Silver Linings: San Antonio’s arts community weighs in on the positive side effects of quarantine

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click to enlarge Silver Linings: San Antonio’s arts community weighs in on the positive side effects of quarantine
Lupito's Photography
Marisela Barrera, writer and performer
2020 gave us un chingo de chingazos pero like here’s a positive for artists: Individual Artists are back on the City of San Antonio funding slate: “Up to 16 grants at $5,000 each” is not everything we wanted, but it’s a start and I’ll take it as a win for the art community. The grant amount limits the scale of projects, but we are resilient, will turn out some badass projects, and hopefully underserved sectors of the city see some art. I hope we see a fair spread between disciplines and performing artists are well represented. Let’s create! Let’s surround COSA with piles and files of applications from individual artists so they know we invest in our city when our city invests in us.

Positives for me: dental work! I avoided it like the plague for decades until the plague actually arrived. Instead of getting a boob lift, I got a gum lift, a root canal and a crown. I turn 50 in 2021 and I’m embracing my age. Restyled my hair with a Tejana mullet featuring all my lovely canas. Canas con ganas, gente. Both my teen daughter and I have been Zooming since March. More time together means she can bug me for a pinche chai tea latte all school-day long. I am learning to center humor to help me cope with such a devastating year. Loss of family, friends, work, connection. I am reminded that dark needs light. As we say in teatro, find your light!

To find my own light, I need to keep creating. Zoom’s been the tool for 2020, and I was fortunate to adapt my teatro practice. My performative memoir Tejana Rasquacha was refitted for streaming in July and I think we were able to embrace the intimacy of live teatro by having both prerecorded and live segments plus an audience in the Zoom room in the mood to interact. I also acted in a physically distanced outdoor play at the Tobin in October. We were directed by Canadian creators Zooming from Vancouver and sustained a safe three-week run during a pandemic! Before the plague, I would’ve never dreamt I’d be cast as a middle-aged white man at the Tobin! LMAO. We offered a land acknowledgement before each performance, a practice of honoring ancestors that I plan to continue when live theater returns en fuerte. And it will.

Teatro will return en fuerte because storytelling around the fire is an ancient practice of connecting with community. I imagine audiences rediscovering the arts after all this pedo-wato passes and it is safe to be together. A new renaissance is developing, and I’m here for it.

My theme for the new year is self-publication. I’m working on a new play about the Flores Magón brothers, activist/publishers during the Mexican Revolution, a story viewed through the lens of a Chicana zinester. I have two book-length manuscripts myself and plan to self-publish one in 2021. Submitting for publication is a pain in the ass because submitting takes more energy than the actual writing of the piece, so fuck it. I’ll print it. I’m also editing a collection of memoirs for Teatro Esperanza, part of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. We’re a circle of writers and performers meeting via Zoom, telling stories and writing them down. We’ll also adapt for broadcast for Radio Esperanza, their low-power station. Boom. Why wait for acceptance?

I am digging our San Antonio artists who are self-publishing and finding their light during these dark times. Anthony the Poet, for instance, is rocking out self-publishing by creating cards and hand-written poems. Another chingona is Alyson Alonzo, a vocalist and songwriter who was taking song-writing commissions. DJ Despeinada who makes some cool match-merch and creates safe outdoor music experiences. The brightest light in all this, S.T. Shimi (qepd). I’ll think of her often as a trailblazing badass. Performance artists and writers who create opportunities for their audience to invest in their work are my inspiration. I see you! All y’all finding your light!

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