There is something __________ happening in the newly occupied theater space at 2009 e. 1st street in Los Angeles, CA. I leave a blank after “something” on purpose because I can’t quite find a singular word to describe it.
If you open the door, on any given day you may find the following: a rehearsal in body work and movement (at times near acrobatic), 5’3 women hammering, drilling, making structural wall changes to create the perfect stage environment, or a rental space for community workshops and classes. And on any day you will surely find one thing above all: love, beaming unconditionally in a way only a sisterhood can create (at times including wine, whiskey and chicken). I thought long and hard about a word to describe what’s happening at Studio Luna – by Teatro Luna West, but similar to some of the silent performance art created there, words fail me.
The space I’m referencing is currently leased to Teatro Luna – national ensemble of Latina/x and Women of Color artists, organizers, scholars, agitators, creatives, teatristas, dreamers and thinkers who collaboratively create original performances, produce multi-genre events and digital content with social justice as a clear aim and founded in 2000 in Chicago, IL. In 2014, as part of a larger experiment in placemaking and ensemble practice, Teatro Luna West was opened in Los Angeles as a satellite ensemble, expanding the range of opportunities for artistic collaboration on the local, national and international stage for all Women of Color.
My Journey to Mi Gente
I still vividly remember the first time I met the ladies of Teatro Luna, about 10 years ago in Chicago, as an aspiring actor. I had no formal training (with the exception of Second City Improv), had seen only a couple of plays (even though I attended one of the top theater schools in the country – DePaul), and was completely clueless on how to navigate this experience. When I walked in though, they didn’t see any of that insecurity and quickly put me to work on a 10×10 short play festival where I played multiple roles in a few staged readings.
Shortly after, readings turned into plays, which turned into writing collaborations, which led to becoming an ensemble member. My formal training was Teatro Luna. I not only learned about the art of devised work, collaboration, memorization and making choices, I learned about sisterhood, what it means to be a woman, specifically a Latina woman.
My best friends joked at the time that I actually didn’t know I was Latina until I joined Teatro Luna.
This was because I suddenly started taking a sudden and massive interest in standing up for mi gente in every way possible. These women became an integral part of my life. I have shared with them my deepest secrets, my biggest insecurities, I’ve said yes to things without even knowing what they were, and one of the original co-founders even officiated my wedding last year with an incredible interpretation of the story of me and my partner.
Through my journey with these women, I essentially learned how to be more of myself. The work that Teatro Luna has created and continues to create is that of modern Latina (and now WOC) experience backed up by our own history, tradition and stories passed down to us and shows how they have shaped us to become the women we are today. This is also the one of the reasons that the majority of the work is in English. And just like the modern woman, the company has gone through many iterations, but I continue to be excited by the women who make up the ensemble today.
If you haven’t caught a show via their national/global tours, don’t stress, as this month we find ourselves fortunate enough to experience a new original devised work aptly titled: “The Times.” And when I say experience, I mean EXPERIENCE. I was able to catch a run through of the show last week, and was completely unprepared for the range of motion, emotion, pause for laughs and ride back up again that I experienced watching “The Times.”
Ten minutes into it, Alexandra Meda, the director of the show, asked if I wanted a break. I said no, because I wanted the performers to experience it the way it would run for the actual show, but also selfishly because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
To me, “The Times” feels like it will be a gravitational pull between our external outward self and our most intimate self that we may or may not be ready to expose. It navigates this current cultural moment we find ourselves in American history and asks us to take a breath – together. The topics covered range from mental health, assault and gentrification all through the eyes of women of color.
As an artist, I invite you to check us out and be a part of our work. As a woman, I welcome you to a space where YOU are welcomed. A space where, even if only for a 90 minute show, you can be completely yourself, be entertained, and be marveled, but most importantly be at home.
This work is for the masses, yet massively personal. This is true not only because I am a part of Teatro Luna West myself, but because I see myself so clearly reflected in these pieces that it feels like an NSA stunt! Don’t worry, I promise you it isn’t… But I also promise you will see yourself too, and what a wonderful thing that is – to be SEEN.
Tickets on sale now: http://bit.ly/thetimes2018
Previews: 11/12 – 11/16 Opens: 11/17 – 12/16
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeatroLunaNationalEnsemble Instagram: @teatroluna Twitter: @teatroluna