La Carpa Theatre Project presented last year their production from July 29 th to August 21 st ; their last performance on stage was in Detroit at the Congregation Café. A bilingual production in Spanish and English bringing to life the stage and screen stars and performers of Mexican theatrical history.
The term, Carpa, comes from the Spanish word for “tent” and refers to the small independent vaudeville-like tent theaters that popped up at any vacant spot in Mexico City and flourished during the 1920-1930s. These small productions were opportunities for performers of all sort: singers, acrobats, dancers, comedians, and with each performance these performers perfected their craft and sharpened
their routines. These carpa productions would later spread into the country side including the southwestern United States. Performances were entertaining and sometimes provocative presenting current political issues like a mirror, like ancient Greek plays–comedy, drama, historical, social and political themes were found in these live performances. Simple productions but engaging.
La Carpa Theatre Project was conceived by Karilú Alarcón Forshee and written in collaboration with the youth from the Project. The Director/Producer Karilú Alarcón Forshee, with 25 years’ experience in the theater arts is also a Kresge Arts Detroit Fellow, and with the Visual Arts Director/Graphic Designer, Elton Monroy Duran, famed muralist of Corpus Art Inc., collaborated on this project bringing their
artistic skills and shared a vision with the youth and then these jovenes made something grand. All together they presented a complex gift to all of us that you can see in their work. And see it in the 14 actors who performed not just characters from history but infused them with life and joy. These young performers brought forth characters from long ago into the here and now.
The characters were from different worlds from disconnected time periods yet connected by culture and via the magic of theater were brought together for the first-time asking questions attempting to know each other and while the actors spoke from their hearts to the audience. It was a meta experience of history and pride, family and pride that only theater can provide. The play highlighted the diversity of each soul within the truth of the complexity of the culture. This was done with the same sort of inspiration that Amalia Hernandez had done by showcasing Ballet Folklórico de México to Mexicans and to the world… But instead of dance, this Carpa showcased the famous individuals who live and lived and thrived despite the challenges. This was like cosplayers of cultural heroes who were very human but still very super.
The characters on stage were Frida Kahlo, Jorge Negrete, Amalia Hernandez, Cantinflas, Capulina, El Santo, Sonia Sotomayor, Tin-Tan, Chespirito, Richie Valens, Selena Qintanilla, Jenni Rivera, Rita Moreno, Delores Huerta, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with each engaging one another, sharing their hopes and dreams as well as confessing the untold challenges that made their lives even more meaningful.
While the performers, that is to say the cast or elenco, consisted of 14 young actors still in High School representing not only notable personalities, but their families, their own unique mixture of cultures, and their very own life experiences. These actors took a moment to break the famous fourth wall that exists between stage and audience and spoke to the world sharing their thoughts and experiences as immigrants and children of immigrants. This was a touching moment of this performance because it brought the audience deeper into the experience. What was most impressive of these youthful performers was their fearlessness and joy. If anything, I could see their destinies: Unafraid to speak truth to power, to free their voices to create art, to have faith in themselves and teach this same lesson to another generation.
This elenco consisted of: Anahys Mar Hernández Arzan; Gabriel Rodriguez; Victoria Guadalupe Vigil; Alvaro Torrez; Alonso Torrez; Claudia Carbonell; Luis Nuñez Garcia; Jeffrey Rodriguez; Marco Hernández-Quintana; Melissa Moya Torres; Arely Aguirre-Pacheco; Alondra Samano; Itzel Hernandez, and Ashley
The Production Team which was the glue that kept all of this looking great included: Liliana Blancas-Rodriguez, Program Coordinator; Erin Esposito, Production Assistant; Chantel Gaidica, Lighting Design; Alana Rodriguez, Costume Design; Juli Lindsey, Photography; Maurizio Dominguez, VideoDocumentation; and Tech Support: Amari Harris/Shayla Flakes/Jacob Forshee.
All at once it was not just a play or just a performance, it was not just an intro into Latinx/ Latino/ Latina/Hispanic/ Hispano artistic, musical, cinematic, political history, it was an event of bringing to life just a few of the best from the past by means of theater, promoting the best of the future yet to be….and back again to what was. The twists and turns were fun because of both the material and the joy of the performers developing this together. It was community theater; it was una Carpa Folklórica
With the support of The Knight Foundation; The Michigan Arts & Culture Council; Flourish Fund; Culture Source; and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and La Carpa Theatre Project was given the stage.
Felicitations to the Actors, the Director/Producer, the Visual Arts Director, the whole Production Team.
I hope this theater project can be what it appeared to be–a theater company to be seen again.