theatre & dance productions

by Patricia A. Thomas adapted from the memoir by Charles Reis Felix

       " He was a Portuguese immigrant cobbler.
         He is gone now.
         His shop is gone.
         Weld Square is gone.
         His life has been wiped clean off the board.
         But I keep hearing his voice like an old familiar song."

A full-length play that dramatizes the immigrant experience, Through a Portagee Gate is framed by a dynamic father/son relationship. The play depicts the story of Jose Felix, from Setubal, Portugal, who came to America in 1915, in pursuit of the
American Dream, with nothing but the coat on his back, and the shoe-making skills passed on to him by his father. Settling in the mill-town of New Bedford, MA, Jose worked day and night for sixty years collecting nickels and dimes for his work, while keenly observing life around him through the window of his shop in Old Weld Square. “No sparrow fell unnoticed.” Jose is an unforgettable protagonist, whose observations, and witty exchanges with his customers result in hilarious and touching dialogue, at once charming and idiosyncratic.
Through a Portagee Gate examines the immigrant experience as told by Jose’s son, Charlie. “Carlos,” the second protagonist and story-teller of the play, is a teacher in Escamil, California. Carlos is in Escamil “masquerading as an American” as he denies
his roots and yearns for his own “American” identity. There, in his elementary school classroom, a Portuguese-speaking custodian becomes an ironic confidant. Back in New Bedford, Pa Jose listens to the Radio Ensemble at the WNBH studio in downtown New   Bedford as they sing jingles and songs, and broadcast news stories and world events, taking us on a journey through the twentieth century, from WWI to, the WPA, Roosevelt, Hoover, Textile Mill strikes, and beyond. This epic story is alive with humor, wit and sincerity drawn from the human experience.