Category Archives: community

Live Arts in Resistance Showcase #5 Featuring Juan M Aldape

Live Arts in Resistance

Live Arts in Resistance
Live Arts in Resistance Showcase #5 Eastside Arts Alliance

I was invited to participate in the Live Arts in Resistance showcase and had the honor of sharing the space with an amazing group of artists from the East Bay.

LAIR Showcase #5: Building a United Front

March 17, 2017

Friday & Saturday, March 17th & 18th    8pm

Panel Discussion March 18th @5pm

EastSide Cultural Center

2277 International Blvd, Oakland

$20 (no one turned away)

LINEUP:

Afia Thompson/Bahiya Movement

Keisha Turner

Stephanie Bastos

Juan Aldape

NAKA Dance Theater

Shavon Moore/Singer

M’Kala Payton/Poet

Jaime Cortez/Poet

The theme for this LAIR production is “Building a United Front”. LAIR fosters risk-taking, rigor, and a radical critique on the role of political activism, cultural work and art in society. “

Natalie Sanchez and performers from the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition (2014). Performing on the UC Berkeley campus, the students talk about the problematic of UC Regents' appointment of UC President's Janet Napolitano.

Performance Colectiva: Latinas and Critical Community Practice

Feature Image: Students of Color Solidarity Coalition and Performance Colectiva at the University of California Berkeley. Image courtesy of Natalie Sanchez.

Bubbles are meant to burst. Enter Natalie Sanchez and her collaborators of Performance Colectiva, a group composed of current students as well as recently-graduated students from the University of California at Berkeley (CAL). Natalie and the troupe’s collaborators successfully graduated from the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) with the mission to connect and bridge communities in the San Francisco Bay Area through performance. Performance Colectiva’s story is one of an exciting theatrical beginning in a class that catapulted outside the campus. Natalie recently sat down with me at CAL’s Free Speech Movement Cafe to talk about her experience and the development of Performance Colectiva.

Natalie Sanchez on the stage of Durham Studio Theatre at the University of California Berkeley. Image courtesy of Natalie Sanchez.
Natalie Sanchez on the stage of Durham Studio Theatre at the University of California Berkeley. Image courtesy of Natalie Sanchez.

Performance Colectiva formed out of a desire to continue the work started in a class. Natalie registered in Performance Studies Professor Angela Marino’s Teatro Lab class, created by Marino in 2013 to give CAL students an opportunity to learn about theatre in Latin America. Teatro Project is a group of Latinas/os in the Theater and Performance Studies Department advocating diversity across the campus and the local community. Working rigorously throughout the Spring semester, the lessons culminated in a community performance Bodies, Buildings, Borders: An Experimental Showcase. The student performance addressed themes directly impacting students of color by weaving personal reflections on the experience of higher education with perceptions of community struggles and political challenges.  Moved by the rewarding experience of the class and the reception of the production by the community attendees, the students felt compelled to continue working after the semester ended. Thus, Performance Colectiva was born. Natalie, in the final semester of senior year, felt the determination to enroll in one more semester to minor in Theater and Performance Studies.

Teatro Project students and Performance Colectiva members with Luis Valdez at El Teatro Campesino
Teatro Project students and Performance Colectiva members with Luis Valdez at El Teatro Campesino. Photo Courtesy of Angela Marino.

Natalie’s decision to stay an additional semester proved invigorating, but also critical in crystallizing the reason for Performance Colectiva. Following the initial performance, the students organized other performances and community  interventions to confront and burst the “Berkeley Bubble”. According to Sanchez, the “Bubble” is the resulting effect of students from CAL closing off ties with the communities in non-campus Berkeley and the greater East Bay. In the process of bursting the bubble, she has cultivated new relationships with the graduating students and with Marino, as well as found enriching opportunities to work with distinguished Bay Area Latino playwrights.

In Spring 2014, they helped bring Octavio Solis to CAL. As special guests to the Association for Theater in Higher Education annual conference,  they, alongside the Teatro Project,  adapted, directed and performed Luiz Valdez’s Zoot Suit. What is more, both the Teatro Project and Performance Colectiva are assisting TDPS with bringing eminent playwright Luiz Valdez to the UC Berkeley Campus. On November 18, Valdez will give the Keynote Lecture “The Power of Zero.” The lecture is opened to both the campus and community at large.

Ultimately, Sanchez remarks, Performance Colectiva’s goal is to be a “performance pipeline so folks that don’t identify with the [TDPS] department can go in and learn about their identity and find strategies and inspiration through taking classes.” They seek to provide a dual process for community engagement: CAL students connecting to the community and the community engaging with the department.  Hence, while Performance Colectiva uses performance as their practice to speak in educational spheres about issues affecting students of color,  they are equally involved in the community advocating migrant justice, fair wages and political enfranchisement.

Natalie Sanchez (Center) with performers and other mechxistas at UC Berkeley. A performance about fair wages and rights for UC Workers
Natalie Sanchez (Center) with performers and other mechxistas at UC Berkeley (2013). A performance about fair wages and rights for UC Workers. Image Courtesy of Natalie Sanchez.

Support Performance Colectiva and learn more about where to watch their upcoming performances.

Support Migrant Children Choreographing Hope

Walking towards hope

Covering the recentwave‘ of migrant children, the usual headlines on newspapers are everywhere. Foreigners are flooding the border. ‘X’ President’s policies created a migratory mess. The country is being overrun and inundated by undeserving individuals. We need to close the border and keep gang members out. An unending list of blaring blaming goes on. Even stories that attempt to paint a humanitarian perspective on the issue unwisely chose images depicting children and families crossing under wires and hopping trains, catching individuals in the midst of a supposed deviant trespass. However, in all of this criticism and coverage, we are a missing serious conversation about what it means for the U.S.A to be truly global as a place of refuge within the continental Americas.

The rise in the number of undocumented children entering the country has been attributed to at least a couple of recent legislative acts, supported by both sides of the political table. First, in 2008 President George W. Bush signed into law the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The regulation correctly protects unaccompanied minors that arrive at the US border. Second, the legislative discussion about immigration reform in congress, and the resulting 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act has been a pronounced topic which definesfor better of worse–President Obama’s term. These two acts alone highlight recent efforts by congress to actively deal with USA’s regional relationships. These are great steps in the right direction to deal with regional politics. Unfortunately, Congress did not pay attention to the recent migration trends from south of the border early on to recognize that an increase in migration was imminent, but not from Mexico.

Migration to the U.S.A over the last decade changed significantly. Douglas Massey, a credible authority on the subject of migration to and from the USA, over a decade ago highlighted that an increasing number of undocumented migrants were from Central America. In tandem with the increase, he finds that more Mexican nationals were starting to leave the U.S.A than entering. In fact, Massey identifies that Mexican migration is characteristically fluid and dynamic. Such findings are independently supported by the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2012 analysis that U.S.A’s largest migration surge has reached its peak.

Recently, virulent corruption, destitution and homicide in countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is driving families to take extreme measures to abate their pressured living conditions. What is more, a country like Guatemala, with a staggering indicator of roughly 14% of its population living under the international poverty rate ($1.25/day), highlights the lack of opportunities for economic advancement in the region. The concerning circumstances of the Central American countries provide a true glimpse of the regional conditions which the U.S.A finds itself. The U.S.A is seen as a place for refuge and hope!

We need to change the tone of our political discourse to deal with the current surge in immigration as a refugee and exile event. For far too long political discussion in the immigration reformdebate has blindly focused on nativist and xenophobic reactions to the logical factors that motivate people to migrate. Lack of work and food, coupled with fear, drive unaccompanied minors to seek out safe places. The recent arrival of children should remind all of us of our duty to protect human rights and our responsibility to provide children everywhere a place where they can run and choreograph their lives, not out of fear, but out of hope. Furthermore, we should see these children as examples of courage. They risk their lives, being raped and taken into slavery just to end up in a U.S.A processing center. We should treat the arrival of the most fragile, who risk everything, as a sign that some people and places in the world still see the U.S. as a place of hope. If the U.S.A cannot accept even children and families as refugees, we cannot and should not stand under the banner of hope.

The solution is tricky, but it begins with hope. First, let‘s accept them as we would accept any children fleeing violence. Yes, this involves investing financial resources to accommodate the youth. In doing so, we can provide temporary shelter while their respective immigration cases are processed. Melissa Aldape, former acculturation programmer for the International Rescue Committee (disclaimer: she is my wife), asserts that we must not fail to accept that this process will take time, think years. In other refugee camps across the world, she asserts, some refugees spend decades in processing centers!

The idea of refugee camps south of the border, along the Rio Grande, sounds unsettling for many ardent nativists. However, the U.S is a regional country with direct regional connections. Even if one accepts that the U.S. is exceptional, one cannot blindly believe that the U.S. is alone in North America.

Again, the migrant children making the treacherous journey remind us that people are willing to risk everything they have just to have one glimpse of America. The children choreograph unknown journeys, hoping that the destitution and atrocity that surrounds them in the countries that they leave will be a thing of the past. As a country, let‘s stage a country that knows how to receive hope.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell on Performance, Community and Labour

I’ve been privy to know about Chris Bell’s performance projects through a shared Master’s program experience in England. Upon returning to the US, I enjoyed learning about Chris’ recent work with the Minnesota Life College. He started and is currently facilitating The Community Living Program (CLP) Improv Club. The performance club is hosting a performance-based lecture June 19 at 6:15pm in the Minnesota Life College courtyard. I’ve asked Chris to take a couple of minutes to talk about his experience with the improvisation club.

Chriss Bell
Chris Bell in Cloneen, Ireland for A PerFarmance Project

-What do you do for the Minnesota Life College?
I am the out-going Program Assistant for the Community Life Program (CLP). The CLP works with alumni of the Minnesota Life College, a non-profit that provides an invaluable college experience for young adults on the autism spectrum. My main job function as the Program Assistant was to provide access to enriching community activities, both on- and off- campus.

-Why did you start a performance class?
The idea of starting a performance class first came up during my initial interview. However, it wasn’t until I started having conversations with the members that I realized how much of a demand there was for a performance-based club. From this demand, I founded the CLP Improv Club to meet once a week.

-What has been the most rewarding experience?
The most rewarding part of the experience has been watching the members develop as leaders. I took a weekend vacation in late March, and while I was away the members conducted a peer-led CLP Improv Cub. I thrive off of the moment when the student develops the confidence to make their own way.

Chris Bell working in Cloneen, Ireland
Chris Bell working.

-What has been the most challenging experience?
The most challenging part of the experience has been renegotiating my relationship with a more traditional aesthetic framework. A standard way to teach improv is to focus on keeping the actions/reactions fast and to avoid dwelling on the next move you’re going to make in the process of building a dramatic sequence. This mantra of don’t over-think and keep it fast is challenged when you’re working with individuals on the autism spectrum, but challenged in the best possible way because it redefines improvs traditional relationship to duration.

-What type of preparation goes into your classes?
At first, every class was very different. I was trying an assortment of physical/vocal warm-ups and improv games to see what was most beneficial for the group. Following two months of experimenting with approaches to the classes, I found it to be the most beneficial when I would worry less about what I was going to do and focusing more on asking the members, “What do you want to lead today?”

-Do you find that the more you lead classes the less you prepare?
Actually, I found it to be the other way around. I found myself preparing more when I was the one leading the class. Since I’ve moved to peer-led approach to the class, I’ve spent less time preparing.

-What are you up to in the coming months? Any projects?
I’ll be concluding my time at the Minnesota Life College with a performance-based lecture focusing on the similarities between co-existing within an improv classroom and within in a community. In early July I’ll be leaving Minnesota for a five month International Artist Residency with Studio Porte Bleue in Montreal, Canada. I’ll be working with performance practitioner/researcher Colin Lalonde in the development of three projects, each engaging, in different ways, with reconfiguring the traditional audience experience.

Chris Bell’s directed work for Unlisted. Pittsburgh, PA.

Learn more about Chris’ projects.

Joining the Latino Advisory Council at Mixed Blood Theatre

Photo credits: Sun Serpent, Childsplay 2011, Tempe AZ. Ricky Araiza, Andrea Morales, Andres Alcala. Photo by Heather Hill.

About a week ago, I was invited to join the Latino Advisory Council (LAC). LAC exists to advise Mixed Blood Theatre on ways of engaging Latino/a audiences in Minneapolis.  This volunteer group, comprised of members from diverse community organizations, guides efforts that make Mixed Blood Theatre the premiere stop for Latino theatre audiences.

I am honored to join such a respectable cultural organization. Prior to arriving in Minneapolis, I performed a general web search and found Mixed Blood. Instantly, I was struck by their commitment to postcolonial discourse through the arts, as well as their dedication to making the performing arts accessible to all members of the community. In particular,  their ongoing selection of polyglot shows and Radical hospitality is noteworthy. For example, their upcoming bilingual show, Sun Serpent, will be a refreshing addition to standard monolingual programming found in most places. Likewise, their approach to hospitality tumbles exclusionist models by providing obtainable performance experiences.  Simply put, all shows are free. If audience members desire a guaranteed a seat, all they have to do is pay in advance. Mixed Blood’s initiatives are truly respectable.

Choreographic Reflections 2013

The year is rapidly coming to an end. However, I am just starting to tune into the happenings of the year. I arrived back in the US, but I did not even get a chance to critically reflect on the choreographic seriousness of the turn.

It has been over eight months since we left Cloneen, Ireland. The weight of which I recently felt when we received a holiday card from the one and only Paddy O’Brian. Reading that card brought back many memories. Also, it settled into my mind and body the manner in which I grew to understand the value of auto-ethnographic processes.