February 27, 2015 | Theatre,
30 Years of Culture Clash
This past year marks the Culture Clash’s 30th year anniversary as the most prominent Chicano/Latino performance troupe in the country, with work ranging from sketch comedy to drama, to adaptations of Aristophanes, to co-writing Frank Loesser’s long-lost musical Señor Discretion Himself, based on a story by the late Budd Schulberg. Founded in 1984 on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) in San Francisco’s historic Mission District, Culture Clash is Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza.
This prolific group’s most recent plays include American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in Ashland, Oregon. This play was selected to launch American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, along with other writers David Henry Hwang, Suzan- Lori Parks, Naomi Wallace and Robert Schenkkan. Additional plays include Peace at the Getty Villa; Palestine, New Mexico at the L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum; Culture Clash in AmeriCCa at venues throughout the U.S.
Culture Clash’s work has been produced by the nation’s leading theatres including the Mark Taper Forum, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Huntington Theatre in Boston, The Alley Theatre in Houston, South Coast Repertory, Seattle Repertory and The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, among others. They have also toured and lectured at major universities and colleges including Syracuse University, Yale University, Stanford University, UCLA and dozens of state colleges in California.
At UCLA, not only was there a course taught on Culture Clash, but the members of Culture Clash were guest lecturers for it. They have completed their cycle of California plays: Chavez Ravine, Zorro in Hell and Water & Power. Prior to that, Culture Clash focused on site-specific theatre, weaving personal narratives culled from interviews into an ongoing dramatic tapestry. Theatre companies in Miami, San Diego, New York, Houston, Boston and San Francisco, among others, have com missioned Culture Clash to create performance pieces specifically for their cities.
Their work gives immediate dramatic voice and expression to people in a certain time and place. It is theatre of the moment, written and performed first for the people and communities on which it is based, and second for a broader audience. Culture Clash uses “performance collage” to bring history, geography, “urban excavation,” “forensic poetry” and storytelling together in a contemporary, movable theatre narrative through a Chicano point of view—what Guillermo Gómez-Peña describes as “reverse anthropology.”
Other Culture Clash theatrical works includes The Mission, A Bowl of Beings, S.O.S.—Comedy for These Urgent Times, Unplugged, Carpa Clash, Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami, Bordertown, The Birds, Nuyorican Stories, Anthology, Mission Magic Mystery Tour and Anthems: Culture Clash in the District.
Culture Clash made television history with the first-ever Chicano sketch TV show “Culture Clash,” which aired on several Fox syndication markets. In addition Culture Clash produced interactive video installations for Cheech Marin’s Chicano Now-American Expressions national touring art show, which toured for over five years.
The troupe is the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and grants, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Helen Hayes Award, the Latino Spirit Award, the Los Angeles Hispanic Media Award, the Nosotros Golden Eagle Award for Outstanding Golden Eagle Group, The Liberty Hill Foundation Award and dozens of city and state proclamations and commendations. Their videos, short films and art exhibits have been shown at The Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Sundance Film Festival, The San Juan, Puerto Rico Film and Video Festival, The Art Institute of Boston, The Palm Springs Film Festival and The Los Angeles Film Festival, among others.
Culture Clash has three books of compilations: Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa and Oh Wild West: The California Plays, with TCG Books. Audio versions of Radio Mambo, Bordertown, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose and Chavez Ravine are available through Los Angeles Theatre Works, latw.org.
Chavez Ravine Revival just closed last month at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in L.A. for Center Theatre Group.