family in Florida after the show ends.
While he is on island, he goes out every week with the Paletteers, a group of painters who trek to a different spot every Friday to paint a different scene on St. Croix.
The upcoming play, "Anna in the Tropics," is set in a Cuban-American cigar factory in Florida where cigars are rolled by hand and lectors are employed to read to the workers. When workers are read the story of Anna Karenina, the story becomes a force in their lives.
Other works the soft-spoken Delacruz has directed include "Madame Butterfly," "Once Upon a Mattress," "The New Moon," and "The Mikado."
He recently directed Pensacola Little Theater's "Hello, Dolly!" which opened the 2005-06 season.
He has been invited to direct the musical "1776" at the close of the Little Theater's present season and Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" during the 2006-07 season.
But he is not sure of all that because he would actually like to move back permanently to St. Croix this summer or fall.
Eileen Des Jardins, general manager of CCT, says, "Chester is a great director, set designer and fabulous painter."
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