December 17, 2014

Books in El Barrio: The Panza Monologues is a Bestseller at La Casa Azul Bookstore

We are so honored to announce that The Panza Monologues is on La Casa Azul Bookstore's Top 20 bestselling books in 2014 list. The list also includes writers such as Sonia Manzano, Junot Diaz, Willie Perdomo, Toni Ann Johnson, Esmeralda Santiago, Piri Thomas, and La Bruja to name just a few. Casa Azul hosted our New York City Book Release Party produced by Radical Evolution and just weeks ago Virginia Grise participated in their Authors as Booksellers Event. We are so grateful to be a part of this community and applaud their work promoting Latino/a Literature in El Barrio. Gracias Aurora Anaya Guerrero and Casa Azul Bookstore! Now you have a list of which books to buy this holiday season! Support Independent Bookstores and Booksellers.

December 10, 2014

DIY Panza Featuring Kayleigh Melite at SUNY, Oneonta

This is the first post in a new series on our blog - "DIY Panza" - highlighting the work of college students and cultural workers that produce Panza Monologues events of their own on their campuses and in their communities. Over the years, students have produced The Panza Monologues on college campuses across the nation, including Cal State Monterrey Bay, Cal State Long Beach, University of Colorado Boulder, Oregon State University, University of Texas at San Antonio, Mills College, and most recently, University of California Riverside and SUNY Oneonta. We are always grateful, humbled and honored by these efforts because we know first hand just how hard it can be to make theater. Our second edition of the play in publication was specifically conceived of and designed to help make the process of making theatre just a little bit easier. We included numerous kinds of materials to accompany the script including a DIY Production Manual, full of guidelines, advice and good wishes for staging The Panza Monologues

Kayleigh Melite recently used this manual to direct and produce The Panza Monologues at SUNY Oneonta. We were impressed by her professionalism and care throughout the process - just look at her request letter to produce the show HERE to see what we mean. Gracias Kayleigh for making our panzas yours. 

Power to the Panza!

Name: Kayleigh Melite 
Kayleigh Melite
Hometown: Clifton Park, NY

A lot of people who aren’t from New York don’t realize that there is more to the state than just a big, bustling city at the southeastern corner. I’m from a suburban town in Saratoga County, and have only been to “The City” a handful of times. When I do make a trip downstate, my favorite restaurant of all time is Bareburger. I come from a relatively large family and am the second oldest out of five children. 

What school do you attend?
I’m currently a Senior at SUNY Oneonta, majoring in Biology and minoring in Theatre. I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate. Right now I’m President of the Theatre Honor Society on campus, which has just partnered with another group that I’ve been involved with for the past few years - The Identity Play Reading Series. 

The Identity Play Reading Series is a group of students, faculty, and community members who seek to produce staged readings of plays about different facets of identity, including but not limited to:  gender, ethnicity, age, disabilities, occupation, and interpersonal relationships. We explore the differences, but more importantly the similarities, between individuals. We hold an open dialogue at the end of each staged reading to discuss the pertinent issues of the play and ask the audience for their thoughts and reactions. I recently produced and directed a staged reading of The Panza Monologues as part of the series. 

Can you describe the event you produced? 
The Panza Monologues was performed in the Hamblin Theater, SUNY Oneonta’s black box space. I ended up casting four women to tackle this one-woman show. One thing instilled in me by my experience with collegiate theatre is that theatre is a collaborative art form. I wanted to involve many students in my staged reading of The Panza Monologues for this reason. Each one of my actresses/readers brought something unique to the performance, and I tried to utilize their contrasting energies to bring alive the stories in the script. 

What did you learn producing The Panza Monologues on your campus? 
There was one significant challenge I faced while trying to put together this staged reading:  the majority of my campus is white. For any other play this wouldn't matter, but The Panza Monologues calls for a strong female lead that can speak Spanish fluently. I needed a woman who could deliver the Spanish, and deliver it authentically. I am not embarrassed to admit that I don’t even speak 

Spanish myself. I know some of the basics, and can understand some Spanish if I’m reading it, but I sure as heck can’t roll my r’s or pronounce the tricky stuff. Even so, I have a good ear and could tell right away when I found the right actress/reader to carry the Spanish-intensive stories. When she and I both got stuck on some of the language, Dr. Alvarez of SUNY Oneonta’s Africana and Latino Studies Department was there to guide us. 

In our post-performance discussion, somebody asked me why I chose to direct The Panza Monologues. My reply was this:  I’m very picky when it comes to directing. I had been reading a bunch of scripts because I knew I wanted to direct a staged reading, but nothing was grabbing my attention. One of my peers had a copy of The Panza Monologues and let me borrow it. I wasn’t even halfway through when I knew I absolutely had to do it. I heard that little voice that said, “Direct me!” The script was funny. It was sad. It was so many things at once. I think that everybody has experienced something the play addresses, or at least knows somebody that has. 

In our discussion we also talked about how important The Panza Monologues is, regardless of one’s ethnicity. There is a certain universality that arises when we realize that we all have a panza. At the same time, the script does contain material that is specific to the Chicano/a experience. Two of my actresses/ readers expressed how good it felt to be part of a production that was relevant to them because of their family’s heritage. The feeling of empowerment was an overall theme that many people took away from the performance.

Our staged reading of The Panza Monologues was the best-attended reading that The Identity Play Reading Series has produced thus far, or at least since I’ve been involved. It meant the world to me that so many people were there to listen with their ears and with their hearts. 

What is your favorite quote from The Panza Monologues?
My favorite quote is definitely, "I decide not to tell them that the blood of the conqueror takes up more space than anything else inside my body..."  - "The International Panza" 

First and foremost, I think this line is hilarious. During rehearsals I would smile before the line was even delivered. But it's more meaningful than that. We all have information that we may choose to withhold from new people we meet. Choosing to tell them or choosing to not tell them certainly depends on the situation.

Do you want to stage a full production or reading of The Panza Monologues? 
Contact us at

December 4, 2014

Pedagogy of the Panza Featuring Trevor Boffone

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 occasional blog series - "Pedagogy of the Panza" - celebrates and profiles teachers and their innovative instruction using The Panza Monologues, Second Edition. This series features posts that 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!

Trevor Boffone is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston. He researches the intersections of gender, sexuality, and space in Chican@ and Latin@ Teatro and cultural production. His dissertation research is a study of theater and performance in East Los Angeles, focusing primarily on Josefina López’s role as a playwright, mentor, and community leader in Boyle Heights at CASA 0101 Theater. He has published and presented original research on Chicana Feminist Teatro, the body in performance, Queer Latinidad, as well as the theater of Adelina Anthony, Nilo Cruz, Virginia Grise, Josefina López, Cherríe Moraga, Monica Palacios, Carmen Peláez, and Estela Portillo-Trambley. He recently served as a Research Fellow at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections for his project Bridging Women in Mexican-American Theater from Villalongín to Tafolla (1848-2014).    

Name: Trevor Boffone

Hometown: New Orleans 
Currently living in Houston, Tejas 

Where do you teach? 
University of Houston in the Department of Hispanic Studies

In what class/type of class did you use The Panza Monologues in?
I used The Panza Monologues for a guest lecture in Andrew Joseph Pegoda’s Texas History class at Alvin Community College. I normally teach Spanish language courses so I jumped at the opportunity to teach Teatro.

Why did you choose to teach The Panza Monologues in your class?
Given that I was teaching students who had never come in contact with Chican@/Latin@ Teatro before, I wanted to give them a glimpse into the type of work being done today. I wanted them to recognize that this is a living and breathing movement, one that is still actively being shaped. I chose The Panza Monologues because I thought students would recognize the different themes that the play presents. Even one older man claimed that he had used pliers to pull up his zipper on more than one occasion! The monologues offered a nice balance between comedy, drama, activism, feminism, theory, etc. Therefore, I was able to introduce and tackle many key themes in a short period of time and hopefully motivate the students to seek out more information.   

How did you teach The Panza Monologues (any fun or meaningful activities or panza teaching tools you want to share)?
Since I was teaching in a history course, I helped students make connections between the play and how history is (re)constructed. In particular, I wanted students to consider how contemporary works like The Panza Monologues alter and (re)construct Tejan@ memory.

Trevor Boffone with Xicana playwright/
performer Adelina Anthony
I began the lesson by discussing San Antonio’s role as an important city for culture, history, and theater since the early 1900s (and before). I gave students a brief introduction to itinerant and resident companies that performed in San Antonio, focusing on the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company, which took permanent residence in San Antonio in 1910 due to the Mexican Revolution. San Antonio as a hotbed of Mexican/Mexican-American theatrical activity throughout the first half of the 20th century is important. By offering glimpse into the work done by mujeres such as ConcepcióHérnandez, Virginia FábregasJosefina Niggli, Lydia Mendoza, La ChataNoloesca (Beatriz Escalona), we briefly discussed what it meant for women to be the leading performers at this time. In this way, I demonstrated how Grise and Mayorga’s work fits within a continuum of Latina theater in Tejas that centers on women as principal performers occupying public space(s).

Once we arrived at The Panza Monologues, the focus shifted to the different historical markers in the text as well as how the panza is used to tell deeper stories about the Latin@ community in San Antonio. For instance, using “My Sister’s Panza” and “Las Noticias,” I guided students on a discussion about the intersections of race, class, age, gender, and obesity while also emphasizing the importance of food in culture.

Why is The Panza Monologues important to your field of study? What conversations did the book raise?
Even though I was teaching in a history course, the students were open-minded about how theatre can be used as a lens through which to view history. While not history per se, theater is a mirror that allows us to reflect on the past and remember or forget certain things. Just like film, literature, and/or music, theater  should be given more weight in how it constructs cultural and historical memory.

For example, “The International Panza” allowed us to consider how Tejan@ memory is created and maintained. The shouts of Chicana, Aztlán, Broken Treaties, Border Crossing, and the Mexican-American War, La Migra, and the Treaty of Guadalupe facilitated a dialogue about how and why these different things are still pertinent to Chican@ and Latin@ identity in Tejas. Many of the students were familiar with these terms/ideas, but weren’t sure exactly how they were connected or how these legacies still affect Chican@ and Latin@ identity and experience in contemporary Tejas.

Trevor Boffone with Chicana
playwright Josefina López
What did you learn about your teaching or about your students from teaching The Panza Monologues? 
I was nervous beforehand that students wouldn’t embrace theater as a tool to study history, but I was surprised at how open-minded they were. Some even commented that they didn’t quite see the point, but by the end of the class, they were asking for more plays and resources. Many students didn’t realize that Latin@ theater is alive and well in Tejas. I think that by choosing to teach such a contemporary piece, students left the class recognizing that Tejan@ culture is thriving and accessible to them if they choose to seek it out.  

Favorite Quote from The Panza Monologues Book?
“Don’t trust skinny people, and don’t eat at their houses.” – “Panza Girl Manifesto”

November 21, 2014

Spotlight on Aurora Anaya-Cerda

Aurora Anaya-Cerda is the founder of La Casa Azul Bookstore, East Harlem’s only independent bookstore and the only bookstore in New York that features art and writing by Latin@ writers. Established in 2012 and funded in-part by a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo, La Casa Azul Bookstore has become a cultural hub in the city, providing programs, classes and readings, from local artists to nationally recognized writers and performers. Ms. Anaya-Cerda is also the founder of the East Harlem Children’s Book Festival—an event that connects authors, publishers, families and the community as a whole. 

We love Casa Azul and consider it one of our artistic homes. Radical Evolution recently produced the East Coast book release reading and party of The Panza Monologues, Second Edition at La Casa Azul. We completely sold out of books but don't worry - Aurora ordered more copies! 

Next week, Virginia will participate in Casa Azul's Authors as Booksellers Event. She will be selling books at the bookstore November 29th on Small Business Saturday. Come see what books she recommends for the holidays!

Aurora Anaya-Cerda in front of La Casa Azul
Why did you open Casa Azul Bookstore?
As an artist, educator, and entrepreneur, La Casa Azul Bookstore is a reflection of who I am and the goals that I have to feature Latino/Chicano writers. One of the reasons why I decided to open La Casa Azul Bookstore was because Chicana/o literature was critical in my own education and identity. Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes, to magazines and comics, but reading work by Chicana/o writers connected me to stories that I could relate to. When I discovered Chicana/o writers like Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya, I connected to their stories and then began seeking out more books that reflected my identity and experience. By then I was already in high school, and I wished I had read about them earlier!

When I moved to East Harlem from East LA at 27, I decided to make my dream of having a bookstore a reality and I dedicated myself to learning about bookselling. I fell in love with El Barrio, its history, food and art – but there wasn’t a bookstore at that time. I decided to open La Casa Azul Bookstore because I wanted a bookstore in my neighborhood – I was fortunate to have the support of hundreds of readers and fans, when I launched the $40Kin40days campaign and made the bookstore a reality. But that didn’t happen overnight, for six years I took business classes, worked and volunteered IN SIX bookstores, and traveled the country meeting with booksellers studying diverse business models.

Kai Diata Giovanni, Guest reader extraordinaire at
The Panza Monologues, Second
Book Release Party at
La Casa Azul
Tell us about choosing a location for the bookstore. Why El Barrio? What finally swayed you to your present address?
I moved from Los Angeles to El Barrio because I love this neighborhood. I learned about East Harlem’s history and saw many parallels between East Harlem and my neighborhood back home – East LA. I worked at East Harlem Tutorial Program and at El Museo del Barrio – both were walking distance from my apartment and immersed myself in the neighborhood – visiting galleries, cafes and community spaces. The decision to open a bookstore in El Barrio was intentional – I was asked to consider other neighborhoods, and even other states – but I noticed that one space was missing in East Harlem, a place to buy books in the neighborhood.

Tell us about your goals for author readings - what do you hope the events "do" for your customers?
La Casa Azul Bookstore aims to create a business that is much more than your average retail store by being the literature hub in East Harlem. We serve as the third place, a community meeting space. Since opening the store 2 and a half years ago (June 1, 2012) we have held over 500 events, ranging from book clubs, author signings, gallery shows, film screenings, conferences and writer’s conferences and workshops. For children we’ve had art, music and dance classes on a seasonal basis, and a bilingual storytelling hour every Saturday.

What's been one of the most memorable reading events by an author you have had and why?
We have neighbors, educators, tourists, and many local artists visit the bookstore. Once, Sonia Manzano (Maria on Sesame Street since 1971) stopped by to purchase a book, while her cab waited outside to take her to the airport. We also have surprise visits by Junot Díaz; that is what is great about being in a city that is home to many great writers – you never know who will stop by!

With over 500 events held at the store, it’s difficult to choose just one – but one of the most memorable was hosting Sandra Cisneros in the Fall 2012: The House on Mango Street was the first book in which I saw my reflection. Oh! I also love when I overhear customers say: “I wish this bookstore existed when I was a child – I am so happy La Casa Azul Bookstore is here.”

Playwright Migdalia Cruz reading at La Casa
Azul's Panza Monologues' East Coast Book
Release party, September 2014
What has been your biggest challenge as a small business entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur I have the same challenges that many other small business owners have:  time management, store finances, the never ending to-do list.

As a bookstore owner, I know about Amaz*n’s presence online and the appeal there is to order books online. There have been some frustrating moments: customers make a list of books they will buy online, or being told that they only shop online for books. We use those moments to let our customers know that the benefits of supporting La Casa Azul Bookstore. Spending a few extra dollars has many more benefits that outweigh the free shipping option on Amaz*n. The extra dollars spent at La Casa Azul Bookstore pay for our knowledgeable staff, creative programming, carefully curated selection of books and the sales tax we are required to pay NY state – and keep a brick and mortar space open for business.

What are your hopes for the future of the bookstore?
Digital publishing has impacted the traditional bookselling model, but it is key for bookstores/businesses to be flexible. Being open to changing with the times is what will help La Casa Azul Bookstore stay open and be the place in El Barrio where convergence occurs, where people come together to discuss ideas, share information, meet artists and authors. What digital platform offers that?

Copies of The Panza Monologues, Second Edition
arrive at La Casa Azul
What is your favorite quote from The Panza Monologues book?
“You will learn your abuelita’s remedios – aceite de olivo calientito, un tecito de canela o manzanilla. Curaras con tus propias manos.” -from Historia

My grandmother was a healer – she used aceite and teas to make me feel better. Her warm hands healed me much faster than any pill – her hands transferred love and strength to my panza.


When not at the bookstore, Aurora is with friends, exploring New York, reading a good book or cooking! – making her panza very happy. The Panza Monologues made Casa Azul's 2014 Bestseller List. Read more about it HERE. You can buy your copy of The Panza Monologues at La Casa Azul Bookstore at 143 E 103rd St, New York, NY 10029. If you are not in New York, they will deliver the book right to your doorstep! Support independent bookstores.

October 30, 2014

Notes from a China Chusma Fauxana: Part two of a two-part series on The Panza Monologues South Texas Book Tour

Note: This is the second post of a two part series on "The Panza Monologues Some Like it Hot South Texas Book Tour." This post is penned by Panza Monologues co-creator, Virginia Grise who read from The Panza Monologues, Second Edition in five South Texas cities in five days at diverse venues such as an independent bookstore, a university, an art museum, and also in people's homes. Read part one of the series HERE written by the tour’s producer, Joshua Inocencio.

Maria Salazar reads her poem
"Panza to Panza" from
The Panza Monologues.
A friend of mine jokes that I am not a real Tejana – I am more fauxana, he says. And he's right. My mother is a Chinese-Mexican immigrant, my father a working class white man from Goshen, Indiana and I was born in Ft. Gordon, Georgia. We moved to San Antonio when I was three because it was close to the border and my mother’s family in Monterrey and also because with 5 military bases (San Anto is known as Military City USA) my father and our family could enjoy all the benefits of his early retirement from the Army, including free healthcare. 

My family actually has no real roots or ties to Texas but like many Tejanos whose families have lived in Texas for generations, when Texas was Tejas, even before the battle of the Alamo, when Texas was Coahuiltecan land, I feel a connection to that tierra. A feeling that is more than just displaced nostalgia – home after all is a four-letter word. I think what that feeling is actually about is about fighting for something to call my/our own. 

While I grew up in a Mexican majority city, I knew from a very early age that there were men in suits making decisions about the future of the city without consideration for people like me or my family. I began organizing at age 16. From strategic planning meetings to international solidarity campaigns, from street theatre to federal lawsuits, from Marxist study groups to popular education models - multi-issue activism and community organizing was a central part of my life until I left TX at age 30. 

I was reminded of these early activista days when I returned this summer to launch The Panza Monologues South Texas Book Tour. Chicano theatre was born from political struggle and rooted in oppositional politics after all, but I didn’t grow up in theatre nor did I grow up listening to stories about the carpas and artists like La Chata Noloesca, and I didn’t attend the historic TENAZ conference in 1992, though I was living in San Antonio at the time. I did not yet know I was a theatre artist, but I did grow up in a home that valued poetry, storytelling, a wild imagination, ceremony, and of course the party. Our house was never starved for drama - though the theatre making would come much later…

On those long drives this summer, under the expansive Texas sky, I thought a lot about how my experience in community organizing influences my work as an artist and how being raised in Texas affects the way I think about theatre. These are just a few notes I jotted down in between book readings, panza parties, writing workshops, visits to the ocean, and chasing down UPS workers.

Thinking Beyond the Black Box

I had to chase down this UPS worker to get our 
second batch of books.
Performing Text. Before Photoshop and before I started losing my eyesight – I was a master zine maker. I could work magic with a box cutter and a roll of tape and I learned there is always a disgruntled worker at every Kinko’s in every city everywhere. Identify that person and you will make out with a ton of free copies. I think this old skool style of cut and paste influences the way I revise scripts today, often times with a pair of scissors. The final draft of The Panza Monologues book was laid out and organized on a wall of Post-its at Irma’s house – “Cut that paragraph. Move it here. No, there.”

Back in the day, me and my comrades/comadres made zines from political writings such as the Zapatistas, Mumia Abu Jamal,  and Errico Malatesta. We handed them out everywhere we went – on the bus, in coffee shops, at the club. We read from the zines out loud in places like bookstores and laundry mats. In addition to protest speeches, this is one of my earliest memories of staging text, performing literature. So when my play blu was published as a book, I thought artistic directors would be excited to do book readings and concert readings at their theatres but instead I was met with a lot of confusion – “How would you do that? You mean you would read? but there are multiple characters” – as if I had invented the radical concept of an author standing up and reading from their book out loud.

Too often I think we limit the possibilities of theatre to the play and the four to six week rehearsal process allocated to put on that play, when in actuality, the possibilities for performance are limitless. How do we create more opportunities for people to engage in theatre, beyond the performance of a play and how do we get more people to read plays as literature?

People watch clips from The Panza Monologues DVD.
DIY or Do it Yourself Damnit. So when The Panza Monologues was released last year I decided not to call on just theaters but on community centers and bookstores and anyone that had a free space big enough for me and our book. Not waiting for permission or invitation, I activated my community and networks. Since the publication of The Panza Monologues, we have done readings of the book at theatres, cultural centers, universities, bookstores, at The Perryville Women's Prison, and even in people's living rooms. Irma and I want to demystify what it means to make theatre and make the possibilities of producing your own work more accessible, which is why we created a DIY Production Manual in The Panza Monologues book. In the early days of touring The Panza Monologues as performance, we carved out rehearsal space often times in Irma’s backyard but also at poetry venues and, a couple of times, in between sets at a Jazz club. Teatro by any means necessary.          

Puro Party. I once invited my mother to a performance of mine. When it was over she politely asked, “No que iban a tener una fiesta?” At 73, my mother loves music, dancing and guato. She will be the last to leave the party despite my father’s pleading. 
—Emma, it is time to go.  
—Pos vete. I'll find a ride.

We bring the beer in buckets, the polkas danced counterclockwise in a circle, we can whistle real loud, and sabemos echar the best gritos – we ARE the puro pinche party! 

When I was in Austin (1994-2000), I worked with Accion Zapatista. In addition to organizing an international solidarity campaign - protests, a weekly radio station, a list serve for the dissemination of information coming out of Mexico, editing and publishing Zapatista communiqués, and work within our own communities – on top of all that - we threw a weekly dance party. Pushed the furniture to the walls and danced in living rooms sometimes until the break of dawn. These dance parties, that grew out of fundraiser “rent parties” that were thrown to support an alternative newspaper [sub]text, turned into weekly mitotes – food, dancing, guato, and a whole lotta for reals real life drama.     

Anel hosts a slammin Panza Party.
As part of The Panza Monologues South Texas Book Tour, in addition to public events, we also threw panza parties in people’s private homes. Artist Anel Flores bought together a crew of jotas, including her partner Erika Cassasola, PJ Aguilar, Candace Lopez, and Marissa Rivas to organize a panza party in San Antonio as a kick off to our South Texas Tour. Irma Mayorga often calls The Panza Monologues a love letter to San Antonio so it was extra special to read in the city that inspired and nurtured the work, in front of many of the people that supported The Panza Monologues from the beginning, including visual artist David Zamora Casas, who kept me fed while writing the original script and Maria Salazar who contributed many pieces to the performance text. Anel spoke to the importance of artists supporting other artists, reminding me that the real work of community happens outside of institutions. 

With the Poet Laureate of San Antonio, 
Laurie Ann Guerrero.
At least 25 of us  gathered in Anel and Erika's living room in Olmos Park - high school students (the youngest being 14), college students, young artists, and established artists like singer/ songwriter Lourdes Perez, Veronica Castillo (2013 NEA National Heritage Fellow) and the Poet Laureate of San Antonio Laurie Ann Guerrero. Erika and Candace, along with Anel and Erika’s daughters Klarissa and Jessica, cooked a slammin brunch buffet. Intergenerational collaboration at its finest – I still dream about those pumpkin pancakes. And PJ and Marissa held down the Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar all afternoon. Through panza parties – organized by friends and whole families – our teatro continues to inch its way into living rooms, casitas and communities, transcending its dependency on money, time and space. Irma often jokes that I will try to feed an entire community in one wok but these moments that we gather around food, drink, and storytelling spark collectively, conviviality, and conversation. Details on how to organize your own party can be found in The Panza Monologues book.  

Victor, Jaime, and Mike take pride 
in their panzas.
In the Rio Grande Valley, Victor Santos, Jaime Navarro and Mike Rodriguez threw the very first panza party hosted entirely by men, reminding us that everyone has a panza. Victor received his MFA in acting at CalArts a few years before I went there for graduate school. Now a drama teacher at Donna High School, he contacted me on facebook hoping to begin a conversation about theatre, community and teaching. Before traveling to the valley, I had actually not met any of the panza party organizers and, to be honest, I was a little scared we’d be drinking Lone Star and eating chips out of a bag with a can of bean dip but their panza party was so heartfelt and beautiful. Like true Tejanos, they also made a serious spread of food and they served beer not out of buckets but huge steel tinas. Jim’s mom showed up to the party and after the reading, shared her own panza monologue about the 30+ hours she was in labor with him. Can you imagine? I think I’d die! 

Jim Navarro with his fierce 
Our goal for the South Texas book tour was two-fold: to get the book in the hands of Raza, people we thought would recognize and connect to the stories being told and to also create points of access to theatre in nontraditional spaces. The majority of our audience (totaling close to 200) were Mexican American women, there was an extreme diversity in age (from teenagers to viejitas) and at least two of our events were organized by jot@s.  At the end of it all - we completely sold out of books.


Access to books is no small thing in South Texas. When I taught middle school, a group of us (including my close friend Marissa Ramirez, educators and students from the Southside of San Antonio) founded an organization called Books in the Barrio,  a collectively run community action group that rallied to get a bookstore in San Antonio’s largely working class Mexicano community in the Southside of town because there were no bookstores to speak of south of HWY 90. In addition to old skool issue-based campaign strategies, we held a rally inside the mall – a place we knew people would already be congregating on a Sunday afternoon – and instead of traditional protest speeches, we threw a huge literary event that included poets, musicians, teatristas and workshops on how to make your own books and write your own story. The event not only served to educate people about the campaign to get a bookstore in the community, it also disrupted a place of capitalism and commerce and created a space where art, culture and politics intersected, where we collectively participated in an act of claiming power through creativity.

One day we will buy our cake from 
Candace's bakery.
As an adult, I have now lived outside of Texas for more years than I have lived in Texas. In my 30s, I have lived in Brooklyn longer than any other city and yet something keeps bringing me back to this place that is no longer my home, if it ever was - and it's not the Lone Star. As a fauxana exile, I have continued making theatre in San Antonio, including acts of public intervention and large scale multi-media performance events that occupy and transform public space.  I have committed to making theatre in Texas because in Texas theatre matters, if not to institutions, to the young people that gather inside living rooms to hear stories, to the viejitas that came out to public events with their comadres and bought books for their sisters and grand children, to the high school teacher struggling to find material that relates to his students in Donna, Texas, to the high school students that fought for a bookstore on the Southside of San Antonio.  I have never been interested in a liberal discourse of inclusion at any institution, including mainstream and regional American theatre. Instead it is my desire to stay true to the oppositional politics that made me an artist, to stay rooted in community, and to create work outside the black box.