June 21 2002

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Hosts Festival of Chicano Theater Classics

A new generation of actors will perform Chicana/o theater classics and the plays’ original directors and actors will discuss their pioneering work during the Festival of Chicano Theater Classics at UCLA June 25–30.

The festival will bring together the largest gathering of Chicana/o teatro actors, playwrights, scholars and students since the 1980s. They include Culture Clash, the popular Chicano/Latino comedy performance troupe; actors Evelina Fernandez, Lupe Ontiveros, Tony Plana and Robert Beltran; scholars Jorge Huerta and Carlos Morton; and scholar and activist Jose Montoya. Festival participants will come from throughout the United States and a few from Mexico.

“We are trying to pass the torch to the younger generation and the tradition of Chicano theater,” said Jose Luis Valenzuela, professor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and stage and film director. “We want them to continue with this ideology that theater is culture and it is a place that allows discussions and conversations about the social structure.”

The festival also features workshops on street theater, Chicana/o art and culture, and veinte pasos, which UCSB professor Yolanda Broyles-Gonzales described as a “method of performance and life training developed by Teatro Campesino.” Renowned panelists will discuss such topics as the history of teatro, playwriting and youth theater.

Chicana/o theater dates back to the 1960s, according to Jorge Huerta, a UC San Diego theater professor, director and one of the leading authorities in contemporary Chicana/o theater. Inspired by the legendary Teatro Campesino, which emerged as an important arm of the farm workers’ struggle in 1965, other early Chicana/o theater troupes became active throughout the western United States, particularly in the Southwest.

By 1970 there was a movement of Chicana/o troupes on campuses and in community centers. Several teatros formed a national coalition known as “TENAZ,” El Teatro Nacional de Aztlan. TENAZ members planned national and international theater festivals throughout the western United States and co-sponsored a major international theater festival in Mexico City in 1974.

Much has changed since those heady days of the Chicana/o Theatre Movement, according to Huerta. Then, there were only a handful of academically trained actors or directors and few, if any, playwrights in the 1970s, thus limiting access to institutions of higher education for aspiring theater artists. Now, in Southern California alone, there are more than 15 Chicana/o theater professors and teachers.

The festival will bring together theater students from 11 colleges, universities and community-based theater groups. These include UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, Cal State Los Angeles, Rio Hondo College and El Teatro Campesino. They will perform five classic Chicana/o theater plays.

“This is the next generation of performance troupes,” Huerta said. “They were babies when the carpas (tent plays) were performed in the 1960s and 1970s, or they were not even born yet, and they are now performing these plays.”

The festival’s opening night play, “La Victima” (“The Victim”), takes place Tuesday, June 25. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, the docudrama play is about a Mexican family who immigrates to the United States during the Mexican Revolution. The play covers three generations of a family’s struggles and the injustices they encounter. It was written by El Teatro de la Esperanza.

On Wednesday, June 26, Rio Hondo College theater director Bill Korf directs “Las Many Muertes de Danny Rosales” (“The Many Deaths of Danny Rosales”). Also a docudrama play, it is about the killing of Danny Rosales in 1974 in Castroville, Texas. Carlos Morton wrote the play.

San Diego City College theater director Maria Figueroa and Jorge Huerta will direct “Guadalupe” on Thursday, June 27. The docudrama play demonstrates how Mexican parents in the small town of Guadalupe, Calif., fought the town’s power structure to gain a better education for their children in 1972. Huerta is the play’s original director.

On Friday, June 28, Cal State University Northridge theater director Anamarie Gallardo directs “August 29,” a play that centers on a Chicana professor who wrote a book about Ruben Salazar, the Los Angeles Times journalist who was murdered by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on Aug. 29, 1970. The Latino Theatre Company wrote the play.

El Teatro Campesino, the theater troupe Luis Valdez started in 1965, will perform “La Gran Carpa de los Rasquachis” (“The Grand Tent of the Rasquachis”). Kinan Valdez, Luis’ son, will direct the play about the trials and tribulations of Jesus Pelado Rasquachi, who comes to the United States during the Mexican Revolution, raises a family and watches his American dream fall apart. It was written by El Teatro Campesino.

All evening plays will start at 8 p.m. at the Freud Playhouse on the UCLA campus. In the spirit of Teatro Campesino, no tickets will be pre-sold for the evening plays. Tickets will be sold before each evening performance. They are $5 each.

Panels, workshops and performances also will be held at the festival.

The first panel on Wednesday, June 26, will be a discussion by teatro scholars and critics Yolanda Broyles-Gonzales (UC Santa Barbara), Tiffany Ann Lopez (UC Riverside), Elizabeth Ramirez (St. Philips College, San Antonio, Texas) and Maria Herrera-Sobek (UC Santa Barbara). Actor Tony Plana will moderate the Theater for Youth panel on Friday, June 28, with theater directors Cecilia Aragon, Dolores Chavez and Anamarie Gallardo as panelists. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza, all of Culture Clash, will speak at a panel on Saturday, June 29. All panels run from 2–3 p.m. at the Freud Playhouse.

A complete listing of the festival’s events can be found at www.tft.ucla.edu/chicano-theater.

The Consortium of Chicano Theater Educators and Artists organized the festival and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television is hosting the events.

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