Melinna Bobadilla (left ot right), Juan Parada and Rose Portillo star in “They Shoot Mexicans, Don’t They?” Parada's role of Raoul de Ramirez will be played by Gilbert Saldivar during “The Latin Wave: Exploring Myth, Illusion and Cultural Appropriation” event at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse May 7-21. Photo by Theresa Chavez.
THE LATIN WAVE: EXPLORING MYTH, ILLUSION AND CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
When: Schedule of events run from May 7-21Where: San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 S. Mission Drive, San GabrielTickets: Vary by event, from free exhibits up to $30 for live performancesInformation: 626-308-2868, www.mission playhouse.org
A wave is about to hit the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse.“The Latin Wave: Exploring Myth, Illusion and Cultural Appropriation” looks at Latin stereotypes through an exhibit, two films, a play and an interactive symposium running May 7-21.“This building is steeped in history and in many ways it’s very significant historically, particularly with the native community, but also the Mexican-American community,” San Gabriel Mission Playhouse coordinator Jonathan Salisbury said. “It represents good and bad and other many, really interesting and important intersections in culture. What this building stood for and stands for is hugely significant in the development of Los Angeles as it is now.”“The Mission Play,” a three-hour pageant by John S. McGroaty that portrayed the history of the California missions, was first staged across the street from the San Gabriel Mission. The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse was built in 1927 specifically to house the annual production.“People don’t realize that San Gabriel was one of the core key areas in L.A. for many, many years,” About… Productions founding artistic director Theresa Chavez said, who estimates that roughly 2.5 million people had seen ‘The Mission Play” by the early 1930s. “ It was, I like to say, the Disneyland of its time. If you came to L.A., you came to see ‘The Mission Play.’ If you lived in L.A., you came every year or maybe twice a year. It was the thing to do. It was a site for people to gather, to experience this pageant and even though it was a twisted version of history, it was a way to place themselves in this world that we call Los Angeles.”“The Latin Wave” event is a collaboration between the Playhouse and About… Productions centered around the play “They Shoot Mexicans, Don’t They?” by Chavez and Rose Portillo. The production focuses on the Ramirez Dance Studio, a real place owned by Chavez’s uncle that was across the street from the Playhouse and involved in “The Mission Play” for many years. The remainder of “They Shoot Mexicans” is fictionalized, offering a story about a Californio family at odds on keeping the play’s dancing traditional or modernizing it. Adding to the mix is an East Coast filmmaker who has come to make a silent movie of “The Mission Play.”Members of the Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal have written original music that they will perform in the show as the band Orquesta California and the choreography is by Francisco Martinez.Adding interest, “They Shoot Mexicans” and its audience will move throughout the grounds of the playhouse for each scene.“If we are going to ask people to reconsider the history and reconsider their relationship to it, then to take them out of their comfort zone physically as an audience member, I’m hoping it will enhance the feeling of something fresh and new and see things with fresh eyes,” Chavez said.
She hopes that “They Shoot Mexicans” will make its audiences aware of Californios, a people never discussed, Portillo said. Californios were people of Castilian or Spanish descent born in California when it was under Spanish and Mexican control from 1769-1848. Portillo wants attendees to come away with a different understanding of the romanticism of Californios, realizing that, although it’s pretty, it is actually harmful exploitation.“I don’t want to take the fun away, but if we only focus on the fun and the romance and the kitsch, we’re actually stepping on the bones of people who suffered quite a lot,” Portillo said. “Not everybody’s an immigrant. We are generational people, so it’s a bit twofold in terms of compassion and embracing the immigrant who is ancestrally a part of me as well as familialy a part of me. We didn’t just come here yesterday. That’s still shockingly needed to be addressed.”Chavez adds: “I believe to some extent that how Latinos and Mexicans were depicted in early films, from the silents even up to recent times, allows an imprint on people’s minds on what and who these people are. It allows the regime in power right now, the White House, to say things like, ‘Mexicans are rapists’ and people are not even flinching for the most part.”