December 4, 2015

Pedagogy of The Panza Featuring Angie Chabram

Each and every time we learn of a teacher, activist, scholar, artist, professor, organizer, coordinator, or facilitator who is or has used The Panza Monologues as a teaching tool, we are extremely gratified and thankful. Our second edition of the play in publication was specifically conceived of and designed to help facilitate its use in classrooms of all kinds. We included numerous kinds of materials to accompany the script in order to inspire its use as a wide reaching teaching tool.

Our blog series "Pedagogy of the Panza" celebrates and profiles teachers and their innovative instruction using The Panza Monologues, Second Edition. These posts showcase important, determined, and ingenious teachers of all kinds who are taking our work to the next level of its manifestation. Are you using The Panza Monologues, Second Edition in your classroom? We’d love to hear your story – contact us!


Name: Angie Chabram, Professor
Hometown: La Puente, California

Where do you teach? 
Chicana/o Studies UC Davis, Davis, CA;

In what class/type of class did you use The Panza Monologues? 
Chicana/o Studies 155, Theater.

Why did you choose to teach The Panza Monologues in your class? 
I choose to teach The Panza because of its relevance to my theater class. This class is geared primarily toward the study of El Teatro Campesino and Chicana feminist theater. Students are exposed to a multimedia study of plays, scripts, and performance artists. They learn about the different kinds of theatrical techniques and traditions deployed by alternative grassroots artists and playwrights.

This instruction is not based on a literary criticism or theater criticism model. Here the objective is to reflect critically on the use of theater as a means of popular social expression and transformation. Students in the class absorb the lessons of the past in order to craft their own meaningful expressions of the present. They work in collaborative groups, write scripts, and assemble performances based on the most important social issues facing them today. It is my intent to act as a facilitator in this regard, providing them with an assortment of tools which they can use in their student productions. They then combine these with their own sources of communal knowledge and speech. 

When we looked at The Panza Monologues we did so in relation to previous Chicana/o movement theatrical works. We had already read Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez’s account of El Teatro Campesino and students had launched their own critiques about the limited roles for women in many of the skits. They were more than ready for a female-centered work where the protagonist breaks out of inherited stereotypical configurations. I was interested in providing other kinds of meaningful social ideologies that could accommodate the contemporary issues of women. I was very aware of the fact that in some early works the battery of women had gone unchecked (El Corrido de Jesús Pelado for instance), and that Malinchismo was alive and strong. For instance, in the play “Los Vendidos” there is a character named Miss-JIM-enez. She acts as the go-between. She comes to Honest Sancho’s Shoppe where she seeks to “buy” a brown face for the governor’s office. She translates the governor’s vision and in doing so she activates racial stereotypes and the political interests of the dominant group. Finally, she completes the selection process of the governor’s office and leaves with a character that fits the bill of the token brown face. Just before leaving she says, just call me “Jimmy.” The transaction is completed and so is her conversion to dominant masculinity. Of course we realize that the  actors from El Teatro Campesino in Honest Sancho’s only acted like puppets. They put on the sell-out show to be able to
Miss JIM-en-ez from Los Vendidos
enter places of representation that are forbidden to them. The used car salesman, Honest Sancho was the biggest puppet of all. The members of the troupe used him to gather funds for their political purpose. Although Miss JIM-enez is also a sell-out, she is the only real sell-out. At the beginning of the play she is identified as a Chicana, thus the model of malinchismo continues to thrive. 

What was important in CHI Studies 155 was to produce another model where you see the self-determination and leadership of la Chicana. Here in The Panza the protagonist takes hold of discourse and she speaks and speaks, hurling disparate monologues into time and space. Her body is also the locus of enunciation and a major performative tool. 

This provided me with an excellent opportunity. As I was teaching this class I was very interested in also giving the students more exposure to the different ways the body figured into performance. The students were well aware of Broyles-Gonzalez’s work and suggestion that the body has memory and a form of intuition based on the oral tradition. Unlike the early examples of Chicanas malinchistas here in this play the Chicana performer owns every part of her body. She is not a being for another dressed in blonde wig and the political consumes of the mainstream. Her body occupies theatrical space, it is the stage for a number of  performances involving identity, politics, health, migration, family, and nation. These performances are articulated around a series of disparate narratives that shed light on obesity, domestic violence, migration, bodily image, and the panza as the center. I would like to suggest that Panza Monologues enact a kind of epistemological shift that cannot be
seen in texts such as The Vagina Monologues. 

Prof. Angie Chabram
This shift allows a  contextualization of the performance in the historical condition of the impoverished and working poor for whom the issue of sustenance is very real. The pangs of hunger that are heard throughout this play of course remind the readers of the Chicana/o Mexicana/o Latina/o populations who wage a struggle for subsistence on a daily basis. Of course the whole issue of body image is itself a major theme in the play that needs to be pried open in the context of underrepresented social groups who do not control the dominant media images. As the speaking subject emerges on the scene we see that she performs a necessary but humorous counter discourse to bodily ideologies that would shame those who have panzas and cannot hide them—or refuse to hide. In a nutshell, she celebrates the panza as a representation of the larger social body and as a relational aspect of social existence that includes a mind-body as well as emotional connection. 

I also believe that the issue of social, ideological and narrative consumption is at the heart of these monologues. The play asks: What kinds of social ideologies of the body, the community, the state of Chicana/o Latina/o health are we consuming? Which of these ideologies need to be rejected or modified by a population which is still (as Anzaldúa would say) “carved and tattooed by the sharp needles of experience?” This is a population which aside from waging a struggle for survival must also wage a struggle for educational and political access, social and political equity, and a struggle for control over the mechanisms of representation in order that dangerous stereotypes and dangerous initiatives be displaced. 

As a professor who cares deeply about the formation of alternative health narratives, I view The Panza Monologues from this angle. I think that these monologues break open the medicalized languages ascribed to the Chicana body which are apparent in its generic descriptions within medicalese. Often these descriptions separate the body from life histories, they also wrestle them away from larger social communities and cultural expressions. By making the panza speak we see how the connections have been reconfigured through a kind of personification on stage. In addition we see how Chicana bodies “talk back” to mainstream health solutions that don’t take into account such important aspects of life and culture such as the Mexican palate. There is also a rejection of the kind of self-hatred and othering that takes place in society in relation to obese people and Mexican people at large. There is a sense that the panza (and obese body) is a body which is alive and should not be dehumanized or disciplined to conform to a mainstream model in order for it to be healed of all of its ailments. 

How did you teach The Panza Monologues (any fun or meaningful activities or panza teaching tools you want to share)?
An issue that we brought up in the viewing of the DVD was the issue of how the play dealt with the issue of the rampant obesity and diabetes in community. It was clear that the mainstream medical approaches assigned to the little sister did not suffice, that starvation isn’t a goal. But  we remarked that we were not fully sure about what the healing path could be, other than self-healing, spirituality, and community understanding. It was clear that there could be another Monologue added that dealt with these issues.

Why is The Panza Monologues important to your field of study? What conversations/issues did the book raise? 
Aside from the themes I have developed above I think that there were a number of interesting strategies deployed in the performance such as the [zapateado] scene which relied on the dance to dramatize the serious issues facing Latina/o communities. I had a math student in the class who wanted to downplay this a bit by stating that as far as statistics presented in this scene the Mexican population didn’t fare far worse that other groups. I don’t know how often these statistics are changed. We talked about how a comparative dimension could be worked into these monologues especially with the high incidence of diabetes in Native American, African American, and many global populations throughout the world, including India. 

What did you learn about your teaching or about your students from teaching The Panza Monologues? 
The main thing I appreciated were the bodily movements that accompanied the play that hit the ball out of the park and were vastly more developed than what we saw in the early use of pantomime. I also enjoyed the kind of gestures toward audience population that were evident throughout the play and the way the audience became part of the performance. I also thought that there were a number of welcoming gestures enacted by the lead actress which invited the audience to engage in a kind of co-creation of the panza. This is productive work in the field of representation that needs attention at this moment in time in relation to this and other aspects of the feminine body of color from working class background. Finally I would like to see a kind of intertextual dialogue between works on Latina/o diabetes and the play that could furnish an interesting conversation on the play. I am aware of the huge challenges posed by obesity and diabetes, and I believe that The Panza Monologues could be expanded to accommodate these issues, maybe even have a bit of communal health literacy (back and forth) go on in the play. 

Favorite Quote from The Panza Monologues Book?  
"I throw Chingazos for my Raza."  - from "Cha-Cha to Panza"
Because it reminded me of "I throw Punches," I never thought this would make it into a play. Self-serving, maybe, but true!

N.B. Here, Dr. Chabram refers to her classic, must read essay “I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Don’t Want to Be a Man: Writing Us—Chica-nos (Girl, Us)/Chicanas—into the Movement Script." A landmark moment in Chicana/o studies, and as we note in our book's glossary, The Panza Monologues does, indeed, riff on the essay's memorable and important title. AND, the fact that audiences across the country have often recognized the reference in the course of The Panza Monologues in performance is a testament to the force of Dr. Chabram's work. It thrills us to know that she appreciates the props we wanted to pay her!

You can find Dr. Chabram's essay in the book The Chicana/o Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Angie Chabram, published by Routledge in 2006.

You can also order The Panza Monologues DVD here.

More About Angie Chabram: 
I have taught for 30 plus years at UC Davis in Chicana/o Studies. I am the fourth child of a single parent from the San Gabriel Valley. I work hard to provide educational access to students about Chicana/o Latina/o culture. I support the need to develop archives that bridge the arts, the academy, and the community. I want very much to help produce cultural narratives that can empower and assist people suffering from social, political, and health ailments. 

October 29, 2015

International Panza Featuring Claire M. Massey

The Panza Monologues has travelled far and wide all across the nation, not only in theaters but in college classrooms, community centers, and even in people's living rooms. Recently The Panza Monologues has even crossed international borders. This blog post focuses on the work of scholar and panza ally Claire M Massey, a doctoral candidate at Saarland University in Germany who tirelessly advocates for Chican@ literature internationally. Her dissertation is situated in the field of Cultural Studies, specifically looking at the Librotraficante Movement out of Houston, Texas. 


Name: Claire M Massey
Hometown: Poynton, Cheshire, UK
Currently lives in: Saarbrücken, Germany
Field of study: Cultural Studies

How were you introduced to Chicano literature?
When I was a third-year undergrad (Warwick University, UK) I spent my year abroad at UCLA. The classes I had chosen from the catalogue put me in the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. It was here that the world of Chican@ literature opened-up to me. Although I was studying Comparative American Studies (CAS) at my home university, not once was the term “Chican@” used, no literature, no history, no ‘Mexican American’, ‘no Latin@’, nothing. I knew this was wrong because I had spent two years working on a US Army base in Frankfurt, Germany, where I’d met Chicanos from Texas, Washington State, Kentucky, and California. Yet, once I got to university here was a gaping hole in the narrative of the Americas. That’s why I went to UCLA. That’s where my education really started.

Why is Chicano studies important in your country?
If you Google, “Chicano Studies UK”, you get nothing. If you Google, “Chicano Studies England”, you get nothing. So, I Google’d “Chicano Studies Warwick” (My ‘Alma Mater’) and got a link to ‘Warwick Hispanic Studies’, founded 2012. Although ‘The House on Mango Street’ is mentioned in one of the modules, the course offerings are heavily Latin American and Caribbean in focus. Chican@ literature and history doesn’t appear to be a part of their syllabus. I have no doubt that there are courses at Universities in the UK that include the works of Gloria Anzaldúa, Ana Castillo, and others, and that there are independent researchers, but Chican@ Studies as an academic field does not appear to exist. 

In the country where I now study, Germany, there has long been academic interest in Chican@ Studies. However, that is not to say that there are stand-alone Chican@ Studies programmes at the universities, but more that scholarly research is very strong. As is it is in Spain. However, for many inside and outside university here, as in the UK, the term Chican@ is simply not known. Those who have heard of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, have not heard of Dolores Huerta or César Chávez. The Civil Rights Movement was the Black community. 

I believe Chican@ Studies is vital as a lens for Western Europe to view immigration, migration, and its communities. For Europe to see how it feeds off the labour of migrant workers, and how our schools render invisible all but the stories of the Anglo majority. How our university departments, faculty, staff and students do not reflect the communities they are set in. It is very easy in Western Europe to view racism, police violence, and political extremism as inherently of the United States. Through Chican@ Studies we have to ask ourselves: “What about here?”

Why is The Panza Monologues important to your field of study?
Like Borderlands/La Frontera, The Panza Monologues is a masterpiece of “theory in the flesh.” A narrative of female oppositional consciousness and agency, it reveals the counter-stories of communities rendered invisible in a city built upon their backs. Here the city is San Antonio, sold slick, and shiny, shrink-wrapped in mariachis and margaritas, no glimpse of darker realities beyond The Riverwalk. In this age of globalisation, neoliberalism, and citizen as consumer, The Panza Monologues framework challenges the reader/audience to actively disturb notions of place, of identity, beauty, belonging, and power; to push back against majoritarian myth, against patriarchy, and to develop strategies of survival that nurture self, community, agency, and love.

The Panza Monologues, like Chican@ Studies, offers mirrors of identity for those whose communities are distorted by societal narratives. Distorted by images in the media. By being rendered both visible and invisible. It offers the students who do not see themselves in the courses offered, the reading lists, the exam questions and their assumptions, well, The Panza Monologues offers them a voice, a chance to tell their story, a relatable familiarity. It is a powerful tool for self-recognition, and for self-love.

What part of The Panza Monologues book were you most drawn to and why?
"The Prologue" made me think of my mother, who is amazing, but has always worried about her weight. And when she has never been ‘overweight’ (whatever that is, right?), but when we were younger, when we’d all sit down together to eat dinner, she would eat off a smaller plate, she’d read it somewhere that that would work. Or she’d go to Weight Watchers, or eat cabbage soup for a week. Now when I see her she tells me how much weight she’s lost, it’s still an accomplishment for her. Perhaps in a house of six people this is something she has always felt she has control over. Perhaps when we went through periods when money was tight this was a strategy to keep the home together. My brother and my dad have never worried about their weight. My two sisters have. I went through a period of bulemia when I was in my late teens. Now if I put my mind to it I can eat very little. I don’t do that so much anymore, but I can become obsessed with what I eat. I always feel more confident when I’m thinner. I was bullied at school for being ugly, so I know I cannot get fat, for me that would a double curse, fat and ugly. So I try to watch what I eat. To draw attention away from my face. Well, that is quite a thing to reveal. This I guess is my Panza Monologue.

Favorite Quote from The Panza Monologues book?
“You gots to love the panza. You gots to love yourself.” -from "Panza Girl Manifesto"


Claire Massey completed her undergraduate studies at Warwick University and received her MA from the University of Leeds. In 2014 she was a recipient of the LILIAS CMAS Benson Library Fellowship, at UT Austin. Claire is also the recipient of the Soho Theatre London’s Westminster Prize, has performed with the Old Vic’s community theatre company and in the summer of 2012 she took part in the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.


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