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.”
“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.”