Sunday, September 13, 2009

musings - teaching, Teatro Q

I've just emerged from my first week of afterschool classes at T.A. Brown Elementary, and a series of evening workshops (Teatro Q) with Adelina Anthony, culminating in a reading at Resistencia Books on Saturday night.

I'm thrilled to be at Brown. The afterschool program coordinator is wonderful; she truly cares about the kids, and is organized, really on top of things. I'm finding that having caring, competent administrators makes all the difference in the quality of my teaching experience. Caring, capable teachers just aren't enough; we need support! And the support at Brown really shows. The environment in the afterschool program is calm, and the kids really do have fun. The students are wonderful. A little rambunctious, sure, but they aim to please, and so far don't at all seem to mind being reminded to calm down when things start to get a little too nutsy. An added bonus is that there were two Theatre Action Project teachers at Brown last year, and I'm able to, at least a little bit, build on the work that they did with many of the kids here last year.

I'm comparing my experience here to the year I spent teaching in Wooten Elementary's afterschool program in 2007-2008 (last year I wasn't at an elementary school in the same capacity), and one of the differences I've noticed is that immediately, day one, many of the older kids asked me if I spoke Spanish, where I was from, and wanted to share where they and their families were from; the majority of the kids and their families are from Mexico. I don't remember my students at Wooten talking about such things so openly, and certainly not on their first day with me; though I later did discover that many, if not most, of my students and their families at Wooten were also from Mexico. I wonder why...

I know that one of the TAP teachers who was at Brown before me worked on a curriculum that explored the immigrant experience, through Galveston Island (based on the "Forgotten Gateway" exhibit at the Bob Bullock History Museum) and today, and that the kids did amazing work creating a "digital storybook," featuring a sort of modern fairy tale that they wrote, about the current day Mexican immigrant experience. The TAP afterschool classroom became, my colleague told me, a place where her students could process feelings and experiences that they weren't normally allowed a space to discuss. I can't help but wonder, and hope, if the work she did at Brown has contributed to a cultural shift, making students more comfortable in fully claiming their identities... The pressure's on, for me, I feel, to build on her successes. A wonderful problem to have; I am blessed!

My evenings with Teatro Q were wonderful; I'm particularly happy that the workshop sessions took place at Alma de Mujer. I always find it easier to be fully present in my work there. The week, for me, was refreshing reminders of some of the fundamentals of character development, in both writing and performance, and opportunities to practice practice practice, and to learn from watching others' practice. I'm finding, these days, that I know more about the craft of theatre than I give myself credit for. Not that I don't have plenty to learn. But it's good, sometimes, to know that really I have most of the tools I need at my disposal... it's just the doing, the discipline, that I need at this point. And will always need, as long as I am a practicing artist, really.

What was newer to me was the context in which we were developing work - among women of color, mostly queer Latinas. And it was beautiful, joyful, for me to be working in such a context. To see perspectives and experiences so rarely represented in mainstream theatre, in many of the artistic communities I have known, and to see them foregrounded, approached with love and respect.

I started a piece this week that was hard for me... I'm afraid of writing characters who I consider very different from me. And I've even gotten antsy about performing them too... worried I'll get something "wrong," perpetuate some horrific stereotype... I've found safety in autobiographical writing and performance, in more poetic work, in directing. But art-making is not about safety, not for me, anyways, and not among the communities of artists that I respect, admire, and am now proud to call my own. And there are stories I want to tell, of women and men who are indeed very different from me... so I challenged myself to write from the perspective of a woman I felt I knew nothing about, a woman whose story I felt was important because I knew nothing about it. Because that ignorance is a theft, and that theft leaves a legacy, and... that's another story entirely.

It was hard. That writing was hard. And I ended up putting it aside, as there's a lot of research between me and that character, fully realized, and I wanted to work on a piece that I could feel good about, that could feel "finished" in the short period of time I had available to me. It was useful, nonetheless, to start that writing process; it gave me a clearer of idea of what research exactly I need to do next, to keep the piece moving forward.

And I ended up finishing a piece that I had been trying to write for some time; I made some of my first notes a couple of years ago, and wrote a few drafts this summer, in the form of a letter, but used my workshop time to transform the work into a monologue. I woke up on Friday morning with the words rattling around my head, tears on my cheeks - good tears, like, this is a good and necessary release sort of tears, these are words that must be said kind of tears - and rushed to my notebook as soon as I could. And I'm so pleased, so pleased the piece got a good response. Laughter, electric silence, and "I've thought those things before, but never knew how to say them. Can't wait to see you do more." Wonderful. And I'm thrilled beyond words that I had the opportunity to read with Adelina Anthony, who has been a hero of mine for some time now.

What a beautiful week. Thank you, world. I'm ready for the next...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm reading tonight!

Just just just (a mere matter of hours ago) got finished with a workshop with Adelina Anthony, Teatro Q, and I'll be reading a piece I workshopped with her at Resistencia, tonight tonight tonight, at her reading! (Details below) Last minute, I know, but check it if you can!

allgo Artist-In-Residence, Adelina Anthony reads her new solo script at Resistencia Bookstore in Austin

"Homeboy Haunts"

DATE: Saturday, September 12, 2009
TIME: 7:00 pm
Place: Resistencia Bookstore, 1801-A S 1st Street, Austin, TXs
Adelina will read her work in-progress and engage participants in providing feedback. This is an important step in Adelina's creative process and allows particpants an opportunity to be a part of the creation of amazing art.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

buena gente working on RELATIVITY; check it out!

Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm
a free staged reading at The Vortex
2307 Manor Road, Austin TX

a performance about space & time
home/land & history
written by Jen Margulies


Daniel Alexander Jones
Nicole Vlado
Matt U. Richardson
KT Shorb
Sue Bilich

Directed by:
Adelina Anthony with Jen Margulies
Dramaturg - Omi Osun Olomo/Joni L. Jones
Costume Design - Senalka McDonald
Movement - Annelize Machado & Omi Osun Olomo/Joni L. Jones

Developed with support from Austin Script Works' Seed Support Fund

Einstein Bros. bagels and brunch snacks available at the Vortex Cafe

Some Makers I admire:

The Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice, member, proud supporter

Sojourn Theatre Company - I attended artistic director Michael Rohd's summer institute in 2006 - an important turning point for me in figuring out how theatre can make good.

Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed greatly influences my work, especially with youth. I got to attend the PTO Conference in 2008 (Thank you Theatre Action Project!)

Albany Park Theatre Project is amazing. I met Artistic Director David Feiner at the University of Texas Teaching Artist Symposium in 2008.

I was an intern at Grrl Action in the summer of 2006, and probably learned more from the students about autobiographical, solo performance than I could have possibly taught them.

I volunteered, writing curriculum and teaching with Las Libres in Guanajuato, GTO, Mexico, in the fall of 2008.

Cornerstone Theater makes wonderful work, and they're supremely nice people to boot. I will study with them someday!

I studied with Yuyachkani in Lima, Peru in November of 2006. Please follow this link. They're incredible.

El Teatro Campesino: I first realized that theatre could make some serious good, and be fun/funny/ridiculous, all at the same time, from reading their actos!

Anne Bogart's work with the SITI company is becoming an increasingly big influence on my work...

Anna Deavere Smith's "Letters to a Young Artist" is one of my 'bibles.' Incredible discipline. Amazing solo performer.

Sharon Bridgforth has been the anchor artist of The Austin Project since it was founded; I participated in her "Finding Voice" workshop in June 2009.

Adelina Anthony is hot hot hot! In all the ways that count! I'm about to learn with/from her in "Teatro Q" this week.

k.t. shorb is my friend and colleague, and an awesome theatre artist.

Anel Flores is also my friend and colleague, and a wonderful writer.

Ana Lara is yet another friend and colleague, amazing artist.

Gloria Anzaldua's "Borderlands" is a sutra.

Some good people I like to make good with:

Theatre Action Project
, Artistic Associate

Teatro Vivo, Associate Company Member

Alma de Mujer, Member, Artist in Residence, November 2009

Kalpulli Teokalli Teoyolotl, Danzante/Guerrera

The Austin Project, Member of 2010-2011 Cohort

Space12, Volunteer

For more information on some of the good I have made,

check it out:

I wrote/performed Muntu all over Austin and then at Muntu: Reflections in East Austin, 2008-2009.

I directed T.A.G., Best of the Fest, Frontera Fest Short Fringe 2009 (top 10 of 80 short pieces).

I taught in/directed Living Newspaper, Summer 2009, and The Teen Arts Puentes Project, Summers 2007 and 2008.

I performed in by a quiet sea, January 2009.

I directed su-students: email wars, an original, devised work, back in the day, in Spring 2006.

some other projects/collaborations, that I don't have links for:

I've performed as...
Gemini, blu, by Vicki Grise, a staged reading directed by Florinda Bryant, Vortex Theater, Austin, TX 2009
Angel/Dolores, Petra's Sueno, by Rupert Reyes, directed by Mary Alice Carnes, The Long Center, Austin, TX 2008
Medea, Medea, by Euripides, directed by Elena Araoz, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX 2005

I directed The Body Dialogues, an original, devised piece, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX 2007

I've taught with Theatre Action Project at...
Wooten Elementary, 2007-2008
Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus, 2009
Copperfield Elementary, 2009
Brown Elementary, 2009-2010
elementary schools all over Austin, in The Heroes/Los Heroes, a bilingual, interactive performance residency, 2007 - present