Monday, June 27, 2005

Elia Arce: "I am trying to present work that has a little deeper dialogue about war"

I had heard of Elia Arce and know several artist-friends who have worked alongside her, in collaborative efforts. My good buddy, Robert Karimi, shared a stage with Arce at La Pena in Berkeley. And my friends Paul Flores (of Los Delicados) and Jime Salcedo-Malo worked with Arce on a community-based performance work titled "The Fruitvale Project". So, when I heard that Elia was going to be performing a new work at the Jump-Start Theater in San Anto--while I also happened to be in town--I was pretty excited. Beyond that, I had also just been given her cell number by a Veterans for Peace coordinator, who told me to call Elia, make contact, and find out more about this new work, THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT.

Here's a media/promo blurb about her piece/her chronology of performance:

"THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT is a timely multi-media piece exploring the many complicated issues including defense, fear, patriotism, sacrifice and survival that face the U.S. military community. Through a collage of images, sound scapes, text, movement and interviews with former and current soldiers, Arce brings us into the hearts and minds of military personnel who are dealing with their ethics and spiritual beliefs about the act of killing, amongst other thorny subjects.

Elia Arce, a dual citizen of Costa Rica and the United States, is an artist working in multi-disciplinary theatre. She is the recipient of the J. Paul Getty Individual Artist Award, grants from The Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been presented internationally and most recently at the International Theatre Festival (Los Angeles) and Teatral International Latino Theatre Festival (Cuba)."

And that's the short version of her history of work.

I really enjoyed THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT, if you can say that you enjoy feeling deeply moved, a little uncomfortably challenged, and definitely a bit saddened. You don't know how much ELIA ARCE's work THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT would fit into the VETERANS FOR PEACE national conference setting, as Elia so strongly suggested we try to arrange. (I'm working as a co-coordinator to organize and promote this national meeting, which is scheduled to happen in Irving, Texas, this coming August.) Of course, being a performer myself and having heard such glowing reports of Elia's integrity and reputation, I was honored to be in her audience at the final matinee presentation on Sunday at Jump-Start.

The show: It was incredibly poignant, respectful, yet challenging. Two military soldiers (not sure if they were on leave, discharged, or what) participated in the performance with a recitation of the list of fallen U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. A woman at the opposite side of the stage, also read a list, presumably of the Iraqis who have also lost their lives in this current war. My friend, Gertrude Baker, a Vietnam vet (nurse), participated in the flag-folding ceremony during the performance. One of the most jarring moments of the work was at the beginning of the show, as a toy soldier made its way around the platform where Elia stood, with a staccato rhythmic thumping on the stage that was very haunting. It was with small, almost nondescript props, that Elia was able to suggest myth, emotion, and history. This eloquence was highly appropriate given that so much of the war experience (and attitudes about war) are so difficult to convey with spoken language.

To hear an interview with Elia Arce speaking about THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT, which she plans to develop and expand, visit this site.

U.S. military fatalities through June 23, 2005: 1728
Iraqi civilian fatalities through June 23, 2005: 22,434 – 25,426 (est.)


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