When East Austinite Adam L. Chapa Sr. was shot in his driveway in 1998 by a teen gang member, his family’s life forever changed. But Teatro Vivo’s latest production “Sangre de un Ángel” (Blood of an Angel) now aims to encourage young adults with Chapa’s story.
The play by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce of “Mariachi Girl” is directed by Chapa’s cousin Si Mon’ Emmett. The free performances June 1-3 at 8 p.m. with an additional 4 p.m. performance June 2 will be at the Hillside Theatre at the A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center (2100 E. Third St, Austin, Texas), near Chapa’s home.
Sangre de un Ángel tells the story of a rebellious teenager who seeks the approval of his troubled friends. But when his auto mechanics teacher gives him the opportunity to rebuild a classic 1957 Chevy, he’s encouraged to go back to school. Just as he’s looking forward to a hopeful future, trouble follows him home.
“Teenagers, teenagers of color most importantly, don’t often see themselves represented in professional theater in a way where we can see the multiple elements of their lives influencing their decisions,” Emmett says. “Their stories are important.”
Playwright and teaching artist Jelisa Jay Robinson, who is African-American, grew curious about speaking Spanish ever since her father began teaching her a few words when she was in the fifth grade. But when she starting learning the language, she received pushback from some of her classmates.
“Why are you trying to be Mexican?” they asked.
As a young girl, she began exploring cultural identity and remembers searching the phrase “black people who speak Spanish” online. In an Austin360 interview last spring, Robinson said that after discovering Latino reggaeton artists who looked like her but were singing in Spanish she saw that “there isn’t just one way to be black.”
Robinson’s first full-length play, “Stories of Us,” takes an in-depth look at black and Latino relations. Last spring the play was among those chosen for the Austin Latino New Play Festival, which helps emerging playwrights workshop their scripts. After readings of her play resonated with the crowd during that festival, Teatro Vivo is now presenting the full production of the play at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. “Stories of Us,” which is directed by local actress and Salvage Vanguard Theater Managing Director Florinda Bryant, runs through May 8. Thursday-Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. while Sunday matinee shows are at 2 p.m.
“This is our first production that looks at Afro-Latinidad,” Teatro Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes said in a statement. While they’ve presented other plays over the years that have addressed racism within the Latino community, he said “Stories of Us” has much more depth and insight into the Afro-Latino experience.
“The conversation that explores the similarities between blacks and Latinos needs to begin or continue,” he said. “I don’t know what the forces are at play that divide us. I do know that we can be one of the forces that unite us. We hope that all of our plays create a movement for more unity on the community level, the local level.”
Tickets, which range from $12-$20, are available online at teatrovivo.org.
The popular festival, which is presented by Teatro Vivo in collaboration with ScriptWorks, offers three days of live staged readings from Feb. 25-27 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
All of the productions spotlight the Latino experience and identity in engaging ways, from dealing with loss to coming of age stories. This year the festival brings two theater pieces for youth.
Featured playwrights include Detroit-based theater artist Emilio Rodriguez; scholar and artist Roxanne Schroeder-Arce (who also wrote the popular bilingual musical “Mariachi Girl”); actor, dancer and performance artist Krysta Gonzales; and University of Texas undergraduate student Andrew Valdez. After each reading, the playwrights will participate in talkback sessions with the audience.
General admission tickets are donation-based. Reserved seats range from $15-$40. Visit teatrovivo.org for more information.
Don’t miss another uniquely Austin theater tradition — the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance’s annual Sembrando Herencia production. “Mi Tierra Boricua,” written by the group’s executive and artistic director Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard with help from community elders in Puerto Rico, brings oral history to the stage through music, dance and theater.
“Mi Tierra Boricua” tells the dramatic, adventurous tale of what happens when people of a mountain tobacco community leave in search of a better life. The production features the poetry of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos and is written in English, Spanish and Taíno.
“Mi Tierra Boricua” runs Dec. 5-6 at the George Washington Carver Museum’s Boyd Vance Theatre. Opening night starts at 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 6 show is at 3 p.m. Advance tickets can be purchased online at casita.prfdance.org/sembrando2015 and are $15 for adults and $5 for children 3-12 years old. For more information, visit prfdance.org.
For the past five years, multidisciplinary artist Amparo Garcia-Crow has gathered Austinites for an intimate evening of storytelling. As host of the monthly spoken word series “The Living Room: Storytime for Grownups,” she’s constantly opening people’s hearts and minds to the personal tales that make us uniquely human.
Every first Saturday of the month, people from all walks of life sign up a month ahead of time to share stories around a specific theme. On Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., the series will honor Día de los Muertos with stories at the Mexican American Cultural Center’s Black Box Theater.
“The Living Room,” in collaboration with the Latino Visibility Project, will present stories from three Latinas and three Latinos whose tales will shed light on their diverse identity experiences. For more information, visit facebook.com/the-living-room. Guests are asked to reserve their $15 seat online because there will be no admission taken at the door.
Among the Latino cultural art happenings this weekend are two unique theater and dance offerings. Both Teatro Vivo’s latest production “El Nogalar” and the Aztlan Dance Company’s “Itzpapalotl: Obsidian Butterfly” were among American-Statesman’s art critic Jeanne Claire van Ryzin’s weekend art picks.
“El Nogalar.” Teatro Vivo stages Tanya Saracho’s critically acclaimed modern bilingual adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” On a beautiful but fading ranch in northern Mexico, the upper-middle-class Galvan family struggles to hold on to their generations-old pecan orchards as well as their social status as both land in the crosshairs of the contemporary drug cartel violence. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. June 7 and 14, through June 20. Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. $14-$20. 512-474-6379, teatrovivoatx.wordpress.com. —Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
“Itzpapalotl: Obsidian Butterfly.” Aztlan Dance Company brings its fusion of contemporary dance and ballet folklorico flare to an original show about a young girl whose encounter with the magic Aztec butterfly goddess, Itzpapalotl, leads her on a journey that reveals the wonderful secrets of life. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. June 7. Santa Cruz Center for Culture, 1805 E. Seventh St. $12-$15. 512-762-7000, http://www.aztlandance.com. —Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
You’ve heard of “The Vagina Monologues, but what about “The Panza Monologues?” Playwrights Irma Mayorga and Virginia Grise discovered the power of their panzas or bellies about 10 years ago when they began talking to their comadres and community members about their panza stories.
The result was a unique performance piece that brought to life women’s stories of love, life and struggle. We chatted with the playwrights in our latest Cultura en Austin column about the inspiration behind the work, why it struck a chord with audiences and how after a decade it’s still relevant to a new generation.
Catch the performance, which is also a book now, on Feb. 5-21 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Tickets for the performances, which are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m, are $14-$20 and can be purchased here or 30 minutes before showtime at the door.
In addition to the performance, Red Salmon Arts will present a book reading and book signing with Grise on Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. at Resistencia Bookstore (4926 E. Cesar Chavez St., Unit C1). Power to the panza!
If you haven’t had a chance to catch the latest Teatro Vivo production, there’s still time. The bilingual comedy “Aye, No!” continues Thursdays-Sundays through Nov. 23.
In my last Cultura en Austin column, I interviewed playwright Liz Coronado Castillo about her inspiration behind the entertaining story that explores sexual identity. She also shares a cool story about why she decided to include drag queens in her work.
“Aye, No!” brings to life the story of Alicia, a college student from a small border town, who decides to bring a friend home from college to meet her traditional Mexican family. While Alicia’s well-intentioned grandmother and two nosey aunts expect a boyfriend to walk in the room, instead they meet Alicia’s girlfriend Cathy.
“I view theater as a social and political platform,” says Coronado Castillo, 36, who is also a stand-up comic. “And we can say a lot more and get a lot more people to listen and come together through humor.”
Shows begin at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets, which are $14-$20, are available at http://ayeno.bpt.me.
It’s the last weekend to check out Teatro Vivo’s latest production, “Vecinos” at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. On Thursdays, audience members can “pay what they wish.”
Austin playwright Rupert Reyes, best known for his popular Petra plays (“Petra’s Pecado,” “Petra’s Cuento” and “Petra’s Sueño”), has brought a bilingual romantic comedy to life.“Vecinos” tells the story of Don Roberto, a feisty 70-year-old widower who spends his days chasing young graffiti taggers with his old-fashioned gun sans bullets. His routine gets a shakeup when new neighbor Doña Maria moves in and captures the grumpy old man’s attention. But sparks really fly when their adult children find out.
Check out this heartwarming bilingual comedy at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from now through Aug. 17. Tickets cost $14-$20, and are available at vecinos.bpt.me or one hour before the performance. For more information, visit teatrovivoatx.wordpress.com.