October 11, 2015

Pedagogy of the Panza Featuring Carla Della Gatta

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! panzapower@gmail.com


Name:  Carla Della Gatta
Hometown:  Los Angeles, where I currently live.

Where do you teach?  
I am an Assistant Professor of Critical Studies at the School of Dramatic Arts at the University of Southern California. I taught The Panza Monologues at Northwestern University earlier this year.

In  what class/type of class did you use The Panza Monologues in?  
It was an upper-division seminar called “Latina Theatre & Feminisms” that was cross-listed in Gender & Sexuality Studies, Latina and Latino Studies, and Theatre. 

Why did you choose to teach The Panza Monologues in your class?
I chose The Panza Monologues for a number of reasons. First, the class included the term “Latina Theatre” in the title but I wanted to challenge any limits that the term implies. The students read plays written by Latinas, but the subject matter of the plays varied widely. They also read a play written by a Latino with a strong Latina lead role and discussed various Latina performance pieces. Second, the class discussed the Latina body as a site of memory in the theoretical readings on Chicana Feminism and in discussions on other plays, so having The Panza Monologues as the penultimate text really brought a lot of the course themes together. Third, Virginia & Irma’s voice and Virginia's performance style are essential to discussing Latina performance as a genre today, and where it falls in the trajectory of Latina and Latino theatre history.

How did you teach The Panza Monologues (any fun or meaningful activities or panza teaching tools you want to share)?  
The class first watched the DVD of the performance without reading the book. This allowed students to experience the piece with the dramaturgy and performance elements. I also showed clips from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and the students discussed the different methods for solo performance, especially the use of voice and music.

After watching the video, we discussed some of the book’s contents, especially Virginia & Irma’s research process that led to the stories in the piece and the emphasis that Virginia and Irma place on pedagogy. Because of the first-person narration and the physicality of the storytelling style, the students initially thought that these were Virginia’s personal stories. We talked about theatre as a tool for raising consciousness and the ethics of performing other people’s narratives, especially when they focus on the body, sexuality, and violence. 

Why is The Panza Monologues important to your field of study? What conversations/issues did the book raise?  
The Latina body is often eroticized or maternalized in the media and in popular culture, but in Virginia & Irma’s work it is presented as a site of collective and personal memory.  The collective memory includes a history of structural violence toward the Latino community, especially Chicanas/os, in the form of food deserts and mis-education about diet and the body. We devoted a unit solely to Xicanisma early in the term, and the students related the concept of Theory in the Flesh and ideas about embodied knowledge to The Panza Monologues. Virginia & Irma’s piece brought all of it together.

What did you learn about your teaching or about your students from teaching The Panza Monologues?  
I learned that my students, who were from a variety of backgrounds, would each relate to something different in the piece. I expected to talk about solo performance as a genre and performance elements (the use of the altar, music, and physicality), but the discussions ranged from the representation of the female body in the mainstream media to the historical relationships of food and cultures to making the body an agent of activism.  

Favorite Quote from The Panza Monologues Book?
"I never wanted to look like her, but slowly the image of my mother crept into my own body." From "Cha-Cha to Panza" 


Carla Della Gatta is an Assistant Professor of Critical Studies at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. She has published articles and reviews in academic journals, and served as a dramaturg, translator, and scholar for the theatre. Her research areas include early modern drama and theatre history, Latina/o Theatre, Spanish Golden Age theatre, adaptation theory, postcolonial feminism, and critical race theory.


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