Sunday, June 26, 2005

Full day of Teatro in San Anto

Teatrista/videomaker Haldun referred to it as SAN ANTONTO, but there were plenty of brilliant creative minds sharing the Cesar Chavez building salon for the morning "lonche y platica" on Saturday, June 25th. By the time I arrived, only half an hour late thanks to Adrian Villegas (Adrian, thanks for the ride, but sorry you kept driving in the wrong direction), the comida offerings were pretty much reduced to veggie frijole tostadas and bargain brand sodas. No worry, cuz the conversacion is what held the greater attraction for me anyway. The salon was full, presumably with performers here for TEATROFEST, but also with a few mentors/veteranos from the Chicano/a theater community. Marisela Barrera, theater director of the Guadalupe Theater, opened things up with a welcome and brief intro and backhistory to this first annual TEATROFEST. She then intro'ed maestro Jorge Pina, currently the artistic director for TALENTO BILINGUE DE HOUSTON (and a former director for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center). He gave a brief, though passionate, talk about the Chicano/a theater movement and about the purpose of our work. "We have to be a machete of intelligence, with our humor AND our tragedy...we can solve our problems with our art...our prisons are full, the drop-out rate is high, and we have to deal with these idiots in Goliad with the Minutemen..." He got so emotional at one point, that he had to slow his speech in order to compose himself. I could feel that most every person in that salon in that moment--even if they had never met Jorge or had chance to know his work--were impacted by his "call to teatro".

After Jorge addressed us, the floor was opened up for discussion and many different people spoke--folks from Cara Mia Theater (Dallas), the Royal Mexican Players (Houston), a nurse from Brownsville, and even me. I had to respond to an ill-conceived recommendation that a young man from Brownsville made, exhorting Chicano/a teatristas to "leave the political out" and just do "cultural" theater so that more mainstream "politicians" wouldn't be alienated by our work to the point of defunding or refusing to fund said work. This young person spoke with such a matter-of-face, take-it-or-leave-it sense of authority--without even, apparently, recognizing to whom he spoke (folks with a vast range of experiential knowledge and years of navigating bureaucratic channels of the arts world)--that many of us veteranos exchanged quick glances of "quien es este chavo?" and rolled our eyes como "chihuahua, porque tenemos que sufrir este mierda....?"

When i took the floor, I was pretty wrought with passion and fire, and the words pretty much shot out of me. I must've made my points (defending the right and duty of the artista to share her work without overriding concern for who might be displeased by its message; discussing privilege and "affirmative action"; etc.) pretty well, cuz I got a few hugs and exclamations of "Thank you, Tammy."


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