By Abigail Vega

I like free things. I like punch cards from fast food restaurants and nail salons and make up stores that make me feel like I’m getting a huge bargain when I get that tenth punch, when in reality I’ve spent like a hundred dollars to get that free smoothie. I like buying people lunch so that someday, when they buy me lunch, I feel really good about myself and them and our friendship and humankind in general, when in fact they are usually just “getting me back.” (This form of lying to myself was introduced to me by the wonderful Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel during Your Problem with Men, and it is excellent. Really, it has made my life better. I recommend it to all. Lie to yourself. Always. Anyway.)

So over the weekend, we met an artist living in the Rio Grande Valley named Amalia Ortiz. She is a really awesome lady, and expressed a dire need for our work in her area. The Rio Grande Valley makes up the southern part of Texas, basically anything south of San Antonio. My dad is from there, and so I spent countless weekends as a kid going back and forth from San Antonio to Harlingen, TX. Five hours down on a hot Friday afternoon to spend two nights visiting family in their various states of distress, only to make the long drive back on an equally hot Sunday afternoon. My mother never liked going down there – it was hot and humid and a lot of places didn’t take credit cards. She also felt left out – over 90% of the Lower Valley’s population is Latino and the language of the gas stations, hospital staff and the Dillard’s is Spanish, so if you don’t speak it, you’re kind of out of the loop. For many years, the population of the Rio Grande Valley had no four year college or hospitals – you had to drive to San Antonio or further for that. They were separated by 200 miles from the closest major city. Isolation and dispersion were the names of the game.

So I already had a special place in my heart for the Valley. I really wanted to perform there. On a selfish note, I wanted my family who will probably never leave the region to see my work. On a company level, we also had a special connection to the Valley: Tanya, one of our co-founders, spent a lot of her formative years in McAllen, one of the larger cities in the Valley. And then, our new friend Amalia. After we told her we were trying to come, she said she would personally knock on people’s doors to get the word out. When we spoke our contact in the city of San Benito, Martha (who is also becoming a fast friend, but for other reasons) she offered to put our press photos on a huge LED billboard on the highway. Which, frankly, is a little weird. But if it gets the word out, hey, why not? We have other friends of TL hard at work in the Valley just like Amalia – and they are SO excited to have us.

But we also got another piece of information from Amalia: that people in the Valley don’t have and won’t spend money on something they don’t know anything about. They need our work, but they just aren’t sure why yet. And then it clicked – our first FREE performance! If any place needs it, this is it. There are so many artists just like Amalia working hard to change the culture in the Rio Grande Valley to that of one that embraces live performance, and we can’t wait to meet, support and work with them.

So we got a venue and a time and a date. We will be performing at the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center in San Benito, TX next Wednesday, June 19. If we can raise the $5000 before tomorrow at midnight, the show will be FREE. We will not get people there if it isn’t, so if you haven’t already donated, please consider doing so. Even $10 helps so much. At this second, we need only $1,220 more to meet this goal. Go to the Indiegogo campaign to donate:

If you google “teatro” and “rio grande valley” WE ARE THE FIRST THING THAT COMES UP. Totally unacceptable. This area needs access to the arts and to live theatre just like every other city in the United States, and we’re going to be there. We weren’t ready to do a free performance this early in the tour, but the need is there. Will you help us meet it?

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