Berkeley, CA. This March, the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents the Bay Area premiere of Chavez Ravine, which brings to life a small Mexican-American community in 1950’s Los Angeles that became a target for political maneuvering and land acquisition—and the eventual home of Dodger Stadium. Written by Culture Clash, a zany Chicano performance trio, and directed by Sean San José, this fast-paced social satire incorporates music, vaudeville and multimedia to tell the true story of a courageous community fighting against displacement and urban power structures. Chavez Ravine plays March 4-13, 2016, with performances on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM in Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office or at the door.
Chavez Ravine opens in 1981 at Dodger Stadium, where rookie Fernando Valenzuela is pitching the season opener. Just as he steps up to the mound, ghosts of Chavez Ravine residents appear, entreating him to remember the bulldozed community whose past lies buried under the stadium. Taken on a journey through time, we witness Chavez Ravine residents strive to keep their poor but vibrant immigrant community intact while a coalition of powerful political and financial interests attempts to defeat them using eminent-domain seizures, evictions, puppet politicians, anti-communist media hype, red-baiting and more. A cast of 18 brings to life dozens of dynamic characters, including City Housing Authority chief Fred Wilkinson, LA Mayor Norris Paulson, Maria Salgado Ruiz, a community activist and organizer; and The Watchman, a sinister figure wielding immense behind-the-scenes power.
With themes including gentrification, urban growth and planning, race and class divisions and community identity, Chavez Ravine is relevant to contemporary issues facing the Bay Area. “Loss of lineage, loss of neighborhood, loss of stories, loss of actual land—this is reality. It’s happened and is happening, not just in Los Angeles, but in all major cities,” San José explains. “This story makes us question growth. Is growth always great? Is construction always necessary? I don’t know the answer to that, but I have a strong opinion having grown up in San Francisco and seen neighborhoods destroyed or changed in the name of progress, modernization, and commerce.”
Chavez Ravine was written and performed by Cultural Clash, a Chicano performance group composed of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza that has roots in San Francisco. “Culture Clash is a ground-breaking group born in the Mission District, where they performed jokes and stories that looked like their neighborhood and the Chicano movement in the eighties,” says director Sean San José, who has long been familiar with the group’s work. “Their work reflects the stories of people of color. It’s fast, funny, cacophonous. It looks at big topics: Race (with a capital letter), cultures clashing, the beauty and boldness in living a life that includes immigrant history and the restructuring of what ‘culture’ and ‘consensus’ mean in this country. And they do it in a way that both pokes holes in it and allows us to laugh at ourselves.”
TDPS’s production will be the first staging of Chavez Ravine not performed by Culture Clash, as well as the first in the San Francisco Bay Area. This unique opportunity was facilitated by San José’s relationship with Richard Montoya: “I knew Richard as a collaborator and so he trusted that I understood their aesthetic and respected their words.” With the creators’ permission, the TDPS production has been reworked for a cast of 18, consisting of: Stephanie Benitez, Eddie Benzoni, Clara Choi, Isabel Cruz, Jordan Maria Don, Ran Flanders, Katherine Garcia, Linda Giron, Carolyn Hu, Farryl Lawson, Julian D. Marenco, Veronica Maynez, Guillermo Ornelas, Ely Orquiza, Samuel Peurach, Isaac Ramsey, Ciclady Rodriquez and Sage Ryan.
Chavez Ravine opens Friday, March 4 and continues through Sunday, March 13, 2016 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/chavez-ravine/ or at the door.
Chavez Ravine features scenic design by Michael Locher, costume design by Wendy Sparks-Rehl, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, sound design by Alejandro Acosta and projection design by Kwame Braun.
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The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.
About Sean San José
Sean San José is co-founder of Campo Santo, the award-winning resident theater company of San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts. As the Program Director of Theatre for Intersection for the Arts, San José has also helped create and curate a new program called the Hybrid Project, formed to bring together artists of all genres, that merges differing and emerging styles of performance in order to find a new performance language. He also conceived the theater project Pieces of the Quilt, a collection of short plays confronting the AIDS epidemic, and organized and created the AIDS service arts organization Alma Delfina Group-Teatro Contra el SIDA to distribute funds and present benefit performances. As Founding Director of the organization he has commissioned pieces and presented plays in theatres, schools, libraries, clinics and community centers. San José has been awarded an Audrey Skirball-Kennis TIME Grant Award, a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission, two residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from the Wattis Artist Residency, a Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award, the DramaLogue Award, Backstage West, the Cable Car Award, and the Bay Guardian Goldie Artistic Achievement in Theatre Award. Productions he has conceived, created and produced have also garnered numerous awards in excellence, including: Bay Area Reporter Best of the Season, Cable Car Award, DramaLogue and Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award.
About Culture Clash
Founded in 1984 in San Francisco’s Mission District, Culture Clash is Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza. They have become the most prominent Chicano/Latino performance troupe in the country, with work ranging from sketch comedy to an adaptation of Aristophanes, to the full length play Chavez Ravine, to co-writing Frank Loesser’s long lost musical Señor Discretion Himself based on a story by the legendary Bud Schulberg. For the last fifteen years, Culture Clash has been focused on site-specific theater, weaving personal narratives culled from interviews into an ongoing dramatic tapestry. Theater companies in Miami, San Diego, New York, Houston, Boston and San Francisco, among others, have commissioned 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 theater of the moment, written and performed first for the people and communities on which it is based, and secondly for a broader audience.
Culture Clash is the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and grants, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Latino Spirit Award, the Los Angeles Hispanic Media Award, the Nosotros Golden Eagle Award for Outstanding Theater Group, The Liberty Hill Foundation award and dozens of city and state proclamations 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; Palm Springs Film Festival; and The Los Angeles Film Festival, among others. Culture Clash has published several books of compilations: Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa, and Oh Wild West.