Tag Archives: New Carpa Theater

Bust a rhyme

Detail of artwork by Emily Costello exhibited at the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center during Jan. 2011.

Folks who hit First Friday in Phoenix tonight can “bust a rhyme” with Phonetic Spit, which is “using the arts of hip hop and poetry in an effort to combat illiteracy, cultural alienation and silence.” They’ll be performing at the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center July 6 at 6:30pm — followed by a 7pm performance by New Carpa Theater Company that features a sampling of short plays from its “Performing Justice” festival. Think works with human rights and social justice themes. Also an 8pm musical performance by Cesar Chavez Duran, plus performance by Mariachi Rubor.

ALAC will also be celebrating the July 6, 1907 birthday of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo de Rivera with desserts by Titina’s Catering and live painting by Carlos Rivas and other local artists. Also original artwork inspired by Frida Kahlo, courtesy of Petra Fimbres, and eyebrow painting by Monica Crespo-Gisel. Plus Frida Kahlo and Deigo Rivera look-alike contests. The evening also includes the unveiling of a mural created by ALAC artist and resident curator Jose Andres Giron to commemorate the Arizona Centennial.

While you’re there, check out an exhibit of works by Norma Garcia Torres titled “Feminine Divine: An Artist’s Perspective” and the “One Woman Show” exhibit by Alondra Yasmin. Also the “2nd Annual Latina Art Exhibit and Festival” with a “Madres/Madonnas/Mujeres” theme. First Friday is your last chance to enjoy ALAC offerings until Wed, July 25 because they’re closing for part of July to tackle inventory. Normal summer hours resume once they reopen — Wed. through Fri. from noon to 6pm and Sat. from 11am to 6pm.

The Latino Arts & Cultural Center is “a consortium of local Latino arts groups and artists dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Latino art and culture.” Their mission includes illuminating, celebrating and promoting Latinos in Arizona through “education, advocacy and collaboration.” The center includes several galleries, a performance space and gift shop. Learn more at www.alasaz.org.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Phoenix First Fridays, and here to learn more about artist Emily Costello (thanks to fans and friends of Emily for sharing her name so I could give her proper credit).

Coming up: Fun with fabric art, Playwright profiles, Tears of Esperanza

Art meets immigration

Immigration-related issues are getting plenty of national attention these days, thanks to President Obama’s recent announcement about immigrants brought to America as children — and anticipation of the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on SB 1070.

Last night, more than 3,000 people gathered at the “Tent City” jail in Phoenix to shine a light on alleged civil rights abuses. Arizona playwright James E. Garcia brings both a reporter’s eye and a playwright’s hand to such things.

Garcia is artistic director for New Carpa Theater Company, which performed several short plays with social justice themes Friday night as part of a community gathering focused on immigrant rights.

Nearly three decades ago, Garcia was a journalist working for The Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. “At some point,” he recalls, “I decided I could do novels and creative writing.”

Detail of artwork on the exterior of Firehouse in Phoenix

His first foray into playwriting came around “the late ’80s or early 90’s,” when a woman whose best friend had died of AIDS asked Garcia to help her “present his story on stage.” Garcia wrote a monologue, and performed the role of the young man from Austin, Texas in the piece titled “Ray.”

But then, says Garcia, “I began writing a lot of bad plays.” For a couple of years, he wrote five or six plays a year — some dramas, some comedies. Garcia admits he did “no real study of it,” but somehow got the invite to produce a statewide theater festival in Texas.

Still, Garcia grew “too busy with journalism” after landing a foreign correspondent gig with a newspaper that charged him with reporting out of Mexico City. His next job was reporting for AOL.

One day Garcia got a fax from Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, which was “soliciting new plays” for the launch of a “Lunchtime Theater” program. Soon he was meeting with Judy Rollings and moving forward with a new work called “American Latino Redux,” a comedic exploration of Latino identity.

Nowadays he’s working to raise money to present a full-length one act called “The Mighty Vandals,” about an almost exclusively Hispanic basketball team in Miami, Arizona that broke nine state records during 1951 — an era plagued by racial segregation.

Garcia notes that as a journalist he took the role of being “a voice for the voiceless” very seriously. “I tended to gravitate towards communities of color,” says Garcia. “And I wrote stories about these communities.”

Through his playwriting, Garcia aims to “speak the issues of our time and the conditions we live in.” Civil rights. Equality. How people are treated. They’re all on Garcia’s radar. “We’re in an era where human rights are threatened in the United States of all places,” reflects Garcia.

“The arts,” he adds, “is one of many areas in which people have to make a statement.” Garcia’s work, he says, “is no more or less important than what others do in social justice.” It’s all “part of a cumulative resistance against repressive ideas.”

Now an accomplished playwright, Garcia admits to making some mistakes during early playwriting days — including “not studying the craft of it enough.” Garcia likens writing to using computers or playing violin. “Once you master the craft, it gets easier.”

Garcia urges new playwrights to “watch and read plays, and take notes.” Also to “write and write,” then “test pieces around the table with ten friends.” Read excerpts up on stage, suggests Garcia, then “listen to critiques with an open mind.”

His favorite playwrights include Edward Albee, Jose Cruz Gonzales and others with “a social justice perspective.” Garcia loves “a few” Shakespeare pieces, noting that it’s “very hit and miss with Shakespeare.”

“It’s not culturally where I come from,” reflects Garcia. “The world, including theater, should not be so Eurocentric.” He can “envision a contemporary Hamlet adaptation with a Hispanic family” — and notes that “my king would be the government.”

“There is no such thing as art for art’s sake,” says Garcia. “It’s always a social act. You don’t just do it for yourself.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to find The Firehouse Gallery in Phoenix, where I spotted the artwork featured in this post, on Facebook. It’s currently home to all sorts of art with a social justice theme (and is seeking an artist to join the collective).

Coming up: Teen photographer debuts work at Tempe gallery

Update: Turns out not all sports that begin with the letter “b” are the same – hence I’ve corrected this post to note that “The Mighty Vandals” is about a basketball, rather than baseball, team. Explains why dribbling never got me those home runs during P.E. class.

Art as witness

3rd and 4th grade We are the World artwork exhibited at UUCP in Paradise Valley

As the Unitarian Univeralists open this year’s general assembly in Phoenix, they’re readying for tonight’s parade of banners made by participating congregations. I’m told that many feature some real artistic flair. And that another event, open to the public, takes place later this evening.

It’s a public rally dubbed “Arizona Immigration Ministry Witness: Turning the Tide from Fear to Human Rights” — happening at 9:30pm outside the Phoenix Convention Center. Hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and social justice advocates are expected to attend.

Several people are scheduled to “speak out against human rights abuses in Arizona that are being replicated across the country, including racial profiling, mass detention and deportation, militarization of the border, and anti-immigrant laws” — including Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Boston-based UU Association.

We are the World artwork by 3rd and 4th graders at the UU Congregation Phoenix

Also Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of the UU Arizona Immigration Ministry, Salvador Reza of the Committee for the Defense of the Barrios, Pablo Alvarez of National Day Laborer Organizing Network and representatives of the SOMOS coalition. Frederick-Gray leads the UU Congregation of Phoenix, where I found the artworks featured in this post.

I first learned the 2012 general assembly was coming to Phoenix while chatting a while back with Arizona playwright James E. Garcia, whose theater company is perfoming as part of the event. Garcia founded New Carpa Theater Company, which focuses on Latino and multicultural theater works, in 2002.

New Carpa Theater Company performs “(In)Justice: A Short-Play Festival” Fri, June 22 at Civic Space Park. Expect “monologues, play excerpts and performance pieces” presented in English and Spanish. It’s part of the UU’s “Community Celebration with Partners,” which also features music by Emma’s Revolution.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation Phoenix sanctuary is often filled with artwork.

Many of the 5- to 10-minute plays feature themes inspired by the civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers Union (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), and contemporary social justice and human rights issues.

I spent some time reviewing their five-day agenda this morning, eager to find items with an arts and culture twist. I found several “Music and Justice” sessions and exhibitors specializing in chalice art (the chalice is a shared symbol for UU congregations). Also plenty of choral singing.

A “Dance of Universal Peace” takes place one morning in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix located near the convention center. That baby features dance “using sacred phrases, music and movement from the world’s traditions.” Sounds almost as fun as the dance I watched Kids Kamp children practice in the UU Phoenix sanctuary this week.

Want to know how a child views the world? Have him or her draw a picture.

José Torres-Tama performs “Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers: The Latino Immigrant Experience” Friday afternoon. It’s “a bi-lingual, Latino noir, solo performance chronicling the current rise of hate crimes against Latino immigrants.” A discussion of related themes will follow.

There’s also a screening of Ruth Leitman’s “Tony and Janina’s American Wedding,” which follows “a Polish family separated by deportation and their struggle to be reunited in the United States.” And several immigration-related gatherings to which the public is invited. Folks can click here for details.

— Lynn

Note: The American Humanities Festival comes to Civic Space Park in Phoenix on Nov. 3 — click here to learn more.

Coming up: Helping at-risk youth experience live performance, James E. Garcia talks playwriting and social justice

What’s your border?

L to R: Michael Van Liew, Andrew Valenzuela and Kathryn James in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World"

In the opening scene of a stirring play titled “Amexica,” penned by the Valley’s own James E. Garcia and Alberto Rios, we hear people with different perspectives completing the following sentence: My border is….

One thing is immediately clear — the border isn’t some abstraction devoid of human meaning. It’s the people who live on and around it, and the years of individual and collective histories they carry with them.

Playwright Garcia and poet Rios seamlessly weave poetry and performance art together in “Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World” to create a unique work that’ll appeal to lovers of words, history, art and culture.

The world premiere run, a production of New Carpa Theater directed by Barbara Aker, continues at the Mesa Arts Center through Sun, Nov. 6. Aker is a retired acting and voice teacher who counts Andrew Valenzuela among her former students in the theatre program at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Raynell Gonzales (L) and Andrew Valenzuela in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World"

Valenzuela plays Javier, a recent college graduate and poet who decides to forego graduate school after learning that he was born in Mexico and adopted two weeks later by parents Dan (Michael Van Liew) and Tina (Kathryn James) of Oregon.

Javier travels along the border region in search of his roots, his identity and the mother who left him behind — encountering all sorts of people in his journey. The cast of 14 includes an elementary school student, a middle school student and a high school student. Each delivers a strong performance with true professionalism.

I was disappointed, while attending last Saturday’s matinee, to find that far too many seats were empty for a work of this caliber — and hope those who support the accurate depiction of border life, poetic reflection on the human condition and youth participation in the arts will make plans to see “Amexica” this weekend.

My daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthroplogy major at ASU, asked me one evening about the term “fourth world.” Like many, she’s more familiar with the term “third world.” So I got in touch with Garcia, eager to learn more about the choice of a title.

Seems Garcia first heard the term “fourth world” as a journalist working during the ’80s for a daily newspaper in Laredo, Texas. He recalls seeing the word “Amexica” on the cover of a 2001 issue of TIME magazine. In images, says Garcia, the border is two-dimensional. Nowadays, some border depictions in film boast 3-D images. But now, it seems, there’s a fourth dimention too.

Raynell Gonzales in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World" at Mesa Arts Center

“The fourth world,” says Garcia, describes the evolution along the Mexico/America border of a whole new culture. It’s a culture characterized by complexity, he says, reduced too often to “images of people coming over the fence.”

“The Mexican people,” observes Garcia, “have a long memory.” Also mixed feelings about their neighbors to the north. Though citizens passionately recall the conquest of Mexico and prior battles with the United States, they modeled their own goverment after American democracy and seek in some ways to emulate American culture.

The smart, sensitive treatment of border-related issues rarely finds its way to mainstream media — so we’re fortunate that Garcia and Rios have partnered to present a picture of the people who populate the border. “Amexica” is a compelling counterpoint to the caricatures that too often invade our discourse and decision making.

— Lynn

Note: “Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World” also features choreography by Michèle Ceballos Michot and original score by Quetzal Guerrero (whose CD I saw just yesterday at XICO gallery in Chandler). Click here for show and ticket information. The production includes brief violence and language best viewed by teens and above.

Coming up: Sandbox tales, A celebration of life

Chicano studies — with a twist

The ASU Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film presents Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez at the Lyceum Theatre on the Tempe campus through Oct. 22

I made plans to see “Zoot Suit” at Arizona State University after learning that a young woman my daughter Jennifer went to grade school with would be performing in the play.

Kaleena Newman performs the roles of Newsboy and Zooter in the production that runs through Oct. 22 at ASU’s Lyceum Theatre. After chatting with Newman on campus one day, Jennifer decided to tag along with me to see the show.

The other lure was Andrés Alcalá, an associate artist with Childsplay who directs “Zoot Suit” for ASU’s School of Theatre and Film. I’m convinced that following the fine folks of Childsplay is the surest way to find fab theater in the Valley.

Jennifer studies cultural anthropology and has long been fascinated by events surrounding World War II. “Zoot Suit” by playwright Luis Valdez is set in 1940s Los Angeles, and it makes one point abundantly clear: As one war raged abroad, another raged at home. It was a war against racism — and it’s yet to be won.

The theme of fear fueled by prejudice and the press is still relevant today (Photo: Rod Amez as Henry Reyna)

Close to home we see it in anti-immigration legislation and calls for educators in Tucson to end a long tradition of teaching Chicano studies. In “Zoot Suit,” we witness a gross miscarriage of justice as Chicano youth are arrested and jailed for a crime they didn’t commit — in part because of fear fueled by a fashion statement.

The work reflects something every good student of WWII history knows — that prejudice against those of Japanese, Jewish or African American heritage was also rampant. Be forewarned, if you take younger family members to see “Zoot Suit,” that they’ll hear not only plenty of cursing but also a single use of the “N-word.”

The Broadway production of “Zoot Suit” ran for just 41 performances in 1979. Edward James Olmos, Dexter’s newest nemesis on the Showtime television series, performed the role of narrator El Pachuco on both stage and screen. The 1982 film version of “Zoot Suit” featured Tyne Daly, seen recently in “Master Class” on Broadway, as activist Alice Bloomfield.

ASU’s production of “Zoot Suit” features Nathan Delatorre as El Pachuco and Rod Amez as Henry Reyna, a young man accused of murder the night before he’s set to report for military duty. The cast of 21 delivers a strong ensemble performance that’s powerful evidence of the university’s stellar theater program.

Every element of this production is strong — especially direction by Andrés Alcalá, choreography by Adrian Hernandez, scenic design by Alayne Levine, costume design by Connie Furr-Soloman and lighting design by Anthony Jannuzzi. Infusing masterful media design by Boyd Branch transforms the production into something truly exceptional and rare.

“Zoot Suit” feels a bit like “West Side Story” — minus the vocal numbers, plus a heavy dose of politics. It’s an entertaining work of social justice theater, but its dialogue too often spoon-feeds the audience. Of course, a spoon would have come in handy after the show as Jennifer treated me to gloriously gooey pretzels from Mellow Mushroom on Mill Avenue.

I’ve long enjoyed outings to ASU Gammage for touring Broadway productions with my youngest daughter Lizabeth, often followed by In–N-Out Burger runs. But having Jennifer join me for an ASU theater production followed by pretzels dripping in honey made for an exciting new twist.

— Lynn

Note: “Zoot Suit,” which opens the 2011-12 Arizona Centennial Season for ASU’s MainStage productions, is part of the CALA Festival. Click here to learn about additional MainStage offerings, and here for more information on the festival. Click here to explore New Carpa Theater, which “focuses on Latino and multicultural theater works.”

Coming up: Going green on Broadway, Dora explores downtown Phoenix

Art meets Americas

It’s the inaugural year of a biannual festival presented by the CALA Alliance — which champions the importance of Latino art and culture, from both North and South America, to Arizona.

Alliance partners include the Arizona Latino Art and Cultural Center (ALAC), which has an exhibit and performance venue called “Galleria 147” just across the street from Symphony Hall in Phoenix. Also XICO, which promotes Chicano artists. And Chicano Por La Casa (CPLC), which works to empower families in economically deprived communities.

Teatro Bravo presents a play about Frida Kahlo as part of the fall CALA festival

“Celebracion Artistica de las Americas,” also dubbed the “CALA festival,” takes place at various venues Sept 16-Nov 6, 2011. Its mission is “to create shared arts experiences that encourage cultural understanding between people of the Americas.”

Several arts and cultural organizations were selected through a jury process and given awards of various sizes to present their works during this fall’s festival.

These organizations include the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center (ALAC), the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Cultural Coaltion, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), the New Carpa Theater Company, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Phoenix Boys Choir, the Scottsdale Cultural Council, the Scottsdale International Film Festival, Teatro Bravo! and XICO.

Festival offerings will include visual art, theater, music, film, dance, poetry and more. Many include experiences and hands-on activities for youth. Two educational initiatives, supported by Target (the festival’s presenting sponsor), are expected to reach thousands of Valley school children.

Phoenix Art Museum docents will read a book about artist Diego Rivera to students who will then get to take home their own copy of the book. They’ll also create their own mural. Childsplay will perform “The Sun Serpent” by Jose Cruz Gonzeles for students, some of whom have never before experienced live theater.

Children. Creavity. Collaboration. Community.


— Lynn

Note: Learn more at www.calaalliance.org. Head to “First Fridays” at ALAC Fri, Sept 2, for a 6pm-10pm line-up that includes visual artists Juan Chawuk and Carlos Navarrete, poet Maria Rodriguez-Pope, filmmaker Valeria Fernandez, dance group Ballet Folklorico Esperanza, musician Cisco Arvallo and a Teatro Bravo presentation of “Frida.” 

Coming up: Celebrating “Day of the Dead” arts and culture style, Orchestral dreams, Student discount alert!