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Le chic: playwright Luis Chaluisan. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen.

The Return of El Extreme

The fact that Luis Chaluisan lives in New York City didn’t deter the owners of Albany’s Changing Spaces gallery from naming him their playwright in residence. Chaluisan’s one-man show, Spic Chic, which features the music of his former band, El Extreme, played to a packed house at Changing Spaces on Oct. 26, and co-owners Phillip and Sandra Williams, are eager to have him back.

According to Phil Williams, Chaluisan is a highly energetic character with a real passion for what he does. And his ability to share that energy and create a buzz is just what Changing Spaces needs. “If there’s no enthusiasm, it really affects our ability to stay open. Luis has really given us a shot in the arm,” says Williams.

Chaluisan is no stranger to the Capital Region. The Bronx-raised Puerto Rican artist used to live here in the early 1990s, and you might say that his hit one-man play was born in Albany. His band, La Gran Orquesta El Extreme, debuted at Pauly’s Hotel in 1990 and the compositions they performed that night form the basis of Spic Chic.

As playwright in residence, Chaluisan will be appearing at Changing Spaces about once a month. He’ll be collaborating with Sandra Williams on projects and setting up multimedia performances featuring art, spoken word, and whatever else the local arts community brings to the table.

A Dec. 7 performance at Changing Spaces will mark Chaluisan’s first return to the area. The show won’t be a carbon copy of what audience members saw on Oct. 26, however. Spic Chic, which Phil Williams describes as 75 minutes of poetic standup, is made up of a series of related vignettes that can be left out or added as Chaluisan sees fit. More interaction with the six-piece backing band can be expected this time around, too.

Chaluisan is excited about his new relationship with Changing Spaces and the scene in Albany. “I met a very diverse group of people up there who are really into what’s going on,” he says. The playwright describes the Albany art scene as freer than New York City’s, and unburdened by the atmosphere of the cutthroat competition that exists downstate. In fact, Chaluisan likes it so much in Albany, he’s even considering moving back.

As a bonus boon to Albany arts enthusiasts, Chaluisan has helped foster a relationship between Changing Spaces and Manhattan’s Nuyorican Café, a popular venue for Latino poets and performers. The Williams say they plan to develop that relationship, and hopefully will be able to lure some artists from the Nuyorican up the Hudson to Albany.

—Paul Hamill

Painting a Brighter Future

John Whipple

A crowd gathers at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Arbor Hill’s North Swan Street for the dedication of a new mural painted by artist Yacob Williams. Funded by the Social Capital Development Corporation, which partnered with local groups including the Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League to make the mural happen, the project was intended to promote community development, foster civic pride and raise cultural awareness.

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