s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Petaluma theater prodigy earns honor


Petaluma’s Dezi Gallegos has one of those life stories that, when presented in full, is nearly impossible to believe. How many 10-year-old boys write, produce and act in an absurd British comedy? Know many who, at age 14, are asked to co-write a piece about love, life and marriage equality?

Didn’t think so.

“I didn’t think much about my age,” Gallegos said, recalling the day Cinnabar Theater Artistic Director Brian Bryson asked him to help write the play “Prop 8 Love Stories.” “I hadn’t ever thought about it, but my parents encouraged me. I’d worked with Brian before and by the end of the show ... I realized that people are people and love is love so I was able to do the job.”

“The job” wound up being co-writer and cast member of a production that was staged in San Francisco then moved to New York City for a run as an off-Broadway production.

“Dezi would dictate stories to us before he could write,” his father Ken, an elementary school principal, remembers. “When he started being able to write at 4 or 5, we had a pretty good idea that he had an advanced grasp of telling stories.”

No kidding.

“When his teachers said they’d see him directing little plays out on the playground, we knew he had a creative sense,” Ken said. “We put him in an alternative school that had a better arts program and got him involved at the Cinnabar Theater youth program when he was 4 years old.”

It’s no surprise that Dezi Gallegos is recognized nationally as one of the top young talents in the theater arts.

The San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle honored the 19-year-old Gallegos with the 2015 Annette Lust Award, presented for the first time to a young artist who has demonstrated potential to have a meaningful impact on the theatre.

The Critics Circle prepared for the 39th annual Awards of Excellence ceremony to be held March 9, at the historic Victoria Theatre in San Francisco.

“I’m so, so honored,” Gallegos, now a freshman in the University of Southern California Film School, said. “I did two big plays and it’s fantastic to have them recognized.”

Gallegos impressed critics with his one-man show “God Fights the Plague” at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco and with “Hamlet’s Orphans” at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. Other awards required a series of votes, according to the Critics Circle’s Harry Duke. Gallegos’ selection was settled with one vote of the critics.

“Dezi approached me last year to ask if I would consider attending a performance of ‘Hamlet’s Orphans’ and to consider reviewing it as ‘just another show, not as a piece of youth theatre,’ ” Duke said. “He indicated he was working on something he hoped would be not just dismissed as ‘a group of kids getting together to put on a show.’ ”

“Hamlet’s Orphans” impressed Duke, but not more so than did Gallegos.

I was extremely impressed with Dezi. Not only did Dezi impress me with his talents as a writer and director, but he also impressed me with his confidence in his cast and with his willingness to take a chance on actively seeking a legitimate review,” Duke said. “He knew that some critics might take a softer approach when dealing with young people, but that is not what he wanted. He wanted someone to tell him what they really thought based solely on the work.”

“Hamlet’s Orphans” was inspired by Gallegos’ interaction with young people 9 to 14 years of age while he was still at the Cinnabar Theater. “I wrote the show about innocence, morality, what it means to be a kid,” he said. “One day we listened to 14 kids’ personal monologues and nine of them wound up crying about other kids’ stories. They were so moved by hearing that they aren’t alone and that others their age have issues.

“I started teaching at Cinnabar at 16 and just fell in love with the kids. I talked to those kids. I’d talk to kids I’d meet and all the things they told me were reflected somehow in the play I wrote.”

The theater’s boy wonder is the voice of confidence when discussing his craft. He wasn’t so certain when he was leaving high school for college.

“I applied for 12 schools, mostly small liberal arts schools in the east,” Gallegos said. “I applied to the one West Coast school for film, but I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never done film.’ When USC accepted me, they offered me a great deal and there was never a question of where I’d go to college.”

He wasn’t cocksure about things when he first hit film school.

“I was so intimidated,” he said. “USC has the best film school in the world. I didn’t know anything about a camera. I know how to write a play! But, slowly, I started learning to be a filmmaker from really experienced, talented people.”

Typically, the driven young man doesn’t let his priorities get out of order at USC.

“I’m tempted every single day to skip my school work and just work on my next play,” Gallegos admits. “I’ve just never been a guy who can turn his back on school. This is an inspiring place to be. I’ve grown up a lot already at USC. My writing reflects my experiences in college now.”

Gallegos learning filmmaking is no surprise given a story his father Ken shared.

“I took Dezi and his brother to see ‘Citizen Kane,’ when Dez was 7, 8 years old,” Ken said. “He saw that Orson Wells was the lead actor, the director and the producer. On the way home in the car, he asked, ‘Who makes the final decisions? The actor, the director or the producer?’ I told him the producer’s decision was final. He said, ‘I’m going to be all three (actor, director, producer), but I want to be the producer so I get to make the final decision.’ ”

Gallegos has stories to tell.

“I did my own one-man show and I love acting,” he said. “It’s a big part of me, but it’s not what I want to do. It just had to be me telling that particular story in that one show.Play writing and directing, producing, are all things that I want to do. It’s always about the story for me, so I lean toward telling the story.”

Ken and Melanie Gallegos had their two sons interested in literature and story-telling from a young age.

“We were always immersed in stories,” Dezi remembers. “They’d read to us all the time. It was incredible. I wound up dictating stories to my babysitter.”

Ken said that he and Melanie provided Dezi every opportunity to be exposed to theater arts.

“It wasn’t just books we had in the house,” Ken said. “I’d drag them to see movies like ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ and ‘West Side Story’ when Dezi was 6 or 7 years old. He would’ve been a success, I think, given who he is. I think having parents who had similar interests just accelerated the process for him.”

Dezi will come home to stage his next production this summer.

“I shopped it to four theaters. They all expressed interest, so I selected two of the four and we’ll be doing the play in northern California,” he said. “I had the story in my head for about a year before I started writing. Then it takes another year to actually get something ready to go on the stage. Then I revise it some more. Someday, I hope I’ll take five years to write and revise my work. It’ll be the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Who would doubt that Gallegos will make that happen?

(Ted Sillanpaa can be reached at ted.sillanpaa@arguscourier.com or at 776-8458.)