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Farm workers celebrate Cesar Chavez by marching on April 2 to resist Trump.

Sacramento production of ‘Cesar and Ruben,’ Ed Begley Jr.’s musical tale of Chavez’s life and spirit

March 24 to April 1 at Grant Union High School Theater
Sacramento production of ‘Cesar and Ruben,’ Ed Begley Jr.’s musical tale of Chavez’s life and spirit

Chavez family at gala performance on his Friday, March 31 birthday

Teatro Nagual Inc brings to Sacramento Ed Begley Jr.’s touching musical about the life and spirit of civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, with help in the play from the late pioneering Latino journalist Ruben Salazar during five performances March 24 through April 1 at Grant Union High School Theater. United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez, Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez, and other Chavez children and grandchildren will mark Friday, March 31—Chavez’s birthday and an official state holiday—by attending the 7 p.m. gala performance in Sacramento.

This musical—with dialogue in English and songs in Spanish—is written Begley, realistically staged, and according to Chavez’s grandchildren, was a favorite of Helen Chavez, Cesar’s widow who died last year, when it was originally staged in Los Angeles more than a decade ago.

This is the first production of the play in California’s capital. Young actors from different area high schools who have never performed before compliment the professional cast. The young performers add heart and passion, helping bring to life key moments of California—and American—history.

“The struggle is not about skin color—it’s about who holds the power,” says Musical Director Richard Falcon, head of Teatro Nagual. “These young people achieve power by performing wonderfully. They are a movement unto themselves. They are why we chose this underserved community of North Sacramento to mount a complex production at Grant High School.”

When: March 24 to April 1—March 24, 8 p.m.; March 25, 8 p.m.; March 26, 2 p.m.; March 31, 7 p.m.; April 1, 2 p.m.

Where: Grant Union High School Theater, 1400 Grand Ave., Sacramento 95838


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Actor Ed Begley Jr., writer of “Cesar and Ruben”:

“In 1993, I had the sadness and the honor of carrying Cesar Chavez’s casket through the streets of Delano. A decade later, his family allowed me to do a play about his life at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood. I’m so excited the play is finding a new home at Teatro Nagual in Sacramento.

“It is more important than ever to remember the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, a legacy rooted in activism and non-violence. Come celebrate a great man and a great leader with us. His message is more important now than ever.”

Richard Falcon, Teatro Nagual executive director and director of “Cesar and Ruben”:

“My dream is to empower my community through theater and to grow Teatro Nagual Inc., to have a solid base of actors and a school to teach children. Teatro Nagual understands the importance at the political and social level of engagement the performing arts must play in the wellbeing of our society and that theater is a powerful voice to tell stories and impact change in our audiences, as well as entertain them.”


Opening night is Friday, March 24, at 8 p.m. The show runs through Saturday, April 1. Friday, March 31 is the gala performance attended by UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, Chavez foundation President Paul F. Chavez and other members of Chavez family who are coming to Sacramento to celebrate the Latino icon’s actual birthday and the official state holiday.

Attendees will not only learn about an important piece of history but also see a performance that humanizes the most important Latino figure of the 20th Century. The energetic script finds Chavez in a poignant conversation with pioneering Los Angeles journalist Ruben Salazar in the crossover between death and heaven. Salazar, who was killed during the 1970 Chicano Moratorium, helps Chavez travel to very important moments through Salazar’s journalistic view

The musical balances political and social aspects of the farm worker movement with Chavez’s personal life and love for his wife and family. Scenes where Cesar and Helen sing to each other have a realistic air, giving the audience an intimate feeling of sitting in their living room and watching and listening to their expressions of mutual love and commitment. Dolores Huerta, a key movement leader, is represented in the musical with the song “Corrido de Dolores Huerta,” giving the play a festive and colorful feel.

“Cesar and Ruben” mixes humor and drama, music and dance, history and personal struggles, with songs in Spanish and supertitles in English by Sting, Ruben Blades, Carlos Santana and more. It also features a multi-ethnic cast and more than 100 original costume pieces by local designer Rory Castillo and a significant audio-visual component.

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