Radar L.A. Manifesto
Delivered June 17, 2011 at Radar L.A.
Not unlike the moment Tony Kushner told us that the
Taliban would be in New York City just prior to 911—I feel
compelled to tell you that the Sinaloa drug cartels are already
in LA—they have been—welcome to the other LA—the
shadow LA where devised works await us out there
lurking in the dark places: in the parks near the taco trucks
where poor and trust fund Anglo hipsters alike eat their
organ meat tacos of lengua/tongue—ceso/brain and carnita
delicacies—negotiating for space, brushing up against
cleanly head-shaven cholos—some of them doing the
bidding for Mexican Mafia cells in Pelican Bay and
and Matamoros thousands of miles away—these worlds spin
in opposition to each other sometimes clashing and colliding
on the streets of LA in silent and not so silent but always
interesting ways—urban jihads over turf, culture, Russian
medical marijuana clinics, and crystal meth. These are but
a few of the battlegrounds where a Reza Abdoh-like theater
plays out daily. The past is future again.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic to our guests, let me
point out just some of the signs that the a-pork-alypse is all
around us or what happens when the cultures clash:
Major League Baseball uses eminent domain to take back
the Dodgers —who originally took the land from Chicano
families in a blighted hamlet called Chavez Ravine just two
miles from here—following the tragic beatdown of a Giants
fan by suspected Chicano gang bangers; there was the
killing of the Anglo-rastafari Trader Joe’s worker in Echo
Park two weeks ago by Hispanic male suspects with Virgin
of Guadalupe and LA tattoos—it happened on the eastern
edge of Sunset Boulevard where I stood with my hand-painted
sign that read, “A man died here—does anybody have any
information or care?” – my theater out there—where
random communities gather and clash – In the streets—the
LA of harsh relief and sunshine – shadows long like the Los
Angeles River—in LA nothing is concrete except our river—
in that river I would wash the feet of the dreadlocked kid felled
by the two bullets and bad luck—Rampart Cops roll by—
eyeballing me as I offer another silent bendición for the man who died here.
(Who killed Tupac who killed Biggie? Rhymes with Rampart
Cops) and the ultimate sign that Arma-ghetto is upon
us—the end of the sixth sun—Texcalipoca! Govenor
Schwarsnegger shtupes his Latina Maid—The
Mex-Terminator has been born! Hallelujah Hallelujah—
we need not look for European structure and revolution our
drama is here in These streets—the Wild West—
the Wild Kingdom—mountain lions in Eagle Rock—
deer and coyote on Mulholland and Sunset near Chinatown
Jake –where the not so distant future of theater has the
Tea Party commissioning David Mamet to write a new
devised work about a sensitive Zionist with Obaman hopes
and dreams of building border walls from Gaza to Glendale,
Arizona—sugar walls Mr. Mamet—sugar walls that
we can lick away! I’m praying Mr. Mamet is dyslexic
and his right is the new left and art school is the
new law school—come back home David—come home son of
Abraham my Sephardic roots yearn for your return as I will
show you mezuzah’s hidden under coats of decades old paint—
that little bump in the doorway protecting Mexican
homes before the Fairfax diaspora went west—LA’s original
shul is in East Los—the best pastrami is still in the barrio—
Passover songs were hidden in Border Corridos—from
Morelia hasta New Mexico—East LA – Chavez Ravine is
home to Jewish, Japanese, Basque, Chinese, and then Anglo
pioneer cemeteries and when we don’t pay attention to
these restless spirits the earth shakes to remind us of
something ancient and familiar if you do experience
an earthquake while in LA do not panic your Center
Theater Group gift bag can be used as a floatation device.
This is my theater, it is now, in real time, and it will
not wait to be selected for festivals. I wouldn’t say
Culture Clash was shunned by Under the Radar L.A./TCG
—many deserving LA companies are here—our street cred
and outsider status are secure though—we are Under
Under the Radar L.A.—besides we’re extremely busy with
that commission from The Intiman—why do you laugh
did something happen at Intiman? Oh man the
future is here even faster than I thought—our devised works
are already on your desk The River (Campo Santo)—
32 Beds at SCR—Mexico is just six short blocks east
of your Costa Mesa cubicle —or Superior Arizona for
Labyrinth—D Gangers with performance artist
Gomez Peña our obsession of all things border
yearning to be heard.
I would be careful to say we were not shunned here—
I thank the Mark’s Russell & Murphy
– Diane and Olga for giving me voice here —no—shunned
is what we are in Arizona: Culture Clash plays are named in the
Attorney General’s complaint there as works not suitable for
students in Tucson Area high schools—the only US theater
company named along with Shakespeare,
Ethnic, Chicano, Black, and Queer studies—
all banned all going before the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals—Now is when we need you most—firmly
in the world of What Is— Like the Bolsheviks time feels
speededup—The Culture Wars are Back. The approach feels
like a privilege I cannot afford now as I worry about those
students and culture makers in Arizona banished from
our theater but more than that I worry about the uptick of
immigrant deaths in the Sonoran Desert on the America
side that correlate with the anti-immigrant fervor and
extreme laws carried out by western style sheriff Joe Arpaio he
of Italian immigrant decent and yes, the long arm of the
cartels pushing the violent worlds closer together like the
Mayan Lords of Death. My moral compass and my theater
intertwined—Okay: Jesus is walking toward you in the desert
—he is filthy—he is dark—he speaks a tongue you do not
understand —what do you do? Arrest him? Give him
water as you would a dog? And if you are not religious
swap the Jesus figure out for Oskar Eustis—Okay,
Oskar is walking to you—he is filthy—you want him
to produce Water & Power at the Public…And as
for that play at Intiman about Human Trafficking in
the North West from the Mehkong to Yakima Valley—I think
Jerry Manning should take up the mantel at Seattle Rep.
Sounds good—a manifesto about the future of theater,
heck let me pitch you now: hold your applause and
laughter I’m down to two minutes –I can barely contain
my excitement for the new plays I was born to write.
The future of theater looks so much like me it pisses us all
off. Here I go: humbly I submit –
Rosebud at the Little Big Horn—the night before—Custer laying out his buckskins—men of his top command are infighting and drinking and overly confident with bad information—Sitting Bull in his tent assuming, hoping that the great white father has arrived to make peace—he sends his nephew with his shield as an offering of respect—Arena.
Suicide at Lithea Park—the bullying of a normal boy who happens to be gay.
El Chuco—Our Rothko-like look at the explosive Chicano art scene of the 70s where arguments raged about selling out and Vietnam.
Dopplegangers—My mano a mano transborder despair with Gomez Peña we tackle the decapitations carried out by the aforementioned cartels by the fourteen-year-old boy—if only we could talk to him—if Angelina and Brad could adopt him—he could cut the head off of our loneliness and entitlements and our inability to connect with you.
I worry that we are fatigued with the diversity question—we can discuss it at the Arena convening in DC until we are purple in the face and that purple can count as diversity.
My theater reaches out—I cross borders with queer directors, Anglo female protagonists, Native American, African American heroes lost in the margins of US history… Do you reach back to me?
The future sees me as the first Chicano to join the Rude Mechs — I can be a Rude Mexican—I am not deriding Rude Mechs—I envy them—I wish to be young and cool and essential I just didn’t know there were twenty-five white people left in South Texas—let alone that they all found each other and make theater hell I’m moving to Austin!
I know they work with young at risk Latinas—I saw the grant—after some debate I championed it! Is that okay to say Rocco?
To prove that I am serious I shall move to Portland for a period of six months to prepare!
I worry about the Wilson cannon in the future—diminishing funding and attention spans will see productions of Five Guitars—we didn’t need all seven!
Theater of the future has fewer nouns and more verbs.
The future has less cute songs of dancing Mexican whores—they dance on the graves of the Women of Juárez and El Paso.
It has less middle-aged white men who plowed their way and tired of magic realism but then found Hip Hop Theater and are now re-invigorated and essential and vital again with the virile sounds of the street yo!
You will find the next ivy league embryo that further cements your hand on the pulse of all that is young and hip there for making you young and hip.
The Future has more color in the technical fields and stage management so that our battles of cultural authenticity are less.
How else can we find the next Sam Sheppard who is a sixteen-year-old Native American girl on The Rez—or a talented Chicana on a city bus right now who has the audacity to write a three act play with and about her mama?
Down on the street in the basements of bars where the shadow communities gather—where theater does not abide by ethnic labs.
We cannot wait to be selected because our theater lives and breathes outside of the structures of:
Don’t forget us there—
Truth is we will wait to be selected again but not for long.
Lest we become the hipster vampires sucking the blood of the culture and leaving nothing—let us also not be the killer zombie cholos.
And lo don’t let me accept the cartel commissions for new work on second stages. Instead I will lurk in and out of the shadows—chronicling—not wanting or hoping for—but witnessing the violence.
Remaining a critical thinker and chronicler of my theater that happens in real time in real spaces where you and I can spit fire together in east side cantinas where poets gather.
I’ll show you the Mayan Dark House under the bridge where the junkies go to die—where the twins lost the knife fight.
Where nothing is as it appears.
Oh snap, spellcheck on my computer still changes the word Chicano to chicanery and capitalizes Nazi! I don’t know how to explain that to my eleven-month-old son Mountain Montoya.
Let us speak of Chicano pedagogy and other things I do not
understand. I was amazed by something I said earlier.
In the mean-stead let us scheme and plan together and I
will show you that political activist theater is good business.
Whatever my theater is it will have grace in a violent world
and worlds that spin about us.
My political theater is an act of love. My Chicano specificity
is universal—my mind matured with a world view void
of the dead end road of identity politics. I am interested in you.
Academic, anarchist, artistic director, actor, writer,
provocateur, Hollywood refusnick!
And if Broadway can have a Mormon musical they can have a
Mexican one too—over a million Mexicans in NYC!
The Beast is hungry and the long arm of the Sinaloa Cartel will
have more trouble crossing the Brooklyn Bridge than
Orange County but they will be there!
So join Culture Clash in our fight against the Arizona Attorney
General not just for our theater but for what is right—
be illegal with us—todos somos abajo del radar—todos somos
illegals—todos somos queer—todos somos teatristas—
todos somos actores de Belarus…You will forgive me –
my lucha/my struggle is not my bio or headshot or the
future of devised works it is ice raids in factories
and Orange County Elementary Schools which horrify students
it is the unconstitutional border sweeps on this side
of the line and the culture of death on the other side.