By Kate Bobby

The award-winning Thalia Spanish Theatre Inc. is entering a new century with a new director and a new direction: productions offered in both Spanish and English.

“It's a way to reach out to new audience members who don't speak Spanish. It's also a way to reach out to more bilingual Latino youth,” said director, producer and writer Angel Gil Orrios, who assumed the executive and artistic directorship of the 23-year-old organization on Jan. 1 following the decision of Thalia's founder and longtime director, Sylvia Brito, to retire last year.

“I'm proud to be carrying the torch for Sylvia into the next millennium,” said the native of Zaragoza, Spain, who first came to the United States in 1979, finding an artistic haven in Brito's groundbreaking theater. His first production at the Thalia was a Spanish language version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” for which he worked as an associate director.

“There is no other theater like the Thalia. For 23 years, it has not just been producing plays and musicals in abundance. It also stages 'zarzuelas.' The 'zarzuela' is a grand theatrical tradition of Spain: it's half book, half musical, with high production values and a large cast of performers,” Orrios explained. “It's very exciting to produce them. It is also very challenging. And I don't think there is any other theater in the United States that offers this besides us.”

In addition, Orrios will also debut a one-of-a-kind production at the Thalia this April – the modern, original musical “Picasso's Guernica.”

“It is what I would describe as a total theater experience – a mixture of drama, music and dance fused with the imagery of Picasso's painting,” Orrios said about the new production that will also mark the Thalia's first new round of bilingual performances. Spanish language productions of “Guernica” will be held on Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 4 p.m. The English language version of the production – featuring the same cast – will be performed Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m.

The Thalia Spanish Theatre Inc. is at 41-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside. Take the No. 7 train (Flushing line) to 40th Street/Lowery Station. For more information, call 729-3880.

Thalia extends its production of “Flamenco with Andre Del Conte Danza Espana” from Feb. 4 to March 5. Performances will be held Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. No knowledge of Spanish is necessary.

Tickets are $20, $18 for students and seniors. There are a limited number of $5 tickets available for high school students through the High 5 Tickets to the Arts Program.

There are special rates for groups of 10 or more (cannot be combined with other discounts). A limited number of tickets also may be purchased via credit card on the Internet at: www.CultureFinder.com.

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