Tag Archives: James Garcia

Got scripts?

New works festivals present great opportunities for writers and audiences

Jason Tremblay of Austin won last year’s EVCT aspiring playwrights contest with “Queen Zixi of Ix, The Story of the Magic Cloak” — which was performed by East Valley Children’s Theatre just last month. It’s the adaptation of an L. Frank Baum story about two young children forced to live with a greedy aunt who moves them from country to city in search of work — and the adventures that help them bring happiness and prosperity to everyone in their new land.

Second place in last year’s EVCT playwriting contest went to Drew Ignatowski of Gilbert for “Moonprince,” and third place went to Texan Bobbi A. Chukran of Leander for “Princess Primrose & the Curse of the Big Sleep.” Cash prizes go to the top three winners each year, and the winning play is produced by EVCT (assuming it meets their criteria for performance). The deadline for 2012 submissions is Fri, March 15.

New Carpa Theater Co. recently issued a call for scripts inspired by the legacy of the civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers Union and contemporary social justice issues. They’re looking for works to present during a short plays festival they expect to hold in late May/early June as well as October. Think 5- to 10-minute stage plays, monologues, play excerpts and performance pieces. Scripts are due April 20, and can be submitted in either Spanish or English.

James E. Garcia, producing artistic director for the company, notes that eight to 10 pieces will be selected by a panel of seven local playwrights, writers and producers for staging at the festival. Additional works may also be presented for festival goers. Garcia describes the festival as “a non-partisan, grassroots, community-based project” designed to give theater artists and audiences “an opportunity to express their concerns regarding some of the most compelling human and civil rights issues of our time” — including those effecting immigrants, women and people of color.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is now considering plays for its 2013 New American Playwrights Project. Scripts submitted for consideration must be postmarked by Nov 1, 2012. Three works (all with mature content) are being presented during the 2012 series directed by Charles L. Metten — “The Greater Love” by Frankie Little Hardin, “Turquoise Wind” by Kurt Proctor and “Play Desdemona” by Daniel Hintzsche.

Those of you who favor watching new works rather than writing them can enjoy the 15th annual Hormel New Works Festival being presented July 8-22 by Phoenix Theatre. The festival features staged readings performed by professional actors.

Phoenix Theatre also holds a “2nd Draft Series” designed to further the development of select plays presented during the Hormel New Works Festival. Three plays will get the “2nd draft” treatment in coming weeks and months — including Richard Warren’s “Pollywogs” (March 24), Kurt Shineman’s “Mother’s Milk” (April 21) and Scott McCarrey’s “The Wilds” (May 19).

The Arizona Women’s Theatre Company presents its 6th annual Pandora Festival of New Works May 18-20 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It features full-length plays, one-act plays and 10-minute plays written by Arizona women.

Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale is home to the “New Play Series and Reader’s Theatre.” Up next in their new play series is “4″ by Terry Youngren (March 17). Their next reader’s theater will be presented April 23 by Drea Pruseau.

A Childsplay world-premiere read of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars” comes to The Temple Lounge in Tucson Sat, April 14 as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Café Bohemia” series. The play’s described as “a touching story about life in America during World War II with modern-day parallels about the costs of war both overseas and at home.”

Folks who prefer seeing plays fully staged and polished will be pleased to know that “The Color of Stars” is being performed by Childsplay April 22-May 20 at Tempe Center for the Performing Arts.

– Lynn

Coming up: Frankly speaking, So you want to be a playwright…

Here a ban, there a ban…

Everywhere a book ban? It’s been thirty years since the American Society of Journalists and Authors launched its Banned Books campaign in NYC, complete with a nifty “I Read Banned Books” button, a move motivated by concerns that “schools and libraries around the country were pulling books off the shelf because of objections to language contained in them.”

At the time, banned titles included “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Huckleberry Finn” – plus works by John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Bernard Malamud, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and ASJA member Eve Merriam.

Folks opposed to book banning gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for a public read-out from banned works. Readers included Merriam, Asimov and then-teenager Sarah Jessica Parker. The April 1, 1982 event was organized by Evelyn Kaye of the ASJA.

Arizonans committed to assuring that students have access to books once used in ethnic studies classes within the Tucson Unified School District are gathering this week to stage a similar protest at the Arizona State Capitol and Wesley Bolin Plaza.

The read-in, organized by the Arizona Ethnic Studies Network, will feature dozens of readers including educators, students and concerned citizens. Also novelist and university lecturer Stella Pope Duarte, state Senator David Lujan and Phoenix-based playwright James E. Garcia.

The school district reports that no books have been banned, noting that books once used in ethnic studies classes have been moved to storage. And that they’re working to broaden the social studies curriculum to include more diverse content for all students.

Some consider removing particular books from classrooms a de facto form of book banning. Hence the read-in scheduled for Wed, Feb. 29, from 10am to 5:15pm — and a caravan heading our way from Houston next month with copies of books they’re eager to get into student hands.

This year’s Banned Books Week takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 6. Folks eager to read up on the topic beforehand can visit www.bannedbooksweek.org to explore a map charting censorship by state, enjoy a virtual read-out, find additional resources on book banning and locate related events.

The website also notes which titles are causing all the fuss these days — for those of you inclined to read a book simply because it feels verboten. The top ten list of challenged titles for 2010 includes both the “Twilight” (Stephenie Meyer) and “Hunger Games” (Suzanne Collins) series. Finally, a reason to read those babies.

First I plan to tackle the titles once used in Tucson’s former Mexican American Studies class – “Critical Race Theory” edited by by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures” edited by Elizabeth Martinez, “Message to AZTLAN” by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, “Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales, “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuna, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire and “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years” by Bill Bigelow.

Unlike “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” I can’t just hold out for the movie version.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to explore a wealth of Banned Books Week information and resources compiled by the American Library Association.

Coming up: Once upon a goddess

Politics meets pastorela

Rehearsal for James Garcia's American Pastorela 2007 (Photo: Phil Soto)

I once made my own pilgrimage to Bethlehem, and still remember the tiny shop where I purchased small wooden nativity sets as Christmas gifts for various friends and family members. Getting there was more complicated than I’d imagined, but I hadn’t realized at the time that my life was imitating art.

After moving to Arizona, I learned that the story of shepherds journeying to witness the nativity in Bethleham has been recounted for centuries in “pastorela” plays that blend Latino and Native American cultures. They’re performed each Christmas across Arizona and beyond.

One particular pastorela has garnered national attention for its political prowess. James Garcia, a Valley playwright, often writes pastorelas that capture controversial topics. One “American Pastorela” was subtitled “The Saga of Sheriff Joe.” But this year’s offering pokes serious fun at those who’ve banned ethnic studies programs at schools. Hence the subtitle “Everything You Wanted to Know About Ethnic Studies But Were Afraid to Ask.”

James Garcia's American Pastorela 2011 directed by Alex Vega Sanchez

Garcia is the founder and artistic director for New Carpa Theater, which specializes in Latino and multicultural theater works. They’re presenting this year’s “American Pastorela” through Sunday (see note below) at the Third Street Theater, located at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Despite the sometimes ideologically racy content, Garcia says his kids loved it, and suspects others will too. There are seven children ages 7-17 in the cast, including one “sweet little girl (who) breaks into Broadway tunes at the drop of a hat.”

Borderlands Theater in Tucson presents “A Tucson Pastorela” through Sunday as well. It’s the work of Wendy Burke, Eric Magrane and “the pastorela ghost writers” –  and features band director Gertie Lopez. Pastorelas typically pit those making the pilgrimage to Bethlehem against various challenges — including Satan, and things more suggestive of contemporary experiences. Hence their inclusion of Arizona’s evil haboobs.

Sometimes laughter is the only real alternative to crying — so I’m grateful for artists who help us make that leap. Love their politics, or hate it, that’s up to you. But be proud to live in a country where free speech and creativity mix in ways that give us all pause to consider our own bigotry or bias.

– Lynn

Note: Some performances of “American Pastorela” have been cancelled, so check the New Carpa Theater website before you go, and have a “plan B” just in case you’re downtown for the show and need another option.

Coming up: Art meets economics

What’s your border?

L to R: Michael Van Liew, Andrew Valenzuela and Kathryn James in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World"

In the opening scene of a stirring play titled “Amexica,” penned by the Valley’s own James E. Garcia and Alberto Rios, we hear people with different perspectives completing the following sentence: My border is….

One thing is immediately clear — the border isn’t some abstraction devoid of human meaning. It’s the people who live on and around it, and the years of individual and collective histories they carry with them.

Playwright Garcia and poet Rios seamlessly weave poetry and performance art together in “Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World” to create a unique work that’ll appeal to lovers of words, history, art and culture.

The world premiere run, a production of New Carpa Theater directed by Barbara Aker, continues at the Mesa Arts Center through Sun, Nov. 6. Aker is a retired acting and voice teacher who counts Andrew Valenzuela among her former students in the theatre program at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Raynell Gonzales (L) and Andrew Valenzuela in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World"

Valenzuela plays Javier, a recent college graduate and poet who decides to forego graduate school after learning that he was born in Mexico and adopted two weeks later by parents Dan (Michael Van Liew) and Tina (Kathryn James) of Oregon.

Javier travels along the border region in search of his roots, his identity and the mother who left him behind — encountering all sorts of people in his journey. The cast of 14 includes an elementary school student, a middle school student and a high school student. Each delivers a strong performance with true professionalism.

I was disappointed, while attending last Saturday’s matinee, to find that far too many seats were empty for a work of this caliber — and hope those who support the accurate depiction of border life, poetic reflection on the human condition and youth participation in the arts will make plans to see “Amexica” this weekend.

My daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthroplogy major at ASU, asked me one evening about the term “fourth world.” Like many, she’s more familiar with the term “third world.” So I got in touch with Garcia, eager to learn more about the choice of a title.

Seems Garcia first heard the term “fourth world” as a journalist working during the ’80s for a daily newspaper in Laredo, Texas. He recalls seeing the word “Amexica” on the cover of a 2001 issue of TIME magazine. In images, says Garcia, the border is two-dimensional. Nowadays, some border depictions in film boast 3-D images. But now, it seems, there’s a fourth dimention too.

Raynell Gonzales in "Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World" at Mesa Arts Center

“The fourth world,” says Garcia, describes the evolution along the Mexico/America border of a whole new culture. It’s a culture characterized by complexity, he says, reduced too often to “images of people coming over the fence.”

“The Mexican people,” observes Garcia, “have a long memory.” Also mixed feelings about their neighbors to the north. Though citizens passionately recall the conquest of Mexico and prior battles with the United States, they modeled their own goverment after American democracy and seek in some ways to emulate American culture.

The smart, sensitive treatment of border-related issues rarely finds its way to mainstream media — so we’re fortunate that Garcia and Rios have partnered to present a picture of the people who populate the border. “Amexica” is a compelling counterpoint to the caricatures that too often invade our discourse and decision making.

– Lynn

Note: “Amexica: Tales of the Fourth World” also features choreography by Michèle Ceballos Michot and original score by Quetzal Guerrero (whose CD I saw just yesterday at XICO gallery in Chandler). Click here for show and ticket information. The production includes brief violence and language best viewed by teens and above.

Coming up: Sandbox tales, A celebration of life

Theater for grown-ups

Stray Cat Theatre. Nearly Naked Theatre. Folks offering mostly mature-theme works are hoping you’ll book the babysitter and experience some of their upcoming “theater for grown-ups” fare.

I’m as big a fan of “Jungle Book” and “Peter Pan” as the next person, but sometimes a change of scenery is in order. So here’s a sampling of some of your options…

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater presents adult puppet slams several times a year for the age 18 & up set. I’ve never been, but I’m told it draws a good crowd — and I’m eager to join the fun. Their next adult slam takes place at 8pm on Fri, Dec 3 and Sat, Dec 4.

Scene from New Carpa's American Pastorela by playwright James E. Garcia

New Carpa Theater, a company founded in 2006 that specializes in “Latino and multicultural theater works,” presents their latest production Dec 4-19 at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix (near Symphony Hall).

“American Pastorela: Show Us Your Papers!” is an unabashedly political play written by James Garcia and directed by Arturo Martinez — who certainly have a lot to add to the Arizona dialogue.

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe presents “Learn to be Latina” Dec 3-18. It’s written by Enrique Urueta and directed by Ron May — and features the tale of a Lebanese woman told she must feign being Latina to achieve pop singer stardom.

Enjoy a talkback with playwright Enrique Urueta after the 2pm performance on Sun, Dec 5

Both May and Urueta will join the audience for a talk-back session following the 2pm performance on Sun, Dec 5. It should prove an interesting discussion of various issues related to self-identity.

For grown-ups who aren’t particularly fond of holidays or musicals, Space 55 in Phoenix presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas” Dec 3-18 (all Fri/Sat eve shows). Reduced ticket price available with canned food item donation to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

And now for the naked part. Nearly Naked Theatre, which performs at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre, presents an Arizona premiere titled “Devil Boys From Beyond” Jan 8-29.

It’s written by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott, with direction by Toby Yatso. Think campy space-invader movie from the ’50s or ’60s. This baby won the 2009 award for overall excellence for outstanding play at the 2009 New York Fringe Festival. (Maybe for this one someone will actually wear fringe?)

N2N presents a full season of Arizona premieres for 2010-2011, including Devil Boys From Beyond

If alternative theater is your vibe, save the dates April 1-10, 2011 — when the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival takes place. Just get a sitter and a room for this one people. It makes for a great weekend “staycation.”

With any luck at all, the sitter will simply assume that you’ve developed a quaint fascination with fabric arts.

– Lynn

Note: Other theater companies with offerings enjoyed by adult (and sometimes younger) audiences include Actors Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Black Theatre Troupe, and Phoenix Theatre.

Coming up: Traveling tribe comes to ASU Gammage, Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “Twelfth Night,” Family-friendy theater options, Art venues and holiday shopping