Home Editor's Picks Mesa Arts Center play focuses on border shooting

Mesa Arts Center play focuses on border shooting

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“Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country,” by Richard Montoya of the acclaimed Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash, will be performed at Mesa Arts Center (MAC) Nov. 17-20 as part of the MAC’s Performing Live Series. (Submitted photo)

“Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country,” by Richard Montoya of the acclaimed Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash, will be performed at Mesa Arts Center (MAC) Nov. 17-20 as part of the MAC’s Performing Live Series.

“Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country” traces in reverse the headlines of a Mexican boy shot by U.S. Border Patrol across the border fence. San Francisco theater artist, Sean San Jose, co-founder of Campo Santo, directs the play.

“Earlier this year we were approached by an incredible team of artists that included Richard Montoya, who was with Culture Clash and is a renowned Chicano artist, about presenting this play. We felt that bringing ‘Nogales’ to Mesa Arts Center would be an opportunity for us to present and share with our community high quality and nationally produced Latino theatre,” said Randy Vogel, director of theaters and operations at Mesa Arts Center.

Montoya and ensemble members from San Francisco’s Campo Santo unpack the story of a Nogales boy, shot in the back 15 times by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Interviews with family members, Tohono O’odham community, gun enthusiasts, street kids, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio mix with multiple video projections, visual art installations, and ample humor to go beyond the headlines to explore this real-life tragicomic theater of the border.

Montoya, San Jose, and filmographer Joan Osato traveled to Phoenix and on through to Nogales, Mexico, to immerse themselves in the border region. The play is the product of conversations with the people they met as they traversed the border landscape. The play is a journey into border culture, grappling with the flux of immigration and migration. Tensions rise under anti-immigration sentiments responsible for the militarization of the border. The performance is a meditation of place, crossing over, crossing borders, bullets crossing and lives crossing.

The play’s innovative approach to tackling a complicated subject gives the audience a deeper and unique perspective into the characters and situations presented. “Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country” is crafted in the style of more than 30 years of Culture Clash work, where plays as performance pieces are created from going into places and following many threads of a central issue. Complimenting this method is Campo Santo’s interdisciplinary aesthetics. San Jose interprets Montoya’s interview-based script style through a distinctly Bay Area “hybrid performance” aesthetic, which San Jose pioneered over the last decade: a place-keeping multimedia/interdisciplinary theatricality developed through working with non-traditional theater collaborators like hip-hop artists, installation artists, print makers, videographers, puppeteers, and multimedia artists. The end result is a “post-dramatic” theater experience that is part performance art, documentary theater, spoken word, and gallery exhibition.

The process that informs “Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country” is ethnographic in nature: interviewing, investigating, outreaching, being in a place and regenerating stories and art from these authentic experiences.

For show times and tickets, visit mesaartscenter.com or call 480-644-6500.

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