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A Manifesto

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 herefollowing 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 am 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.

This is my theater, it is now, in real time, and it will not wait to be selected for festivals.

Three actors stare into the camera.
The Culture Clash trio (left to right):
Ric Salinas, Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza in 1986.
Photo by Harry Gamboa Jr.

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:

The grants
The admin
The dramaturgy
The cycles
The selectors

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.

Theater of the future has fewer nouns and more verbs.

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 radartodos somos illegalstodos somos queertodos somos teatristastodos 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.

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Was not deriding RM's - just a professional - artistic - friendly challenge - meet in Arizona where we need you.. we love Rm's just to be clear

Chicano themes - border themes - of color - not just that we pass but that we are vibrant and accounted for - someone at TCG asked our panel if our CHicano Theater kept us in a corner? Not if it is excellent theater - but too - that corner is where you find the Wilson Canon - One family - one city - 10 plays... Pigment is a good thing as non pigment - children - teens watch us and need to see themselves.

I love it to death but I gotta say, you can't be the first Chicano Rude. There are others. Not all Rude Mechs are white. Not even all white people are white!

Thnak you for writing this and for the passion it brings forth.How do I contact you or Herbert? He spoke with me briefly at tcg and said he (or maybe others) were coming to Tucson. I would like to speak with him or you asap. I have some ideas if you are interested 520-429-9486 ([email protected].) I would like to email or speak with him but I don't know how.
Best, Barclay
Bordrelands Theater

Estimado Richard,

I only wish I had been there, to hear your voice, which is so beautifully articulated in your words. Indeed, as I read your narrative Manifesto, I could picture you and your voice. You give us all so much to think about, as usual.


Jorge A. Huerta

I second this sentiment, this passion. We on the periphery reject the restrictions of the consumerist model and persist in making art regardless of limitations. We sacrifice swimming madly in the radar stream just to feel included, hopeful, and suffer the solitude. It is actually liberation! And there are always audiences hungry for what we do, because they recognize the need for alternative perspectives.
Sabrina Mandell
Artistic Co-Director
Happenstance Theater

What a completely great piece of writing in every possible way! I'd say more, but am too busy forwarding it all over... what a great way to wake up, reading this - just electric! Thank you.

Joanna Settle
Artistic Director
Shakespeare on the Sound

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