June 27, 2014

Pedagogy of the Panza Featuring Irene Mata

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.

So, for the summer, we begin a series on our blog - "Pedagogy of the Panza" - celebrating and profiling teachers and their innovative instruction using The Panza Monologues, Second Edition. Over the next few months we will feature 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! panzapower@gmail.com

Name:  Irene Mata

Hometown:  El Paso/Juarez (currently living in Wellesley, MA)

Where do you teach? What’s your home department?
Wellesley College in the Women’s and Gender Studies Dept.

What class did you use The Panza Monologues in?
WGST 218—Stage Left: Chican@/Latin@ Theatre and Performance

Why did you choose to teach The Panza Monologues in your class?
Putting together a coherent syllabus that includes the diversity of theatre and performance in the Chican@/Latin@ community is a daunting task, and I chose to teach texts I believed encompass the complexities of this community. I decided to include The Panza Monologues because the text engages with multiple issues affecting the Chican@ community through the important lens of intersectionality. As a queer Chicana professor, the construction of identity and the intersecting role that race, gender, sexuality, class, and accessibility play in that construction is always at the center of my teaching. While the performance piece deals specifically with Chicana bodies, the stories of the panza go beyond any one group, and I knew students would be able to engage with the text regardless of their own background. Students at Wellesley are very familiar with, and quite critical of, The Vagina Monologues, and I wanted to introduce them to an example of a performance piece that more responsibly represents the voices of women. The Panza Monologues entertains but also educates an audience without appropriating the stories of the women whose lives the characters are drawn upon.

How did you teach The Panza Monologues (can you offer any fun or meaningful activities or panza teaching tools you want to share)?
I chose to teach The Panza Monologues at the end of the semester in order to help students bring together the multiple aspects of identity formation we had been discussing throughout the class. The performance piece focuses attention on the multiple structures of oppression that affect how we see and treat out bodies. The specificity of the panza as a site of analysis helped students think critically about how our bodies are constructed beyond the individual. We had an amazing discussion of body politics that intersected with a larger discussion of structural violence, including poverty and food justice.

Unlike traditional scripts, The Panza Monologues provided a rich set of texts to widen the discussion of the performance piece. Students loved reading the script and had much to say about it. Having access to secondary material included in the text, especially the narrative history of the play’s development, allowed students to understand the creative process involved in the production. We were able to discuss the script but also how the larger themes analyzed in the secondary materials were represented in the performance. The book as a whole provides a powerful example of a feminist praxis of creating activist art. Our college library also purchased the video of The Panza Monologues, which gave me yet another pedagogical tool in teaching the performance piece. Students watched the recording after reading the script and wrote responses on how watching Virginia perform the monologues added to their initial reading and understanding of the piece.

Why is it important to your field of study? What conversations/issues did the book raise?
Dr. Irene Mata (with Inigo Montoya)
reading The Panza Monologues,
Second Edition
The Panza Monologues invites its readers to think critically about how our ideas of our bodies are constructed through ideologies of worth and beauty. The performance piece roots its discussion of this construction in its analysis of multiple systems of oppression, including the medical establishment and a patriarchal structure that perpetuates violence against women. The book encourages a discussion of larger structural inequality through its emphasis on the panza and the role of the panza in the construction of womanhood.

What did you learn from teaching The Panza Monologues?
Unfortunately, teaching The Panza Monologues has made me aware of how much young people continue to struggle with their body image and the continued role that race and culture play in that struggle. I learned to use the book as a tool, as a counter-narrative to the very loud and destructive message young people receive about their panzas and marginalized communities. Brilliant students surround me, and I often forget that students, regardless of their level of intelligence, continue to battle external messages that dictate what constitutes beauty and worth. I feel, however, that teaching The Panza Monologues gives me an opportunity to intervene in their internalization of dominant ideologies of beauty and offers me the chance to talk back to ideologies that position our culture as deficient or lacking.  The performance piece has helped me teach students about our bodies, our culture, and love in our community in a way that challenges the medicalization of our bodies.  

Favorite quote from The Panza Monologues Book?
“Now someone’s panza story is a sacred story, and to share it with someone else is to tell them about the condition of your life” (42).

Finally - any new news? Or things/reflections you would like to share re: Panza? Or about your recent accomplishments?!

I loved teaching The Panza Monologues Book! It was a powerful educational experience for my students and myself, and I can’t wait to teach it next year!

Read more about Dr. Irene Mata HERE.

N.B. from Irma & Virginia: we are very, very proud to note that Dr. Mata recently received tenure at Wellesley - ajua!

Do you have a "Pedagogy of the Panza" story to share? Let us know! panzapower@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. I was in this course and can attest to just how amazing the learning experience was as a whole! The Panza Monologues had a huge impact on myself and many of my fellow students.