Chicanas Cholas Y Chisme 2016 Playing at Casa 0101 Through April 3

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from Our Town El Sereno:

by Annette Cruz

   2016 marks the fourth year of production for "Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme," a series of shows written, directed, and produced by Los Angeles-area Latinas. They launched their latest series of short plays on March 11 at Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights. The series runs through Sunday, April 3.

   The idea for Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme was conceived by Josefina Lopez who also founded Casa 0101 in 2000 as a non-profit arts organization dedicated to providing vital arts, cultural and educational programs. She has programs in theater, digital filmmaking, art and dance, easily accessible to residents in Boyle Heights and its surrounding communities. The Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme program debuted in 2013 and was designed to foster more Latina creative work and build a community of Latina artists and producers.

   This year, the production features 14 new one-act plays written by emerging and experienced Chicana and Latina playwrights. Each play runs about five minutes. There are two acts with seven plays in each, separated by a brief intermission. There are 10 actors, three of whom are male. The cast varies from one play to the next, with all the actors portraying different characters in several shorts. This gives the actors a chance to show their flexibility and diversity as they transform from one role and into another. Along with the 14 writers and associate producers, there are eight directors and a 14-person production team. The stories presented covered a wide array of women’s struggles. Death, love, family, immigration, abuse, coming of age, sexual identity and dating are just some of several more topics that the plays touched upon.

   The power in these short performances was evident right from the start, engaging the audience with a myriad of feelings as the stories began to unfold. It immediately punches you in the gut. The actors deftly navigated the complex material with powerful and emotional performances that moved the audience from tears and gasps to bursts of laughter. The emotional impact of these tales was immeasurable. As a third-generation Mexican-American, I related to these stories. As did my Costa Rican husband, who just became an American citizen five years ago. With the mention of local establishments like Eastside Luv and the taco truck on York Boulevard, the stories had a familial quality that made me feel right at home, as if they were being performed right in my own living room.

   Two members of this year’s Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme production, Ana Bernal and Sylvia Chavez, are also part of Las Lunas Lucas, a local women’s writing club that meets weekly at "Here & Now" healing center in El Sereno. According to Josefina Lopez, who also serves as the artistic director for this production, “We mentor women at our theater to create the opportunities needed for women to take their rightful place as writers, directors and producers and not just as actresses so that there will someday be equity in American theater," she says. "I mentor women because the process of making art is just as important as the results of making art, and all our voices need to be included in every aspect of the creation of art so women and humanity can truly be free.”

   The lack of opportunities afforded creative women of color is an issue that truly merits this endeavor, and the women (and men) of Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme deserves our gratitude, our support, and our applause. In order to achieve their “well oiled” live stage production, CASA 0101 hosts a series of writing workshops beginning in the fall and continuing into winter with directing and production workshops, all in preparation of the festival. Over the course of seven months, the women artists involved with Chicanas, Cholas Y Chisme, who are also professionals in other fields and often have families to take care of, devote themselves to bringing their creative vision to life. Their tireless efforts come to fruition with a magic and love that lights up the stage.

   This production swells with authenticity and cultural pride in a way that is both unifying and welcoming. It highlights the love and humanity that is found in the everyday stories of the people living in our vibrant neighborhoods and celebrates the lives that make up the fabric of our diverse communities. Do yourself a favor and bring the whole family to witness the magic these women have created. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo by Annette Cruz

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