Arts - Stage Past-present, but not tense 

SA's teatristas embrace history and post-Chicano theater in the Guadalupe's teatroFEST

"For me there can never be enough Chicano teatro out there, and certainly there isn't enough of it," proclaims teatrista Rodney Garza. Garza, an influential figure in the Austin theater community and the man who directed the highly successful run of Petra's Pecado and Petra's Cuento at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in the mid-'90s, is gearing up for his solo show at this year's TeatroFEST. It's been more than a decade since the Guadalupe hosted TENAZ, the now-defunct mother of all Chicano theater festivals that visited San Anto on three occasions, creating myths along the way.

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Three members of Madmedia, (from left) Jaime Contreres, Eli Rios and Salomeh Hasheminasab and (far right) Rodney Garza, will perform at the upcoming teatroFEST at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

For GCAC Theater Arts Director Marisela Barrera, the reputed glory days were never far away. "I started pulling from the archives here and pulling from the past back in 1992 when it was last hosted here at the Guadalupe," she says. "Coming in, I felt an overwhelming sort of responsibility to take advantage of the resources we have here at the center, which for independent teatros is ultimately space, to provide access to a venue and a platform for them to share their work and especially creating a gathering point for each other. I think it's important for the center to step up and pull something like this together."

In recent years, the Guadalupe has slipped from being recognized as one of the most prominent Chicano arts institutions in the country to being considered by many critics as irrelevant in its own community.

Eli Rios, the founder of local theater troupe Madmedia whose father helped create the GCAC, also feels optimistic about TeatroFEST. "The Guadalupe is the organization that's supposed to be doing Chicano art. I grew up seeing that kind of work back in the day, and it should be like a welcoming home for those kinds of themes," he says. "It's a little stressful because you never know with the Guadalupe these days. It could turn out to be something really cool depending on whose working on it or it could turn out to be really bunk."

Garza shares the sentiment. "I'm hoping that this maybe acts as a catalyst to the passing on or re-carrying of the torch that was lit by TENAZ, or by the teatros who formed the TENAZ festival back in the '70s, that seemed to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. It was always such a good idea and it was a great way to bring so many people together that were performing so many cool things from around, not only the country, but from Mexico and elsewhere."

Barrera says artists such as Rios and Garza embody the burgeoning post-Chicano cultural movement. "We're the new generation and `Madmedia` sort of exemplifies that completely with their multi-disciplinary approach. We've taken the influences from the old school and moved it forward," she says.

teatroFEST

Through Jun 25
Free-$10

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
1300 Guadalupe

For the complete schedule, call or visit:
351-7787,
guadalupeculturalarts.org/festivals.htm

Rios adds, "There has to be some kind of growth. There has to be a change in themes. The Chicano movement really hit a lot of the identity concepts and political concepts over and over again. We are a different generation. We have had different experiences. That other stuff has already been explored and we've been exposed to it, but if we did that kind of stuff over and over again I think we would get boring really fast."

Garza, whose career has straddled the "old school" and "post-Chicano" delineations, has worked with such teatro luminaries as Luis Valdez and San Anto's Jorge Piña. He reserves dignified, almost reverent, tones for the past. "There's certain energies and a certain education that was passed orally to me. There wouldn't be post-Chicanos if there hadn't been the original Chicano movement. If there is such a thing as post-Chicanos, we're taking directly from who taught us and then transforming it into our own realities at this point."

Ultimately, Barrera hopes TeatroFEST will further the inter-generational dialogue, perhaps leading to new, more vibrant works. "Everyone is in action," she exclaims. "All our artists, the post-Chicanos, we are in action, the veteranos, many are still in action, and why does it take us so long to come together like this? It's sort of historical that we're coming together."

By M. Solis

For a round-up of TeatroFEST performers and events, see "All the new world's a stage," June 16-22, 2005, or visit guadalupeculturalarts.org.


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