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They arrived at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on bikes — a troupe of players bearing trunks, buckets and suitcases from which sprang the sets, costumes and props needed to stage an evening’s entertainment.

An hour later, members of the Imaginists acting group had transformed a patch of shade beneath a walnut tree into a portable, DIY theater that drew an audience of close to 100 people for scenes of tragedy, song and poetry — woven together in Spanish and English.

The performance, a rendition of “The Butterfly’s Evil Spell,” or “El Maleficio de la Mariposa,” by renowned Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca, told the tale of a tortured beetle poet facing marriage to someone he didn’t love when he’s confronted by sudden love for a mysterious, injured butterfly who falls into their midst.

There’s a disastrous wedding scene, a witchbeetle who warns him not to stray, an ominous speech by the butterfly that appears to doom his budding love.

But it was viewers who chose to end the play on a hopeful note, voting for one of three possible conclusions. The final scenes of Lorca’s were lost when his hidden manuscripts were found in the wake of his 1936, at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, Executive Director Brent Lindsay said.

Friday night’s performance was part of the Santa Rosa acting troupe’s seventh summer repertory tour, a program through which the group seeks to expose new audiences to theater, poetry and great Latino authors.

This year the tour included four performances of what is dubbed the Art is Medicine Show — or El Show es Arte es Medicina — a 30-minute series of scenes, poems and visual stunts staged at Redwood Empire Food Bank Summer Lunch program sites during the month of July.

The second prong of its summer program includes seven showings of Lorca’s play at selected Santa Rosa parks, beginning in late June. The last show is Saturday afternoon.

Friday’s performance between the park’s play structures and the basketball courts drew a mix of families, couples, and individuals, many of whom had planned to attend, and a few who stumbled upon it. Many brought small children who appeared attentive throughout, despite the sometimes challenging storyline.

Juan Rodriguez, who lives nearby and watched with his wife and three boys, age 6 to 11, said he appreciated that “it was presented in both cultures, in Spanish and English.

“It’s very important for us,” he said. “We are a family who speaks Spanish at home.”

The summer series was first launched in 2009 during the recession, eight years after Lindsay and Artistic Director Amy Pinto relocated to Santa Rosa with plans to create a new theater group they describe as “a performance lab investigating the intersection of art and community.”

As they struggled amid the economic downturn, Lindsay said they took inspiration from federally subsidized arts programs invented during the Great Depression under the Works Progress Administration, later the Work Projects Administration, creating the Art is Medicine Show as a result.

“We just got it in our heads to take a look back in history and look at the Great Depression and at some of the great art that was coming out of that,” Lindsay said. “We were really inspired by taking art for free out to our community.”

The group already had been collaborating on a theatrical piece with day labor centers in Healdsburg and Graton, some of whose members have traveled with the show.

Somewhere along the way, they came upon the idea of using bicycles to peddle theater to the world, utilizing the skills of Santa Rosa artist and bike enthusiast Todd Barricklow to trick out two-wheeled vehicles so that needed supplies could be stacked and strapped to bicycles for the job.

The cast of 14 mostly young players have come to know Lindsay and Pinto through various school-related programs in which they have participated. While not necessarily aspiring actors, those interviewed said they were drawn by the opportunity to work with them in a creative environment.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing it,” said Santa Rosa Junior College student Gustavo Servin, 20, who plans to pursue marketing or public relations as a career. “These guys are amazing. They do amazing work.”

In the audience, Angela Tejeda, 31, recalled how she discovered the group in her neighborhood park several years ago while her daughter was playing. She had already seen the troupe perform three other times when she arrived with her friend and several young children Friday.

“I love them,” Tejeda said. “It’s just a great group, and I love the Art is Medicine thing. It’s a great motto.’

The last performance is at 4 p.m. Saturday, near the playground at Finley Park, 2060 W. College Ave.

More information is available at www.theimaginists.org.

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