What is a Pastorela in your own words and why is it so important in the Latino community?
“The Pastorela has a long history in the Latino community. Brought here by the Spanish priest, it is a Christmas tale of the shepherds journey to visit the newborn Christ. It is a play that though it has the story of Jesus, can be a secular morality story for all audiences. It take the shepherds (who really represent “us”) through the struggles of the Seven Deadly Sins, which seems to be more and more relevant these days. The beauty of the play is that it can be produced with lots of entertainment and comedy values.”
How has Petra’s character evolved over the years?
“Petra was borrowed from my friend Rodrigo Duarte Clark’s “Brujerias,” a short play about a bumbling older couple. I liked the relationship and the character of Petra in that story, but I didn’t want her to be a fool or a farcical character; I wanted her to be smart, compassionate and someone who would fight for what is right. My first version had her speaking like someone with little education, little knowledge of English. She was very simple and this almost made her “simple minded,” something I wanted to avoid. I wanted everyone to see their mom, their favorite tía, or grandmother. We all hold these people pretty high up in our eyes, so Petra moved in that direction. She is now smart, speaks good English and Spanish, worldly in that she knows a lot of what is happening but she stay grounded. She is unconditional love incarnate.”
In your eyes, who is Petra’s character?
“My father, who fell from a ladder when he was in his 70s and made me look closer not only at how I had taken him for granted, but how the culture is moving away from respecting our elders. I guess this is what Americans do, but Latinos never would put abuela or mom in a home.”
What makes Petra’s Pastorela appealing to audiences?
“The Petra series is appealing because audiences see their family on stage. Some of the same conflicts in the plays are happening in their own lives. They get to laugh and maybe see the seeds of a solution. Non-Latino audiences gain insight into the culture but also see that we are not different. We are all human beings in the same boat, rowing against the same currents.”
What is your favorite characteristic about Petra?
“Her unconditional love.”
What do you hope to show audiences with this play?
“That faith is powerful. Petra never gives up hope that Rafael will come out of his coma, but she does let doubt creep into her life in any amount. Doubt is the poison that kills faith.”
What do you love about Teatro Vivo?
“That we have been able to reach some many different audiences in Austin; that we are respected as a theater company and theater artists. We do good theater; we want Latino audiences to be proud of our work and we want to make the community proud of us as well. I always say that our biggest competitor is ourselves and we are only as good as our last show. And one of the most important loves is that I get to share the work and devotion with my lovely wife JoAnn.”
Any advice to future playwrights?
“Advice to Latino playwrights: write our stories. You don’t have to only write Latino tales, but take the time to add one more to the very short list of good Latino plays. Plays can be the source for film as well, think “Real Women have Curves,” and “Zoot Suit.” What have you seen on screen lately? We do have emerging Latino actors and actresses, but we need the writers. And who is telling our stories? Most of the time it is not a Latino, think “Quinceañera.” There is a gold mine out there folks. Get your pen and get to it.”
By: Monica Rodriguez
Our next spotlight for this year’s Austin Latino New Play Festival (ALNPF) is Caroline Dobson Chavez. She is the playwright for “Quincea-What?,” playing Friday, May 17, at 8 p.m. at The Long Center Rollins Theatre.
Inspired by a dream, Chavez wrote “Quincea-What?!” to inspire culture connections.
“The title,”Quincea-What?”, is presented in the form of a question, because I am hoping this play causes the audience to question their own viewpoints about various topics discussed throughout the play,” said Chavez. “I hope this play starts a conversation about real communication across cultures.”
Throughout “Quincea-What?,” audiences will be introduced to relatable Hispanic characters.
“My favorite character is Aunt Lupe,” said Chavez. “She represents the Hispanic female elder of the household and is emotionally expressive. I would love to have an Aunt Lupe figure in my life, because I know she would give me good solid advice based on a lifetime’s experience.”
Chavez studied Spanish at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in San Antonio, where she learned about the Quinceañera experience.
“I actually have never been to a Quinceañera, but I would love to be invited some time,” said Chavez. “I think celebrating the transition from being a girl to being a young woman is significant across cultures, and I believe in celebrating women of all ages.”
During her writing process, Chavez learned three things as a playwright.
“I learned from this experience that play writing is not easy, writing a play is very different from writing a book, and the valuable roles of director and dramaturg versus playwright,” said Chavez.”I loved this entire experience!”
Loving her playwriting experience, Chavez believes future playwrights should pursue life’s opportunities.
“Follow your dreams because they can, in fact, turn into reality,” said Chavez.
By: Monica Rodriguez
If you haven’t heard las noticias, Teatro Vivo is proud to present this year’s Austin Latino New Play Festival (ALNPF) in collaboration with The Long Center for the Performing Arts and ScriptWorks. The festival features three playwrights and will be showcased at the Long Center Rollins Theatre May 16 – May 18 this coming week.
Today, we will be featuring Ariana Mendez, a recent grad from The University of Texas at Austin and a playwright for ALNPF 2013. Mendez’s play El Jardín Viviente, The Living Garden, is about Susana, a woman in her mid-thirties who is suffering from cancer and has accepted her fate despite her family’s attempts to keep her alive. Mendez’s inspiration for this emotional, heart-warming story about faith gives audiences a dose of Teatro Vivo’s corazón y alma.
“My aunt died of breast cancer last summer. At the time I didn’t know she was that sick so it caught me off guard,” said Mendez. “I didn’t get to see her before she passed away so I wanted to write something that will help me remember her. Susana’s death is how I would have wanted my aunt’s to be.”
Just like Teatro Vivo, Mendez believes that la familia is everything. She hopes that audiences take away the importance of family in El Jardín Viviente.
“Family is important and those relationships are gold, they need to be cherished. A family fights and argues, but when a family member is in need those differences are put aside,” said Mendez. “I hope [El Jardín Viviente] will bring [audiences] together. I think it’s a universal story about family and in my opinion the Latino community is a family.”
Mendez also hopes to touch audiences with her character’s struggles and realizations throughout the play.
“I think the biggest struggle [the characters] face is keeping faith and having something to believe in at a moment of crisis. They all want their sister Susana to live, but have to come to the realization that it’s something they have no control over,” said Mendez. “I think [the play’s purpose is] to show that life is sacred, and that it should not be wasted on arguments or fights, especially amongst family members.”
As a word of advice to future playwrights, Mendez says to dig deep.
“Have fun and write; write every day. Don’t be afraid to write about things that scare you or are unsure about. Explore those feelings, challenge yourself,” said Mendez.
Didn’t get to go to the pulga? ¡No se pongan tristes! Look through these ‘Pulga Pics’ and relive the chisme, the food and the amazing thing one only finds at this signature Latino place.
Teatro Vivo is looking for talented members of the community to bring to life the works and characters being featured in the Austin Latino New Play Festival, May 16-18, 2013.
The exciting audition process kicks off with roles available for men and women ages 18-80+. Knowledge of Spanish for some roles is a plus but not required.
Actors should prepare a comedic and/or dramatic monologue for the audition. Each monologue should be no more than 1- 2 minutes in length. Bring a headshot or photo. Resumes are welcome, but not required.
Auditions are by appointment. For more information and to schedule an audition, email JoAnn Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Monica Rodriguez
There are three reasons you should come see Pulga Nation:
“Sketch comedy is new for Teatro Vivo and it’s very different from seeing a play,” said Gallaga. “Even though there may be running storylines through a show and recurring characters, it’s meant to be faster paced and to have a lot more wacky characters and absurd situations. We’re hoping audiences get a lot of laughs out of the show and that they see themselves or people they know in some of the characters.”
Inspiration for Pulga Nation came from connecting issues of the Latino community with the cultural icon of a pulga.
“We were looking for a something to tie a lot of different comedic ideas together, and the Pulga seemed like a great backdrop to talk about a lot of Latino issues and put them in a familiar setting,” said Gallaga. “We also thought it would really lend itself to spotlighting memorable characters and introducing funny situations.”
There is a relatable character for every generation in this sketch comedy, young and old from the Instagram hipsters to the techie gurus.
“I really like the scenes with the “Wicked” characters, hipsters who treat everything at the Pulga like it’s a cultural artifact,” said Gallaga. “[I also] really like the Adapter Man character and his extreme personality.”
Regardless of whom your favorite character will turn out to be, Pulga Nation has something for everyone to relate to.
“We [all] know people who are a little too intense and who make us uncomfortable, but for whatever reason we can’t really avoid them in our lives,” said Gallaga. “I’m looking forward to seeing [their] scenes performed on stage.”
Teatro Vivo is excited to add sketch comedy to the mix, and Gallaga couldn’t feel more welcomed.
“Teatro [Vivo] really does an amazing job bringing together really talented performers who care not only about putting on good shows, but about impacting the community and creating a warm space for artists to practice their craft,” said Gallaga. “It has always felt like a family that continues to grow and evolve. I’m thrilled that Vivo is introducing sketch comedy to the mix, because it’s allowed me to join in and contribute.”
Photo provided by: Statesman.com, Graphic by: Monica Rodriguez
The following blog post features Teatro Vivo actress Patricia Arredondo, who plays “La Puta” in Pulga Nation. Arredondo was an original and founding member of The The Latino Comedy Project and acted with them for about 10 years. She has been in a number of Teatro Vivo projects such as, “Fantasmaville.” She loves acting for the immediate reaction one gets from a live audience. So, without further adieu, here are the top five things “La Puta” would find at a pulga:
P– Papi Chulos are everywhere! La Pulga is full of papitos single y
bien ready to mingle! Dress up in tu Sunday pulga best porque you will
have plenty of competition!! *Note* If you are a single mama y tu
vecina can’t watch tus babies, dress them up too y bring them! What
says “I’m ready to settle down” to an eligible papasote better than
U– Universal Remotes are always getting lost. My pinche kids are
ALWAYS losing my TV remote! They try and blame their cousins pero I
know it’s my own mocosos loosing that shit…look for the Adapter Man,
tell him I sent you.
L– I was gonna say “Legs de Turkey” pero everybody and their perro
knows you can get turkey legs at the pulga so imma go with “Loose
Lenguas.” The pulga is full of chisme, nothing stays a secret here.
How do you think i found out that Santos Guerra moved to Frier? Shit.
Don’t even get me started on why that cabron left.
G– Ganas! There is nothing like the pulga to get you motivated to do
algo! Familia bored of the same ol’ cena? Visit the produce stand.
(they gots secret, bien fancy, gourmet stuff under the counter. You
just gotta know to ask for it.) Planning a wedding pero this is your
Tia’s 3rd special day so you guys ain’t got a lot of lana? The pulga
te da las ganas y inspiration to keep that shit under budget.
A– Acid Washed Anything!! La pulga has always been on the forefront of
fashion and nothing says relaxed class before anyone else than algo
acid washed. Mira, my sister bought a pair of purple acid washed
leather heels there in January and she’s already had 5 boyfriends and
a promotion at the raspa stand. La vieja at stall 107 is gonna let me
put on lay-a-way an acid washed, tiger print, fur blanket! I’m making
over El Love Den 😉
One of the writers of Pulga Nation shares some insight, here’s a Q&A with Raul Garza:
1. What can audiences expect from The Mexcentrics this season?
Audiences can expect to laugh with us and laugh at us. They’ll discover characters who feel both new and familiar, and will surely see themselves and their friends & family portrayed in hilarious situations. They can also expect a very no-holds-barred approach to comedy!
2. What was your inspiration for Pulga Nation?
The writing team was inspired by the theme of duality – the quality of something having two distinct “faces.” We thought nothing exemplified that better for Latinos than the Pulga – where you find yourselves surrounded by the most vivid elements of la cultura.
3. What is your favorite scene from the play and why?
Different every time I see it. I’m tending to love the LOUDEST parts, because it reminds me of the fun, chaotic vibe of the Pulga.
4. Who is your favorite character in Pula Nation and why?
My favorite character is Adapter Man – a militant, retro-techie and Pulga veteran brought to life by writer Omar Gallaga. Adapter Man’s concept of language – a blend of English, Spanish, and tech-speak, and his diehard approach to dealing with those around him make him an unforgettable character. You’ll see!
5. Why should audiences come see Pulga Nation?
Because it delivers big laughs that hit home.
6. What are three things that make Pulga Nation unique?
The setting – where else are you going to see a show about a Pulga?
The characters – multigenerational and dysfunctionally lovable
The performances – the actors create an “alternate universe” – a Pulga Nation
7. What do you love about Teatro Vivo?
The aura – the wonderful positive energy we create together. I love the fellowship and laughter involved in any Teatro Vivo project.
Photo provided by: austin360; Graphic by: Monica Rodriguez
By: Monica Rodriguez
So, what exactly is a pulga? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word flea market is of French descent. It was originally given to a market in Paris that featured second-hand goods that might have contained actual fleas.
“The Pulga is an outdoor shopping mall, without any oversight on what is being sold,” says Perez. “You can buy bootleg CDs and DVDs, furniture, boots, plants, anything really.”
According to Perez, the pulga is a place where people can create a second family.
“The booths that sell items are pretty regular so the booth owners get to know each other, creating a community,” said Perez.
The pulga experience can start at a young age. It can be a family affair or even the place to be; it can be a place where you can find intimate treasures for a great price.
“Some classmates and I went to a Pulga in San Juan, Texas for research [on] a play we were doing,” says Perez. “We were so excited to see a sale of 10 bras for 5 dollars, needless to say, we stocked up.”
Pulga Nation will invite audiences into the world of a Mexican flea market. It will be an intimate setting and smaller than a regular sized pulga, but Pulga Nation will be a loud, hilarious experience sin vergüenza!
“This show is written by some of the best writers in Austin. It’s going to be hilarious and filled with talent,” said Perez. “Plus, people will either learn about what a pulga is or reminisce about when they visited [past] pulgas.”
By: Monica Rodriguez
This spring, Teatro Vivo presents The Mexcentrics in Pulga Nation, a new sketch comedy show sin vergüenza. To give us an inside look on this vibrant series of sketches director of Pulga Nation, Estevan Zarate, tells us about the long-awaited comedy show about la pulga, the flea market.
Audiences coming to see The Mexcentrics should expect something new, bold y algo muy diferente.
“We are a new troupe that will hopefully bring a fresh take on sketch comedy to both Latino and other audiences in Austin,” said Zarate. “This show is going to be a lot of fun for people who are looking for a departure from the normal date night.”
Pulga Nation highlights eccentric characters with a hilarious cast and it shows audiences what this cultural icon is all about.
“I have had an incredible time getting to know this cast. They are all very talented people with bright futures,” said Zarate. “I am also very happy with the script that I’ve been given, [writers] Omar Gallaga and Raul Garza are so good at creating believable dialogue.”
So if you are wondering how to start your spring break this year, come find out what great things Pulga Nation has to offer and what Teatro Vivo is all about.
“Teatro Vivo is my home,” says Zarate. “I have been working with them for quite a while now and I feel like they are the most supportive company in town.”