Wednesday, May 6, 2009

La Raza in the Casa

Rupert's Blog 5.06.09 - La Raza in the Casa

In my last blog, “¿Donde está la raza?”, I raised the question of why there are so few Latinos and other minorities among Austin cultural audiences. One of the most interesting responses suggested that Latinos have to behave differently at certain art functions "West of IH 35".

The writer suggested that when Latinos are at an event where there are lots of their own, they can relax and be themselves. When attending an event where they feel isolated, they have to act like someone else.

I would agree somewhat, but I would be a little more specific and say that when attending an event governed by another culture’s behavioral code, they have to guess what these rules are and act accordingly.

So where are the Latino Audiences? At home watching TV, I would imagine. Because watching a TV show in your own home where you can laugh as loud as you want and talk back to the actors is probably a lot more enjoyable than going to an event where you spend the whole time trying to figure out how to behave.

I can think of two solutions to this problem. First, traditional theater-going audiences must become more accepting of audience reactions outside the norm. So what if someone laughs a little too loud at a crude joke? So what if someone lets out a grito at an opera performance? If people pay for a ticket, they have a right to enjoy the show.

The second solution has to do with education and is not so much a project as a lifelong commitment. Latino youth must be encouraged to attend as many theater performances as possible in order to develop a culture that is comfortable sitting in an audience.

Many Latinos have never experienced a play. My understanding from students of the former Johnston High School (now Eastside Memorial) is that the theater department at Eastside Memorial High School has gone years without a play being produced on their stage. I know there is a new theater teacher there this year, and I wish her the best.

So how can you talk to a student or their families about theater when they have little or no information about it? How can you describe a play to someone who has never seen one or experienced one? You can't.

Here are a few suggestions:

We need to get funds to get local theaters to produce free shows at the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools with high minority enrollment, to begin to expose the students and their families to these shows.

How about "trailers for theater"? You could have groups come and do 30 minutes of a play for a school and then distribute tickets to see the rest.

These are just a couple of ideas I can think of off the top of my head. If you can think of more, please add them in the comments section. I think it is time to start a dialog on this subject. Students are the future. To paraphrase Luis Valdez, if you can't get the students to the theater, get the theater to the students.


medinam said...

Say Whaaaaaaaat?...

“ars gratia artis,ad iudicium.”

"Thus it was that when faith (in the Tao) was deficient (in the rulers) a want of faith in them ensued (in the people)". Legge.

"If you trust people less than enough, some of them will never trust you." Blackney.

"If one perceives others as untrustworthy, then that will be the experience that one acknowledges. The selective acknowledgment of untrustworthiness verifies one's perception of the untrustworthiness of others." World

I personally chose to subscribe to the belief that it is not what one says one knows, pretends to know, and thinks to know but what one does that really matters! (Pragmatism)

Though I try to not take things personally, the fact still exists that I have a hard time dealing with statements that "pigeon hole" people. I believe 'arrogance' takes place of 'native intelligence'(common sense) when one dares to believe one's paradigm is all there is to see, that one's view of the valley down below is the only view from one's position on the mountain. To make matters worse, where in the mist of idiosyncrasy does one dare to be "specific" about generalities?
I do have an easier time of accepting one's observations when stated as such for then the dynamic of 'considering the source' has the opportunity to take hold. However, stating one's views, ideals, morals and such as mere observations is an art in itself. Let me be a bit clearer - These are only my paradigms and according to my Grand Mother "they are only worth 20cents" (Pairofdimes!)

Once upon a time, not too long ago - oh, about 7 years! - Tony Danza of 'Who's the Boss' starred in a commercial about disabled people, and he was shown with a microphone in hand stopping people on the street posing the question "How should we treat disabled people?"
Obviously, different persons gave different answers - but what captured me the most was the statement by Tony Danza at the end of the commercial which went something like this.
"How should we treat disabled people?... LIKE PEOPLE!!!"

"West of IH 35" "Behavioral code" "grito" "two solutions to this problem" "At home watching TV"

Maybe,Maybe not! At least that is what Robert Fulghum dares to say. As far as solutions to the quagmire of ‘why there are so few Latinos and other minorities among Austin cultural audiences?” I chose to adhere to Lao Tzu's suggestion -
"Go to the people.
Learn from the people.
Live with the people. Start with what they know. Build with what they have.
And for the best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say…
We have done it ourselves."

make it a great day ...or not, the choice is yours!

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle

Rick Olmos said...

Thank you for not taking my comment out of context. I would really like to hear a blog more on the side of not where the audiences are but where are the performances that are culturally accepting.

This is a generation of instant gratification, and unfortunately a 2 hour theatre experience is too long, however a night of 3-5 10 minute active multi-disciplined shorts just may be intriguing enough to get them through the door. Key is advertising and doing "tastes" of the performances in the church, or other venues that they DO go to.

We must go to the audiences with our art rather than expecting them to come to us. I believe we need to put the responsibility in our laps, not look for others to blame.

medinam said...

For those interested in finding out "where the performances that are culturally accepting are."

See if this can help.

(A women and men culture differences being discussed and accepted)

(one performance from 1969 - can't get more culturally accepting than this, can you? were you there? know someone that was?
Notice the connection to today's culture!)

Thinking out of the box about "culture acceptance"

plus culturally being accepted in Telemundo!!!!

Y sigue la mata dando!

For more on the cultural acceptance of this video by the high school culture and the college culture, search Utube for renditions by students at various theaters - Interesting!

Was going to leave well enough alone - However, in spite of my awareness about "the aha! moment", "experiential learning", " to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail", "50 ways to use your noodle", "the four agreements","the Andromeda strain", "everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten" and "unwarranted advice" I decided to give 'this point of interest' one more shot!

In my humble way of 'seeing' things, "what we have here is a failure to communicate!" - that in it's own way is a cultural difference, and perhaps needs to be accepted, perhaps not! - not only necessarily by those engaged but by yours truly. As I look back a few years, my own culture was very different, as a matter of fact it has evolved 'una y otra vez!' in the words of playwright Lillian Hellman, in the introduction to her biographical reflection entitled Pentimento.
...Old paint on canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman's dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter "repented," changed his mind.
Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of 'seeing' and then 'seeing again'. That is all I mean - . Polysyllabic puffery! Robert Fulghum says!

Maybe some 'clarifying' is in order - I have a tendency of meandering in the metaphysics of just about everything I come in contact with, could be that that is just part of my "personal culture" not necessarily that I am a committee (son, father, facilitator, husband, clown, concerned citizen, builder, listener, traveler...blogger? aah! you get the idea... )
but that matters of the soul in everything that has to do with learning, growth and well-being intrigue me much.
Like I stated before, I have a hard time accepting 'observations' as 'facts" (that is just me). At the heart of my 'observations' (my own way of 'seeing')is my own journey of learning to 'see out side the box' my own box that is - endeavor which eludes me most of the time!- One of the best feedback that has been offered to me was that of a experiential education colleague and it goes something like this - "when you go out and take the character of 'educator' try to keep from instilling your morals, ideals and/or knowledge on others, just Facilitate!" - And it is now clear and obvious to me that in order to do such, anything that I put forth out there has to be in the form of an 'observation'.
If I have failed to do so with my prior blogs, my apologies!
Truly I I need to remind my self that everything seems to be clearer as I travel through my 'shifts of paradigms' and that those "aha! moments' are priceless and that they come 'at their own time' (differently for each individual!) and who in the heck! do I think I am to rob others from their experiences!.
In a gist whenever I think of culture, I think of not only ethnicity but of age, region, place on the mountain, human tendencies, education, place of birth, awareness... and so on, and so on!

Polysyllabic puffery! Robert Fulghum says!

"I could have been a movie star, but I wound up here!"

Vaya con Dios!