Thursday, October 09, 2008

Zooman and the Sign, Charles Fuller, other losses

Charles Fuller is one strong writer. He has created strong characters that convey powerful emotional complexity. His material is a bit dated in its treatment of the subject matter, that of gang violence, but this is more because of our culture's inundation of film and TV treatments that have explored this issue than with any weakness in Fuller's writing.

Fuller takes us into the core of the grief that the Tate family is feeling due to the death of their youngest daughter at the hands of random gang violence. He also artfully takes us into the motivations of the fifteen year old gangbanger that killed her. But does he do it theatrically? I don't believe so. Fuller is a talented writer. His work is compelling... as literature. I had the sense of reading a good short story and I could visualize this as a segment on the superior cop show Homicide. But let's get back to what the fundamental key elements of theater are: Linear time and live performance with actors engaged in action and space. Telling a story with a beginning, middle and end are the elements of literature. Does this mean that theater can't employ the elements of literature? No.

Theater and performance are an experience of the moment, with performer and audience sharing an experience in linear time. This experience can be partially expressed with linear storytelling, but it is not the thing itself. There is the ephemeral experience of what performer and audience bring together for a sliver in time. Fuller utilizes some theatricality. He has Zooman, the fifteen year old gangbanger move through the space to a platform in order to deliver a monologue to the audience. He also utilizes music and lighting to convey the menace as well as the innocence of this young man.

Fuller’s reliance on character arc and backstory and linear structure propels the action and vivifies the ritual quality inherent in theater. We are left with ritual drama that transcends the complacent consumption of performance.Theater should be catalytic to the observer, not placating. It should make us question our very existence, not shield us, but expose us.


From Denise Chavez ---
We greet you with the news that two great spirits have left this earth.

This news from Juarez poet Osvaldo Ogaz about Jesus Tafoya, Professor of
Spanish/Chicano Literature at Sul Ross University and author of Palabras
Demoradas, which was published in May 2008:

Querida Denise, lamentablemente perdimos al companero poeta Jesus Tafoya,
ayer 6 de octubre fallecio, es una gran perdida, la verdad era un
gran ser humano y un muy buen escritor. Dios lo tenga en su gloria.

Dear Denise, lamentably we have lost our fellow poet Jesus Tafoya,
yesterday, October 6 he died, it is a great loss, for truly he was a great
human being and a good writer. May God hold him in his glory.

Jesus was born in El Paso and grew up in Cd. Juarez. He was a great poet of
our Chihuahuan desert and knew intimately the power and beauty of our border
language and landscape. A great scholar, he loved all things bright and
true, from good Chinese food in Juarez, to hanging out with his beloved
Mami, to his students at Sul Ross who will surely miss his expansive being.
He was a good friend and taught me so much about the border we call home.

In addition to the news of Jesus' passing, we have heard from Dr. Robert Con
Davis Undiano (Oklahoma University) that Barbara Glenn Momaday, wife of N.
Scott Momaday died several weeks ago. Barbara was a participant in a
tribute to Arturo Islas in 2003, in a beautifully written homage/play by
Marcy Hundley. Barbara was Arturo Islas' Teaching Assistant at Stanford and
had a Ph.d. in Literature. She was a lovely, luminescent and talented woman
and she will be greatly missed. We send our condolences to N. Scott Momaday
and his family.

I'd like to end with Jesus Tafoya's powerful poem, El Crujido de Mis Huesos.
It is a beautiful piece that he dedicated to me. If anyone would care to
translate it, we will share it with our BBF Friends.

The poem was inspired by a line in an Esteban Arellano poem (Esteban,
please send us the poem so we can gather all the Crujido poems in one
place), followed by my poem of the same name, followed by a poem of the same
name written by my mother, Delfina Rede Chavez. The title of the poem, The
Creaking of My Bones/El Crujido de Mis Huesos, is a testimony to life, love,
friendship, and to those who have passed on, but will never be forgotten.

Que Viva la Vida!

Denise Chavez

El Crujido de Mis Huesos
by Jesús Tafoya

A veces
en medio de la noche
me despierta, abrumado
el crujido de mis huesos.

Su peculiar sonido,
me hace recordar
cada paso que he dado
aquí en la tierra.

Es como si mis muertos
Me recordaran que Caronte
espera afuera
y que su barca podría partir
a cualquier hora.

Debo dejar la puerta
y las ventanas abiertas
que se lleven el molesto sonido
y me dejen dormir,
aunque sea un momento. . .

Allí está, lo oyes. . .
Una vez más
El crujido de mis huesos

Lisa Alvarado

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