Monday, April 19, 2010

Day Laborer Theater Without Borders

In "Just Put on that Padua Hills Smile," Matt Garcia gives voice to the stories of the Latino actors in Pomona. Now, about seventy years later, the LA Times highlights the plays of a troop of Latino day laborer actors.

Last year, a big foundation gave money to form a traveling theater company that cast day laborers as stars. Through the power of art, the Day Laborer Theater Without Borders transformed gardeners, cleaners, and painters into actors, singers, and dancers. Unlike the Padua Hills players, who were forced to use the script of the benevolent but patronizing Garners, the day laborers write their own Spanish-language plays with the help of Cornerstone Theater Company, a nonprofit dedicated to social justice. Reclaiming their space at the margins of LA, the day laborers write and perform plays about health, alcoholism, and immigration rights. They use theater to educate and entertain other day laborers.

Philip Deloria argues that one of the reasons Indians chose to join Buffalo Bill's shows was to travel around the world and escape the confines of the reservation. Likewise, the day laborers are enticed by the opportunity to travel to new cities and perform. As Jose Magandi, a director and day laborer says, "You have culture, you have a story. You should share it with the world."

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