September 9, 2014

Love Your Body: Featuring Claudia Acosta

Claudia Acosta (New York, NY) reminds us what it means "to show up" again and again and again. We are honored to feature her as a guest reader this Saturday (September 13, 2 - 4PM) at our New York Book Release Party of The Panza Monologues at La Casa Azul Bookstore.

Claudia Acosta as 
Siempre Norteada in Virginia's 
play Go Away!
Claudia Acosta is a bilingual actor, producer, writer, and teaching artist. A straight hustler, the girl has performed Off-Broadway in shows such as Dance for a Dollar (INTAR), Don Cristobal Billy Club Man (HERE Arts Center), and Pandora's (Theater Row) as well as in theaters throughout the Southwest. Most recently she was in The Architecture of Becoming produced by The Women's Project, where she played many characters including originating the role of Siempre Norteada created by Virginia Grise. But, there ain't nothing norteada about Claudia - she knows where she's goin. 

Hailing from the state of Texas, her first play Girlie Stories is now published in Taboo Theater: Sex and Violence on Stage (University Readers), an anthology currently being taught at the University of Central Florida. She created and produced the first-ever Rose Marine Latino Film Festival in Fort Worth, Texas and produced a short documentary with Academy Award Winning Director, Nigel Noble. In New York, Claudia has served as a teaching artist in after-school programs, public schools, colleges, universities, safe houses, homeless shelters, and the prison at Riker's Island with The Public Theater, Shadow Box Theater, White Bird Productions, Creative Arts Team of CUNY, Lincoln Center, and Arts Connection. 

For our blog and in anticipation of our NYC reading this coming weekend, we asked her, "If your panza could speak what would it say?" 

And she said...

"Somos nosotras las hijas de Coyolxauhqui, full moon faces. Y yo con una panza to match. Big, round, beautiful full moon panza to match my Olmeca head." 
– from "International Panza," The Panza Monologues

I am a first generation Mexican-American. A Texican, a long lost norteña Chihuahuense that found her way up northeast from the west coast town of Corona, California to a rocky mountain childhood back in El Paso/Juarez forging a creative way past teenage years in Dallas-Fort Worth to find a place to stay and work as a theater artist in New York, New York. A thirty-four-year-old Latina-Teatrista always floating somewhere between her heart and her head trying to make sense out of everything along the way without being a dick about it.

Claudia Acosta's Summer Reading
I come from a long line of Chihuahua hard-asses with convictions, or as this excerpt from a poem I wrote about my mother’s breast cancer would more clearly answer:

I come from a long line
of guerilleros
My Mother the bravest one
and for my Mother,
it was her Mother
and with
Grandmother stood my Grandfather
and with my Sisters, my Brother
with them, me.

All there along my Father's side.

Our blood in my veins,
helped my Mother up
and untied her gown
and guided her arm through

the strap of her bra
I saw my birth in her breasts:
my origin, my nourishment,
my comfort...myself.

Her body is my own.

This the beginning,
soon a space will remain
to give more land

for love to create
greater change
in my blood's time.


Whitney Houston sang words I will never forget:

"I believe the children are our future / Teach them well and let them lead the way / Show them all the beauty they possess inside / Give them a sense of pride to make it easier / Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be."

I believe in love, in people, in creativity, in prayer, in community, in justice, and happiness. 

I also believe that humans are capable of great, great beauty, stupidity, and horror. 

I believe the imagination is a survival skill.  

I believe I may have drowned at sea in a former life or was a mermaid because of my relationship with the ocean having been raised in the desert and plains of Texas.

That being said, I believe in everything and nothing. 

Okay, maybe I believe that stars aligned for my coming into this world to leave something behind that could be useful for humanity.

I used to believe Jesus died for my sins, but I no longer believe in original sin.  I no longer believe in a God that made me so I can pay him back for all my imperfections.

I believe in the natural force that surrounds us, penetrates us, binds the galaxy together. 

I believe in the force.

Yes, I believe in the force.

"So it was written on the bodies of Chicana heavyweights all across Aztlan. Live your life without shame."
– from "Historia," The Panza Monologues

i first heard music in the panza...
child in womb
My breasts. I am very happy with them. They are fun and give me much pleasure. Sometimes they concern me, but overall I am very honored to have these breasts attached to my body because it balances me out.  I have a very big ass. It garners a lot of attention, stirring up mixed emotions in men and women.  It is a burden sometimes to have an ass that both compels and alienates. My breasts I can see.  I can hold them.  I was told once that Aries don’t believe in anything they don’t see - so I wonder - because I am an Aries - is that why my ass haunts me?  I can’t see it, but I can feel it.  My ass dictates a lot in my world, but I can take comfort in my breasts. They make me feel like I am Appollonia, the first breasts I saw on TV. While my sisters watched Purple Rain, I hid behind the couch and peeked. I was five, that movie was off-limits.  Seeing Appollonia undress and reveal her beautiful breasts awed me.  I wanted a pair like that on me. Thankfully the boob fairy I prayed to made it happen.  I have big breasts that I can hold so I would never feel alone in this cruel world.  

"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."
– from "Prologue," The Panza Monologues

I was a skinny kid until I was nine, when I  had surgery from an accident that involved losing the tip of my middle finger on my left hand.  I learned two things: how to temporarily write with my right hand and how to eat my feelings. Shortly after that, I remember hearing “PANZONA,” “Que Pansoncita." My little round tummy over skinny knock-kneed legs. I would get these stomach pains when I was little. I went to the hospital twice because my parents thought I had appendicitis, but after x-rays and tests nothing was found.  A phantom pain that startled me, that overtook me, and made me cry out.  Didn’t know it was anxiety.  My panza was trying to make me listen, but I didn’t know what "listen to your gut" meant. It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I realized my stomach was my second brain.  Everything my mind goes through, my stomach does too. I wish I had known that. I wish I had learned that having a strong tummy gives you power to move. I wish I knew how to listen to my panza then. LISTEN TO THE PANZA.

"Our panza has a heart that in extension suffers - suffers from out not taking care of it." 
– from "Hunger for Justice," The Panza Monologues

So, what does my panza say to me now? 

How dare you eat French fries two days in a row and what makes you think you could eat a falafel too?

Thanks for laying off the dairy.

You are worried. I don’t know what you are worried about, but girl you are worried. Can’t you see I’m justa handful away from showing you what you could do with that dress?

That plank position. Get it.

Your back hurts.

Work these abs, girl.

Why don’t you love me, the way I am?

I loved the green smoothies, but I hated the green smoothies.

Why are you scared?

Why are you scared?

That echoes in the deep chamber of my panza when the world I play in gets quiet. I have this fear, this block.  A whole spot at the top of my belly that fires anxiety that makes me tremble like a volcano spewing ash and lava. It burns. It trembles.

This center of my being gets so stuck.  

This center I use to connect to others.

This center that carries me in a classroom or on stage.

This center that can hold life.

This center that tells me to write when it needs to speak.

This center of my being feels trapped forcing me to remember to breathe.

I breathe.

I feel the tightness of my fear stretching and sighing.

I watch my belly expand and release.

Breathe it says.


"Keep your third eye open, mugrosa, cuz sometimes you gots to give ojo to protect yourself."
– from "Panza Brujería," The Panza Monologues

May my panza have power to push me forward.

May my panza grow strong to keep me balanced.

May my panza be healthy to sustain me everyday. 

May my panza be at peace so I can hear the voices of my ancestors reminding me how beautiful and how chingona I really am.

Thank you Vicki and Irma.

Today and everyday my panza makes me a chingona.

So it is written.