Dallas — Cara Mía Theatre Company festival of new works, Teatro en Fuga, currently running at the Latino Cultural Center, has the audience sitting on the stage along with the performances. It provides an intimacy to these works-in-progress, which Cara Mía plans to develop for future seasons. Below are thoughts on the three works: Where Earth Meets the Sky, I Am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin and Gog and Magog.
Where Earth Meets the Sky is a futuristic piece with roots in the distant past. A devised piece by Edyke Chilomé (Seewu), Ariana Cook (director) and Vanessa Mercado Taylor (Anghared 1262), sends us into a post-apocalyptic future when the White Hairs—the powerful few that escaped the earth’s demise a thousand years earlier—are running out of bio-rich material for their engineered food supply in their orbiting habitat, the Omni Vessel. Anghared1262 is sent to earth to probe the possibilities, assuming that the survivors of the apocalypses, the Brown Hairs, had returned to barbarism and a primitive life. Upon touching earth Anghared 1262 begins having “root memories,” historical events which were written out of or reinterpreted out of the historical (or perhaps better said herstorical) narratives of the white-haired conquerors.
The plot unfolds as Anghared1262’s arrival provokes a conflict between the accepting Seewu, the spiritual leader, and Abeni, a more skeptical member of the council of the Root People. Abeni believes the White Hairs are coming to destroy them, while Seewu believes in a prophesy claiming Anghared 1262 as a reuniting leader between the Star and Earth people. For those in the know of the conquest of Mexico, this plot conflict draws a remarkable parallel to the arrival of Hernán Cortés (the white Spaniards) to the Aztec kingdom of Tenochtitlán (today Mexico City). The Aztec reigning monarch, Moctezuma II, believed in a prophesy that a white man would return embodying the god Quetzalcóatl, thus welcoming the Spanish conquistador. Abeni echoes Cuatémoc, a dissenting warrior who fought against the white invasion, believing them to be aggressive and evil. Survival beyond the destruction of our current ecosystem is at stake in this relevant story of past, present and future times.
The economical costumes, lighting, sound and set design, aided by relevant projections placed the action both in the space ship and on earth. The sophistication of the concepts at hand and the sheer beauty of the language in this play makes it worthy of the word “intelligent.” This is evidently a piece devised among the predominantly female, multi-racial cast with much thought given to every detail of the plot, characters, and the production. While it was billed as a work in progress, the acting and timing were all tight enough to provide a fine evening of thought-provoking entertainment.
Yo Soy Joaquin/I am Joaquin, an epic poem written in 1967 by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez as a manifesto of early Chicano/a identity during the early years of the Chicano Movement, proves to be just as relevant today as it was then. Rodney Garza delivers an intensely emotional performance in this one-man show. Again with a simple yet symbolic stage design, Garza performs his way through the poem’s timeline, which extends from pre-colonial Mexico, through this country’s tumultuous historical key moments to arrive, with its people the Mexicanos, Mexicoamericanos or if you will, Chicanos, all the way into a capitalistic United States that sees them as non-members of its social and economic fiber. I am Joaquin is written in the first person but it is evident that his is the collective voice of a people. During the opening performance Garza, drenched in sweat, received a resounding standing ovation.
The third piece in this festival of new works by Cara Mía members is as different from the other two in style as one could imagine. Gog and Magog, written by Jeffrey Colangelo and Endrenyi (directed by Colangelo) are “two clowns trapped in hell.” Without uttering one intelligible word, Gog (Ruben Carranza) and Magog (David Lozano) manage to entertain us with its physical commedia dell’arte performance full of flour flying in the air, salsa dancing, and the kind of kitchen mess only children gleefully dream of. The synergy between Carranza and Lozano make this piece a clockwork of comedic timing. Lozano, should he consider changing careers into acting, could certainly have a future in comedy. Carranza’s body language betrays both innate talent and training. In spite of the slapstick humor, this piece was neither stereotypical nor superficial. Gog and Magog are terms found in various Holy Scriptures referring to the Other, the Barbarian, those different from the dominant culture. Even without the deeper references, this piece is entertaining in the most basic of ways: we see two guys stuck together in a kitchen, fighting over limited resources, trying to please an invisible “God.” Get ready to participate if you sit in the first row! David Fisher, interim director of the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, did.
But we won’t tell…what happens at Cara Mía, stays…
While on the surface all three pieces presented in this festival of works-in-progress seem so different from one another in style and content, a recurring theme threads them together. Not only does Cara Mía showcase its talent, it also showcases its politics. Where Earth Meets the Sky proposes a world where the distribution and preservation of natural resources belongs to all, following a gynocentric model of horizontally-shared leadership; Yo Soy Joaquin reiterates the importance of the politics of identity and presence; and, Gog and Magog sends us home thinking about friendships, power and the eternal metaphysical question: what are we doing here? All reiterate a similar idea: while we may not be able to fix the errors of the past, we can certainly make sure that they are not written out of history. Presence counts, as does choice. In a heated electoral year in which the presidential election seems to be more of a circus sideshow than a serious campaign, Cara Mía reminds us of the important role that art, and theater in particular, plays within culture. It helps us to reflect and to think in the most enjoyable of ways: through the magic of watching live performances.
» Teresa Marrero is Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Theater at the University of North Texas. She teaches in the Spanish Department; she also teaches in the UNT Department of Dance and Theater.
Where Earth Meets the Sky runs 85 minutes with no intermission and it shows alone. Yo Soy Joaquin runs 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission between it and Gog and Magog. The remaining schedule is below:
- 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27: I Am Joaquin / Gog and Magog: Two Clowns Trapped in Hell
- 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28: Where Earth Meets the Sky
- 8 p.m. Thursday, March 3: I Am Joaquin / Gog and Magog
- 8 p.m. Friday, March 4: Where Earth Meets the Sky
- 8 p.m. Saturday, March 5: I Am Joaquin / Gog and Magog: Two Clowns Trapped in Hell