June 11, 2014

The Panza is Political!: A two part series on The Panza Monologues in Phoenix, Arizona

Note: This is the first post of a two part series on Virginia Grise's trip to Arizona this past spring where she had the opportunity to present on The Panza Monologues, work with ASU's Humanities Behind the Walls program, and interact with women, students, and community members of all kinds. Read part two of the series, The Panza in Perryville Prison HERE.

Phoenix, AZ

Despite recent legislation, Phoenix has always been a home for our panzas. One of our earliest performances of The Panza Monologues was in 2004 as part of the Teatro Caliente Festival. We were invited by Ramon Rivera-Servera and the Performance in the Borderlands Initiative at Arizona State University to showcase the work right before our premiere production in Austin, TX. Read Karen Jean Martinson’s review of that performance in Theatre Journal HERE

We are deeply inspired by the artistic community in Phoenix in part because of their strong political commitments.  They are fighting the good fight with conviction and extreme creativity. Since our trip in 2004, Virginia has continued to work in Phoenix with the organization Humanities Behind the Walls. Humanities Behind the Walls [HBW] is a collaborative inside/out “reading and research project that centers learning and ways of knowing grounded in experience and reflection about surviving incarceration.” Virginia recently visited Arizona for a week-long residency with HBW. While there, she gave a lecture at Arizona State University entitled "From Panzas to Prisons: Pedagogy, Social Justice and the Humanities," focusing on the relationship between cultural workers, social transformation, and social movements. She also performed at a fundraiser event for HBW, Embodied Justice, at the Herberger Theatre along with DJ Spiritchild from New York, she facilitated a writing workshop on writing [auto]geographies, and she visited the women’s prison at Perryville, AZ where she read from The Panza Monologues and her award-winning play blu

Listen to Virginia's interview with Steve Goldstein on Phoenix Public Radio station KJZZ HERE

Yovani Flores from Mujeres de Sol 
at the site of their community garden.
The panza-palooza week had a ripple effect in the Phoenix art community. After Virginia’s performance at the Herberger, the theatre will begin doing a monthly event curated by Mary Stephens. This opening up of the established, mainstream theatre is unprecedented in many ways. The director of the Herberger spoke to the importance of events like The Panza Monologues because they create a public space for civic dialogue, reminding him of the days when people would travel to hear revolutionary activists like Stokely Carmichael speak. "Isn’t that what theatre is suppose to be – a place where we can engage ideas and issues as a community?" he said. After Virginia’s workshop on [auto]geographies, the women of Mujeres de Sol planted a community garden and dedicated some of the plants to panza positivity. Virginia and DJ Spiritchild are working on a new collaboration in New York, scheming on new ways to bring their art and politics together in cultural events - stay tuned! Panza POWER is in full effect ya’ll! 

Kyla Pasha on her panza and The Panza Monologues:

The Panza Monologues Goes Beyond the Physical,

from "Political Panza" in The Panza Monologues:
Sometimes I think I was chosen not to have a panza. So that I would learn that there is a panza inside my panza. And inside those panzas you can’t see - there are little boys who will one day grow up to be men. If we raise them by what we know to be true, they will love the panzas they came from, and they will bow down to the panzas they are now destroying for golf courses and petroleum wars.
You see, this is why I am in solidarity with my panza-sisters because the panza is political. If we asked how the panza was for all the citizens of a given society, we might not have hunger for our children or our elders. If we asked how the panza was for a woman with child, we might have quality pre-natal care for all expectant mothers. If we asked, how is the panza? Is it fed, is it warm? Is it nourished?  Was this panza living next to an electrical plant? A lead site? A cancer cluster? Will it get the medicine needed for a healthy panza?
Perhaps, if our government instituted Panza Positive Policies we might have world peace because we can see our humanity by the well being of all our panzas. So don’t be afraid of what we have to do because we are the panza, and to claim the panza is to be free, free, and it’s mine and yours, and we are all panzitas in one big round panza, and she loves us very much.
The panza is political.
Read more HERE about what even Obama called an "urgent humanitarian situation," thousands of unaccompained minors that were detained crossing the US-Mexico border, then transferred to a warehouse in Arizona. Please speak out about this and demand Panza Positive Immigration Policies NOW!

Why is The Panza Monologues important in Phoenix?

"The Panza Monologues was a watershed moment for Phoenix theatre-going audiences. Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga’s electrifying work puts a voice to the politics of the body and the importance of alternative narratives to re-imagine the borders in our lives. To see this performance in Phoenix, Arizona - a mixture of humor, poignant personal narrative, and scathing political critique of systems of oppression - gave me hope that another Arizona is possible!  The Panza Monologues carves out a personal space to have a public dialogue around the body, race, gender, politics, and borders." - Mary Stephens, Producing Director, ASU Performance in the Borderlands  

Sara Suhail on the panza and Phoenix:

"A panza movement is important for our Phoenix communities. Phoenix is wide with food deserts, fast food, GMOs, and panzas of every shape and size. Every(body) is quick to conceal it - even las flacas. It’s time to come out of the shadows, time to hear our voices and see the beauty of the panza. We adopted a public garden so we can all break out of our panza closets, and start nurturing healthy panzas." - Yovani Flores, Co-Founder, Mujeres Del Sol 


If you are interested in hosting a Panza Monologues book reading or workshop in your community contact us at panzapower@gmail.com 

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