“Its just not….us”
Being able to articulate TL’s organizational culture means we have reached a milestone. Trust me, in the beginning we were a bunch of young girls, just going with the flow answering most questions with “I don’t know, it’s just what we do”. But, being able to explain the lasting impact of something that seems so insignificant in a rehearsal room, means we have definitely matured. I must say it feels wonderful to be out of those tantrum years and into the preteen age. I don’t know if you remember feeling the difference in maturity, but I sure do. It was around the time that my mother could tell me “no, you cannot” and I understood why, thus beginning to embark on the “but how can I do it without her knowing” phase. It is the moment in a persons life where they begin a new level of higher order thinking. That’s a good way to put, TL is now at a new level of higher order thinking (those of you that are educators know exactly what I mean).
Which brings me to my next point, The North/South Plays. As I sat back at the August 30th DCA performance (after a month long incubation there) and watched the workshop reading of North/South, I couldn’t have felt more detached from the piece. As it was, the project had already made me feel like I was hired help and not a part of the producing team (even though I was). So, to sit there and see work that only scratched the surface of the phrase “impactful theater”, made my stomach turn. Wait, let me be clear, what I saw was not terrible, what I saw was something that was just “playing it safe” and that is not TL’s mantra. It was made clear to me that the TL image we built, scrubbing toilets, sanding floors, and protesting on Michigan Avenue was nowhere to be found.The soul, the passion, the activism, was gone. It confirmed for us that we were on the wrong track. TL is a company that KNOWS when an audience is impacted, we are a theater for social change, our mission statement is clear and specific, we see pah-len-ty (plenty) of theater and that script yelled college play. So what do I do as the D.A.D ( Director of Artistic Development) of this company? Do I continue to pretend this is the best way we can tell a story about borders? The borders that my grandparents crossed? No. So I knew I had to let it be known. Let my opinion be known. And, that is exactly what I did. I had a glass of wine, wrote a long email stating: I don’t see Teatro Luna in this piece, called my Executive Director (you know, to get her approval) and clicked send. There it went. Moments later I received a lot of “finally” and “that’s right girl” replies, from TL’s writing team. The co-collaborators, on the other hand were in complete shock and called an immediate phone conference. After expressing my artistic opinion on the matter and realizing that the other team still couldn’t understand my logic, all I could come up with was…”Look, I’m sorry but, Its just not us”.
Now let me say that the responses were great. Right away the producers came together to show their support and to figure out what we could do to make the production something we could all be proud of. But, the kicker was, with what time and what space! We had just learned that the CCPA had been sold and our sub-lease was no longer being honored (along with several other theater companies). This put us in a bind and quick decisions had to be made. Needless to say it was in the best interest of the other company’s producers to focus on the current play that had lost a home and no longer move forward on this co-production.
I am not a superstitious person (well maybe, I mean I am Mexican after all) but I could not help but take all of this as a sign from the universe. A “hey you need to TELL this story RIGHT” kind of a thing. The North/South Plays made me not only understand our aesthetic, but forced me to learn to articulate it. I immediately felt a weight lifted. I immediately felt free to create. I felt free from having to justify my process . All of my team trusted and supported my vision, my way of creating. And, after just 4 writing meetings we came up with the script and the name CROSSED! This 8th ensemble built show is a huge moment for not just me, but Teatro Luna. It marks our journey into adolescence and proves our desire to create social change.
I have to tell you, our work is not easy to explain in euro-centric or classical narrative type theatrical terms. Our ensemble work can be described as a series of vignettes (according to critics), yet not episodic (as theater majors would attempt to define it), and definitely not sketch. So then, what is it exactly? For me, it is an art of story-telling that can fit part of the definition of hip-hop theater! Which can be described, as a series of stories that take the audience through a psychitzophrenic state, told with a choreo-collage structure under one theme, accompanied by music and dance. PHEW! I told you its not really easy to explain. All I know is, I love that we don’t tell stories in straight narratives, I love that the definition of our work will constantly evolve, I love that it is so specific it broadens our reach, but most of all I love that our stories are authentic and genuine, because all of that forcing a story so that there is an obvious stasis….. ”Just aint us!” We tell it like it is and THAT is what makes theater a movement, not just a play.