April 22, 2005

SDSU’s Teatro Alto theatre group presents: A Bowl of Bordertown Beings

Photos and text by
Luis Alonso Pérez

Rebelliousness is contagious. Sometimes it’s passed on from one generation to the next, but it takes a new shape with the restlessness, courage and frustrations of new dissidents.

That’s why a new generation of young actors from San Diego State University’s Teatro Alto, inspired by the rebelliousness of the theatre group Culture Clash, took two of their most popular plays: A Bowl of Beings and Bordertown, mixed and adapted them into a single play called A Bowl of Bordertown Beings, two intense hours of revolutionary comedy, presented in SDSU’s Experimental Theatre from April 14 to 17.

Rachel, Jeff, Julia, Julio, Brandon, Mike, Jorge, Fara, Jeremy, Ivete y Andrea poured their hearts out on the stage, accomplishing the audience’s laughter, reflection and a well deserved ovation. Their interpretations of the border characters made the audience forget political correctness, accept each culture’s peculiarities and laugh about the mixes created by the cultural clash between new Americans.

A bowl of bordertown beings

The mission undertaken by the young actors is worthy of admiration, because filling Culture Clash’s shoes is not an easy job. The Chicano theatre trio has been carrying out an intense and exceptional work for more than two decades. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza have been working together since 1984, their dedication and creativity has brought them important projects, like the first Latino themed comedy in television, produced and started by its three members. They have appeared in movies like Falling Down, Hero, Mi Vida Loca, among others, and it has taken their plays to many of the country’s most important theatres and universities.

Their play Bordertown is the result of interviews made by Montoya, Siguenza and Salinas to different people in San Diego and Tijuana, trying to capture the essence of the two constantly opposed cultures, with the purpose of bringing them together. Their characters are real, the situations are real and the stories are very close to reality.

The sketches break the rules of cultural respect, making of Chicanos, Anglos, Chinese, Russians, Jews, Spaniards and Filipinos. Satirizing some of the most popular characters from this neck of the woods: Pseudo-revolutionary Chicanos, racist sheriffs, sandiegan marines, pothead surfers, fat Mexican aunts, Asian street racers, drug smuggling rancheros and the recently popular volunteer border vigilantes.

Their interpretation of everyday border characters allowed us to see ourselves reflected in one of them, be familiar with by the situations and accept our own culture, with its virtues, flaws and historical mistakes. On the other hand, the interpretations of historic characters like Christopher Columbus and Che Guevara tried to explain the origin of the cultural problems new generations have to face, and the disenchantment for the struggle for a social change that started many decades ago, but never seemed to arrive.

But the play wasn’t only about comedy, the sketches also aimed for the audience’s reflection. Characters like David, the son of Chinese immigrants who lived through social and legal discrimination his people faced in the beginning of the last century, as well as a Vietnam veteran who lived happily in Tijuana, after his country turned its back on him and continued with the tyrannical practice of stealing away a weaker country’s richness and dignity through violence.

Laughter and reflection, a perfect combination to open the eyes and stir up a new generation of confused and full of rage Americans.

For more information about the Teatro Alto organization or if you wish to know about future plays visit their web page www.teatroalto.org

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