In Search of: Villa Alegre
I must say, my dear friends, meeting up with the Three Wise Men was an experience that I shall obviously never forget, mostly because, until now, I have never been properly exposed to el Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos. Luckily, the goodlies at Teatro SEA, as the group calls itself, gave me the privilege of resting up long enough for a second audience at their Suffolk Street headquarters on Manhattan's Lower East Side (while on me first thither, the lads gave me one of the Boyd Collection's remarkable teddy bears to take home). I had, after all, wanted to thank the lads for the nice photo op they'd done over at Macy*s Herald Square only a day before! The boys even were nice enough to affix their signature to a special greeting from Master Richard, as well. In any case, my adventure with the Three Kings reminded your Dragonmaster of a lost vision from Master Richard's youth: an odyssey called Villa Alegre.
For the benefit of those of you who were wondering, Villa Alegre was an early 1970's PBS kids' show, produced in Hollywood by Oakland-based Bilingual Children's Television. It was, at the time, part of one of the earliest trends in the history of 1970's live-action kids' shows, where series such as Carrascolendas, Que Pasa, USA? and, even for its earliest seasons, Sesame Street itself, stressed a bilingual aspect for their young audiences.
Unfortunately, very little other than a series of comments in the Internet Movie Database has surfaced concerning the history of the Villa Alegre series. I vaguely recall, in fact, that in its final year of production, the Villa Alegre series had moved from Hollywood to the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah, near Salt Lake City, where ABC's Donny & Marie Show was then the major project constantly filming. Then, for reasons still unsolved to this day, the so-called Villa Alegre generation simply disappeared, along with the show itself.
No explanation. Not even a proper reason.
The sad truth is, no one bothered to ask "Why?" However, everyone --- including yours truly --- still seems to get a specific groove going each time reference is made to the Villa Alegre theme song:
Amigos, ninitos --- aqui llegamos!
Con muchas sorpresas --- de Villa Alegre!
La la la la la la, la la, la la la la la! Villa Alegre! (repeat)
Amigos, ninitos --- ahora los vamos!
Dejando recuerdos de Villa Alegre!
And so forth. Luckily, however, we have people like the Society for the Educational Arts to remind us of the Villa Alegre generation we once were. In fact, there are several videos on YouTube.com that make an attempt to cast this concept in its proper perspective. One of these videos was shot at Walt Disney World in Florida, depicting a typical meet-n'-greet session with Epcot's version of the Three Kings. Sadly, I had wanted to share that footage with you here in the Diary, but was unable to locate it. I can however, recommend a remarkable article from the files of the Chronicle of Austin, TX on the history of Carrascolendas.
The point to these comments, ultimately, is that bilingualism in the entertainment industry today is an endangered species. There has to be a new generation of filmmakers, television producers, writers and other media mavens who can restore the Villa Alegre generation to its former status when it was in vogue in the 1970's.
(A brief footnote in closing: This entry in your Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft honors the memory of young Jared Nathan, who, on December 29th, 2006, was killed in a car crash in his hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire. He was only 21, and was at the time studying acting at Juilliard. In 1999, when Jared was 13, he auditioned for and was ultimately cast among the first of seven new ZOOMers when WGBH Boston revived its legendary kids show ZOOM. Jared was a part of the new show for only its inaugural season, according to executive producer Kate Taylor, and would have been invited back for season 2 had he not reached adolescence.
On the show, a multiracial cast of kids ranging in age from 9 to 14 played games, sang songs, told jokes and riddles, recited poetry, and even attempted scientific experiments --- with all the material being based upon ideas submitted by viewers. With varying casts, the ZOOM revival continued production until circa 2005; however, the new shows are still seen on some PBS stations. Jared Nathan is survived by, among others, his parents.)
As always, I wanna know your views on these remarks, America. You know the e-mail addresses --- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.