Mansion Players to present ‘An Evening with the Luna-Otero Family’

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The Mansion Players is offering “An Evening with the Luna-Otero Family,” a theater performance at the Luna Mansion Steakhouse Thursday, July 18.

A three-course dinner will be served in the elegant historic mansion while scenes from the lives of some of the oldest and best-known families of Los Lunas will be enacted.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Marie Benoit plays Isabella Baca Luna, wife of Antonio José Luna, in the Mansion Players dinner theater, ‘An Evening with the Luna-Otero Family.’

This is the second year the Mansion Players has performed the play, including a sold-out show as an official part of the state’s Centennial Celebration last year.

The cast of people portrayed go all the way back to Don Domingo Luna, the second Luna to come to New Mexico in the early 1700s, to members of the Luna-Otero families of the 1950s.

“They tell stories of their lives, and talk about how their lives were involved with New Mexico politics, New Mexico economics and culture,” said playwright Nancy Strickland. “They show how New Mexico changed from Hispanic to a more heterogeneous culture — mixed Anglo-Hispanic-Native American culture … how the Lunas at several pivotal points in the state’s development played an important role, not just in the county, but in the state as well.”

The cast and crew feel fortunate to perform the play at the historic Luna Mansion, where some of the scenes actually took place.

“I know a lot more (now) about Solomon Luna, who was probably one of the most important people here,” said actor Jack Fink, who plays Don Domingo Luna.

He hopes to relay Don Domingo Luna’s positive attitude and the great enjoyment he seemed to get out of life.

Solomon Luna is played by Robert Gallegos, a resident of Los Lentes, whose own family dates back to the 1700 and 1800s.

New to this year’s play is a fictional character created to tell Maximiliano Luna’s story. The character, Juan Baca, is played by John Keisling.

Maximiliano Luna made American history when he rode with President Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American war.

“I think they thought it would be more dramatically effective to have someone else talk about him,” Keisling said. “I think especially because he died so young.”

The costumes and period attire are true to the styles of the times.

The script was reviewed by several local historians, including Maggie McDonald, Patty Guggino, B.G. Burr, photograph archivist and oral historian for the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts who was instrumental in getting permission to use images from the museum’s collection as well as his comments on costumes, and Richard Melzer, professor of history at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, who offered several anecdotal stories about the families. There were others, including Deborah Graham, the director of the Belen Public Library.

“We really did strive for historical accuracy,” Strickland said. “However, we also felt free to take a little artistic license, so we added some characters who never actually lived.”

These characters offer comments on speculations that have been written in history books as opinion rather than fact.

The dinner theater lasts about 90 minutes; the play is about 45 minutes long woven through the course of the meal.

“We have gotten excellent feedback from people,” Strickland said. “Many of them say they are really happy to know more about the history of this area, and specifically the mansion.”

Staff at Luna Mansion shared stories with the cast and crew. Many people have reported seeing Josefita “Pepe” Manderfield Otero’s friendly spirit at the mansion.

She was the wife of Eduardo Otero, a nephew of Solomon Luna. Eduardo Otero became the owner of Luna Mansion when his uncle died.

Pepe was a lively woman, who loved color and art, and several of the oil paintings at the mansion were painted by her. Her ghost is played by Marj Conner.

Another colorful character is Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren, a nationally known suffragette. She is played by Beth Christensen.

“She was very much a liberated woman,” said Christensen. “Very forward thinking. A very intelligent woman.”

The Mansion Players is an inter-generational community theater group dedicated to bringing live theater to Valencia County. The group has produced melodramas, audience-participation murder mysteries, dinner theater, comic skits, political satire, improvisational theater, young people’s theater and musical shows.

Tickets cost $42, which includes dinner. A cash bar will be available. Reservations are required. The dinner theater begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse, 110 W. Main Street in Los Lunas.

A repeat performance is scheduled for an Oct. 20 Sunday brunch. For more information, call the Luna Mansion 865-7333.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.