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Undesirable Secrets

Theater as a Catalyst for Unity: Rodolfo Alvarado on His New Play, Undesirable Secrets

Welcome, and thanks for joining me for a thought-provoking discussion with eclectic

writer and Michigan resident Rodolfo Alvarado. In this interview we’ll be discussing how

theater and storytelling can promote unity, inspire healing, and address critical global

issues, all exemplified in his impactful new play, Undesirable Secrets.

Rodolfo, a masterful storyteller and advocate for the power of the written word, has

graced the literary world with his profound narratives. I had the privilege of connecting

with Rodolfo through our shared passion for writing, and his work continues to leave a

lasting impact.

In his body of work, Rodolfo has skillfully crafted thought-provoking stories that

transcend boundaries. His tales resonate with both adults and young readers,

showcasing his versatile storytelling abilities. However, our focus today is on Undesirable

Secrets, a powerful and emotionally resonant play that delves into the untold story of

Anthony Acevedo, a WWII medic, who along with the Forgotten Soldiers of Berga were

held in a concentration camp.

This compelling narrative not only serves as a beacon of hope and resilience but also

underscores the importance of unity and harmony in today's world. A read-through of

Undesirable Secrets has been chosen as the closing event of the Holocaust Memorial

Museum of San Antonio and the San Antonio Public library's annual Remembrance

Month. Additionally, on the evening prior, an event will unite and celebrate the Jewish and

Latino communities of San Antonio, emphasizing the play's message of unity in the face

of adversity. The celebration of the Jewish and Latino communities will take place at El

Progreso Hall at 7:00 pm and the read-through at the Barshop Jewish Community Center

at 2:00 pm.

SJ: Before we delve into your latest work, could you tell us a bit about your background as a playwright and some of your previous projects?

RA: I've been involved in theater and playwriting for several years, and aside from my PhD in Liberal Studies, I also hold an MFA in Playwriting, both from Texas Tech University. Some of my previous works have explored diverse themes, from family dynamics to cultural identity. One of my recent projects, a young adult novel titled Junior’s Dream, delves into the experiences of border

communities, highlighting the human stories often overshadowed by political discourse.

SJ: That sounds like important and compelling work.

RA: It is. I am thankful to those who wrote to tell me that the story has touched them

and their families.

SJ: Now, let's talk about your latest project, Undesirable Secrets. Could you

provide my readers with an overview of the play and its central themes?

RA: Absolutely. Undesirable Secrets is a powerful and emotionally resonant play that

brings to life the untold story of Anthony Acevedo, a heroic World War II medic and

Holocaust survivor, as well as the Forgotten Soldiers of Berga. The play explores

themes of discrimination, resilience, mental and physical abuse, and the enduring spirit

of the human soul.

October 13, 2010, Anthony donates his diary to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

SJ: I understand that Anthony holds a significant place in our nation’s history.

RA: He does. Anthony was the first Mexican American to register as a concentration

camp survivor and his was the first diary written in a concentration camp by an

American that was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

SJ: I must say that the title, Undesirable Secrets piqued my interest when I first heard it.

Why did you choose that?

RA: The Nazis wanted 350 Army Jewish GIs to send to Berga and when that number was not met they selected “undesirables” at random to fulfill that quota, and once these GIs were liberated the Army made them sign a security certificate that forbade them from telling anyone that they were held in a concentration camp, thus, the title, Undesirable Secrets. However, in Anthony’s case, there is the added layer of the

undesirable secrets he kept related to the mental and physical abuse he suffered at the

hands of his father, Francisco.

SJ: It sounds like a deeply impactful story. How does Undesirable Secrets relate to the

current crisis in Israel and the broader geopolitical challenges we're witnessing today?

RA: While Undesirable Secrets is set against the backdrop of World War II, its themes are

unfortunately timeless. The play addresses the universal themes of discrimination,

persecution, and the resilience of the human spirit, which are tragically relevant in many

contexts, including the current crisis in Israel. It underscores the need for unity,

dialogue, and understanding, especially during challenging times.

SJ: You mentioned that Undesirable Secrets was selected as the closing event for the

Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio's Remembrance Month. Could you share

how the play's message aligns with the goals of this annual event?

RA: Certainly. The Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio's Remembrance Month

aims to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and educate the public about the

atrocities of that time. Undesirable Secrets aligns with these goals by shedding light on

lesser-known aspects of the Holocaust, particularly the experiences of the Forgotten

Soldiers of Berga. It underscores the importance of remembrance and the enduring

need to learn from history.

SJ: The event on January 20, 2024, celebrating the Jewish and Latino communities of

San Antonio, sounds like a significant gathering. How do you envision it contributing to

unity and understanding, particularly in the context of today's global challenges?

RA: The event on January 20, 2024, is a remarkable opportunity to bring together the

diverse Jewish and Latino communities of San Antonio. It celebrates their shared

cultural heritage and values, fostering dialogue and collaboration. In a world facing

complex geopolitical challenges, such events promote diversity and solidarity,

emphasizing the importance of coming together as a community.

SJ: How do you believe theater and storytelling, as exemplified in Undesirable

Secrets, can contribute to discussions on important global issues, promote healing, and

ultimately inspire unity?

RA: Theater and storytelling have a unique power to engage audiences on both

emotional and intellectual levels. They allow us to empathize with others and see the

world through their eyes. By addressing vital global issues through theater, we can

ignite meaningful conversations, encourage healing, and ultimately work towards a

more united and compassionate world. Undesirable Secrets serves as a testament to

the enduring strength of the human spirit, reminding us of the power of resilience and

unity, especially during challenging times.

SJ: What inspired you to write Undesirable Secrets, and how did you become interested

in the story of Anthony Acevedo and the Forgotten Soldiers of Berga?

RA: I was initially introduced to Anthony's story through a chance encounter. Learning

about his experiences as a World War II medic and concentration camp survivor, I was

struck by the remarkable depth of his journey and the need to bring it to a wider

audience. His story of survival, resilience, and the burden of long-held secrets resonated

deeply with me, and I felt compelled to give it a voice through theater.

SJ: Can you describe your creative process when writing the play? Did you face any

challenges or unique experiences during its development?

RA: Writing Undesirable Secrets was a deeply immersive experience. I embarked on

extensive research, delving into historical archives and conducting interviews to capture

the authenticity of the era. Crafting the narrative required balancing the horrors of war

and captivity with moments of humanity and hope. While challenging, this process

allowed me to explore the complexities of Anthony's journey in a meaningful way.

SJ: Undesirable Secrets explores complex themes like survival, identity, and resilience.

How did you approach these themes while crafting the narrative?

RA: These themes were at the forefront of my mind throughout the writing process. I

aimed to depict the inner and outer struggles of the characters authentically,

emphasizing the human spirit's capacity to endure even in the bleakest of

circumstances. Anthony's journey served as a lens through which I explored the broader

themes of identity and resilience in the face of adversity.

SJ: As the playwright, what message or emotions do you hope the audience takes away

from watching the play?

RA: I hope that audiences are deeply moved by Undesirable Secrets. I aim to evoke a

range of emotions, from empathy and compassion to reflection and inspiration.

Ultimately, I want viewers to leave the theater with a renewed appreciation for the

strength of the human spirit and a commitment to preserving the memory of historical

events like those depicted in the play.

SJ: Were there any specific moments or scenes in the play that were particularly

meaningful or challenging to write?

RA: One of the most meaningful scenes for me was the revelation of Anthony's secrets

when he was a little boy. Can you imagine the suffering he went through at the hands of

the Nazis was nothing compared to the suffering he went through at the hands of his

father. Writing these pivotal moments, where he finally shares his experiences after

decades of silence, was emotionally charged and challenging. It required capturing the

weight of his memories and the catharsis of disclosure.

SJ: How does your background and personal experiences influence your writing,

especially when tackling historical and emotionally charged subjects like the Holocaust

and World War II?

RA: My background as a playwright is deeply intertwined with my passion for

storytelling and history. Drawing from personal experiences and a love for research, I

strive to bring authenticity and depth to my work. Tackling emotionally charged subjects

like the Holocaust requires a profound sense of responsibility to honor the memory of

those who lived through it.

SJ: Can you share any insights into your collaboration with the Acevedo family and the Anthony C. Acevedo Foundation in bringing this story to life on the stage?

RA: Collaborating with Rebeca Acevedo-Carlin and Ernesto Acevedo, Anthony’s

daughter and son, has been a privilege. Their dedication to preserving Anthony's

memory and the legacy of the Forgotten Soldiers of Berga has been a driving force

behind the play's development. Their personal insights and unwavering support have

enriched the storytelling and deepened the connection to the narrative. I am proud to

say that I look upon them as family.

SJ: Fernando Acevedo, one of Anthony’s sons who you describe as the champion of his

father’s story, passed away before you completed the play. What impact did that have

on the play?

RA: Fernando’s passing was quite unexpected. We’d been working together on the story for a couple of years, and suddenly, he was gone. There’s not a day that I do not think of him and ask myself if I am staying true to a son’s love of his father and his father’s legacy. In every instance, I can say that I have. May he rest in peace. I miss him.

With Fernando Acevedo at Anthony’s gravesite. Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, CA.

SJ: Could you tell us about any future plans related to the play, such as potential

productions or adaptations?

RA: We are actively working towards producing Undesirable Secrets in various locations, including San Antonio, Los Angeles and New York. Our hope is to share this important story on a larger scale, potentially even adapting it into a film. We are committed to ensuring that Anthony's legacy endures through multiple mediums.

SJ: Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring playwrights who are passionate about telling untold stories and historical narratives through theater?

RA: My advice to aspiring playwrights is to immerse themselves in their subjects, conduct thorough research, and approach storytelling with authenticity and empathy. Be open to collaboration and the insights of others, and never underestimate the power of theater to shed light on untold stories that deserve to be heard.

SJ: Thank you, Rodolfo, for sharing your insights into Undesirable Secrets and the

powerful role of theater in addressing global issues.

RA: You’re welcome, SJ, and thanks again for all the support you provide authors!

If you would like to learn more about Rodolfo, please visit his website at

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