g.The last time Alvaro Saar Rios was in town to perform One Hot Texican Summer, his one-man show about growing up in Houston, "it flooded like crazy," he says. But the weather didn't keep the Heinen Theater at Houston Community College from filling up. There's something about the play, Rios says, that hits upon the nostalgia of childhood that people can relate to.
"It's not just about growing up in Houston," Rios says. "It's about being seven years old, it being the the time in my life learned about myself."
The play takes place in Houston over one summer in the 1980s, when Rios was seven years old. Rios plays 10 different characters, including himself and his brother. There are plenty of childhood anecdotes: Swallowing a watermelon seed and thinking a watermelon will grow inside you; learning how to "cook" using a microwave, learning "wrestling" isn't real and, of course, spending time with an influential older sibling.
"I was trying to write a play about my neighborhood, and in the middle of writing it, I realized it was really about me and my brother," he says.
It was his brother who spotted a pregnant woman and told Rios she had swallowed a watermelon seed, and it was his brother who taught him how to use the microwave.
Another significant milestone of that summer: It was the first time Rios found out he was Mexican. "It was then that I started to realize 'hold on. I'm different.' And being aware of that difference, does it change you?" he says.
Rios now lives in Milwaukee and teaches theater at the University of Wisconsin campus there. He's performed One Hot Texican Summer in Milwaukee, and sold out three of four shows. But the show he's bringing back to Houston is a different one from what was performed in Milwaukee, just as the one in Milwaukee was different from the one performed at HCC.
"There are some new characters, and the story is tighter," he says. "It's a living, breathing story that is definitely going to change," he says.
8 p.m. July 15 and 16. 14 pews, 800 Aurora St. For information, call 281-888-9677 or visit 14pews.org.