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FANDANGO FOR BUTTERFLIES (AND COYOTES), inspired by real-life stories brings empathy, hope, and heartache to the La Jolla Playhouse stage through September 25th.

The show opens at the start of a gathering at a sanctuary located in Chula Vista (originally New York where the piece was created). The event brings characters from various backgrounds and experiences together to celebrate and support each other. As the show progresses the festivities of this fandango bring people’s stories to life through music and dance.

Photo Credit: The cast of FANDANGO FOR BUTTERFLIES (AND COYOTES) Photo by Rich Soublet II
Photo Credit: The cast of FANDANGO FOR BUTTERFLIES (AND COYOTES) Photo by Rich Soublet II

Everyone at this fandango is an immigrant, and all have been transformed by how that experience (legal or not) has shaped lives. Mariposa (Jen Anaya) is the main coordinator of the fandango and she works at a deli to support her mother back home. She has been in the US for 18 years and has formed a friendship and a potential romantic bond with Rogelio (Carlo Albán) who is from Honduras.

Rogelio and his cousin Elvin (Danny Ray Caraballo) both work at a stable and are anxiously awaiting news from their cousin Johan (Roberto Tolentino) who is fleeing to the states because life in his native town has proven too dangerous to stay.

Pili (Frances Ines Rodriguez) is a legal immigrant who brings a lot of humor, and music to the proceedings. Her openness allows Rafaela (Silvia Dionicio), a first-timer to the fandango who is also a legal immigrant to relax and share the family dynamics that shaped her childhood.

Sinuhé Padilla provides musical accompaniment throughout the piece along with talented violinist Tania Mesa.

This talented ensemble brings their joys, challenges, and sadness vibrantly to life through acting, singing, and dancing. The show is funny and heartfelt, and the Spanish language folk numbers are lovely, as is a sequence portraying the journeys of crossing the border.

This bilingual piece with music and dance is a production from En Garde Arts and is based on years of research and interviews with immigrants. The characters switch between languages but the theatre has subtitles in both languages so the audience knows what is being said in either language.

Written by Andrea Thome, and directed by José Zayas in collaboration with music director and composer Padilla, and with movement by Alexandra Beller, the show is a celebration of life, sadness, resilience, and love. Scenic and projection design by Johnny Moreno Aguilar, lighting design by Lucrecia Briceno, costumes by Fabian Fidel Aguilar, and sound design by sound design Marcelo Añez all complement each other to tell the story.

While the show explores the long hours, the financial hardships, and the fears of raids or deportation, it also showcases the joy and the love that has brought them to this place. This is especially highlighted during the musical moments featuring the jaranas (stringed instruments that resemble a ukulele) while dancing two by two on the tarima (a small wooden platform that turns the dancing into rich percussion), and singing.

Anaya’s Mariposa (which means butterfly in Spanish) describes the transformative process of leaving one home to find another like caterpillars and butterflies. Caterpillars have to break down and transform from what they were to become a butterfly; which is beautiful and fragile, and can traverse so much and “go so far.” Yet, thanks to that process butterflies can also never truly return to who they were before.

FANDANGO FOR BUTTERFLIES (AND COYOTES) is a vibrant story of people who want to live their dreams beyond the difficulty of their situation, by bringing joy and defiance in the face of fear.

How To Get Tickets

FANDANGO FOR BUTTERFLIES (AND COYOTES) from En Garde Arts is playing through September 25th at La Jolla Playhouse. For ticket and show time information go to

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