15 July 2017

EDUCATING ARIZONA: All-Inclusive Culture

MÁS: The Banning of Mexican American Studies in Tucson. 
Contact: Carmen Guerrero
480.221-9639 mobile
480.834-5731 office 
MÁS: The Banning of Mexican American Studies in Tucson.
A courageous struggle to share a hidden history.
The Banning of Mexican American studies in the Tucson School District was just one more of the many recent attacks on education in Arizona.  Highly regarded by the community that embraced the program, it was successful in keeping both students and families engaged in the relearning of ancient native knowledge and philosophy that otherwise is unknown by most Americans.  Data shows that the program was also successful in improving graduation rates, test scores and preparing students for higher education.
Following in the path of SB1070 this hostile act was one more way many see as a racist attack on the large demographic of our nation especially indigenous people.
Milta Ortiz’ theater production of MÁS, shares the emotional journey of the historical events surrounding the banning of the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District and the people in the movement to save it.
The director is Borderlands Theater producing director Marc David Pinate. 
Based on a true story. A community struggles to hold onto their history, identity, and humanity as they fight to save Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District.
Based on over 400 pages of interview transcripts, Más is a streamlined word for word recount of the movement to save the Mexican American Studies program at TUSD.  The play takes an intimate look at the people at the center of the movement, and how mounting pressure from the State affected their relationships. 
Más explores the complexities of the ethnic studies controversy through a wide range of perspectives:
  • the State’s efforts to ban the MAS program they saw as seditious;
  • Mexican American Studies advocates faith in the program’s success;
  • and as with many social movements, the issues of gender and ideological divides.
Although statistics demonstrated the program’s success, the Mexican American Studies program at TUSD was banned. The play depicts how a sound byte taken out of context led to fear and resentment towards a community, and the ensuing power of the state over one school district.
Más speaks to the need to stand up for what is right and the emotional toll of fighting a protracted battle against the state.
The struggle continues. 
Currently in the courts in Tucson, a judge will decide whether Republicans discriminated against Hispanic students by banning classes that focused on Latino culture.  
As the battle continues over the Tucson classes, other districts around the country have adopted similar successful programs.
Additional background report:
“How one law banning Ethnic Studies led to its rise”
by J. Weston Phippen The Atlantic on July 19, 2015https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/07/how-one-law-banning-ethnic-studies-led-to-rise/398885/
The MAS program was steeped in Indigenous epistemology. Several of the teachers and students in the MAS program regularly attended sweat lodge ceremonies as a cleansing ritual. In Más, the actors and audience are part of a Redemptive Remembrance, a collective reflection. The play is set as if inside a sweat lodge and the events unfold in a space of reflection. The play invokes ritual, with audience members having the option to be smudged with sage as they enter the theater.
Pinate’s direction employs dancers in masks (exquisitely sculpted by master mask maker, Zarco Guerrero) that coincide with the four Tezcatlipocas, deities that according to Mayan cosmology represent the four elemental energies that keep earthly existence in balance. 
Cultural Coalition, Inc. is partnering with ASU’s Performance in the Borderlands to present this daring piece of theater on  Saturday Sept 23rd at 2 and 7:30 pm at the Phoenix Center for the Arts.  
Other community partners include the Center for Neighborhood Leadership, Xico, Inc., CALA Alliance, Palabra Bookstore and the Frontera Fund.  
Milta Ortiz is a Bay Area transplant to Tucson by way of Chicago. She relocated to Tucson for a National New Play Network (NNPN) playwright residency at Borderlands Theater to write Más. The ongoing headline news surrounding the MAS program prompted her to take up the docudrama format. A departure only in form, as this play speaks to her fascination with relationships and the effects of gender/class/race on these relationships. At the time, she had just finished working on the Chicago Chronicle docudrama playwriting team under the guidance of PJ Paparelli, author of Columbinus. “The last push came when my husband and I saw the documentary, Precious Knowledge. We knew we had to move to write this play. Little did I know about the conflict surrounding the impulse to move here.”
Milta Ortiz is a playwright with an MFA from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program. As an NNPN playwright in residence at Borderlands Theater for the 2013/14 season, she wrote and developed Más, featured at the Latino Theater Commons Carnaval play festival 2015, and the 18th Annual Tucson Pastorela. Plays include Disengaged (TYA) commissioned by Rising Youth Theater, premiered at the Phoenix Center for the Arts ‘2014; You, Me and Tuno, a finalist in NYC’s Downtown Urban Theater Festival 2013; Fleeing Blue won the 2012 Wichita State playwriting contest and a university production in 2012; Last of the Lilac Roses was a runner up finalists at NYC's Repertorio Español’s, Nuestra’s Voces play contest 2011.
Marc David Pinate is a theatre artist/performer and educator. Companies he is proud to have worked with include Teatro Visión, Shadowlight Productions, Campo Santo, The Magic, and El Teatro Campesino in the Bay Area; Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, and American Theatre Company in Chicago; Denver's Su Teatro, and Arizona Theatre Company and Borderlands Theater locally. Marc was the recipient of a three-year directing residency funded by the Doris Duke Foundation at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California. During his residency he founded the Hybrid Performance Experiment (The HyPE) known for their site specific theatre performances on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains and mall food courts. He has an MFA in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago. His artist interests lie in merging elements of ritual and ceremony with professional theatre aesthetics. 
Phoenix Center for the Arts, 
1204 N. Third Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004. 
$15 with ASU students discounts. 
Director’s Talk:   Thursday, September 21 6:30 pm at Xico, Inc.
Workshop:          Saturday, September 23 10am  at Palabras Bookstor, Phoenix.
Saturday Sept 23rd, 2017
2:00 pm    "Más" Matinée
3:30 pm    Youth Panel
7:00 pm    Pre Show:  Movement Speaks Performance
7:30 pm       "Más" Evening Performance
9:00 pm    Producers Talk & Reception

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