Sounds of Cultura (SOC): El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession

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Childsplay is hosting a free event for families called, “El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession.” Artist Zarco Guerrero discusses details of the event.

José Cárdenas: Childsplay will be hosting a free event for families in March called "El Puente, Childsplay's First Theatre Festival and Mask Procession. Joining me to talk about this is Childsplay and local artist Zarco Guerrero. Welcome back to "Horizonte." You've been on the show many times, multitalented artist but typically, we're talking about your masks. Let's talk about how this came about as we noted in the introduction. It's a first time experience for Childsplay. How did it happen?

Zarco Guerrero: Well, it's one of those things where a lot of the institutions in our organizations are trying to broaden their audience, bring more people into the theater, to do new innovative works of art and to reinvigorate the art of theater and theater going. So my mission as artistic director of El Puente is to get community involved in theater workshops, in mask making, in performance to bring them into the Tempe Center for the Arts where we're going to have the festival so we can straight the art of theater and the art of mask making through a procession and get people exposed to the fine work that Childsplay does in creating theater.

José Cárdenas: And El Puente itself was the proposal to the Doris Dix Foundation and it was intended to be outreach to the Hispanic community?

Zarco Guerrero: Exactly, exactly. They were eligible for this grant by the foundation and they had to come up with an idea for this grant. So they asked me if I would write the narrative for them or come up with an idea of what I thought would be appropriate ways to reach a wider audience. And it was simple for me because they're the resident theater company at Tempe Center for the Arts, a wonderful facility for the arts and they also have this beautiful elegant bridge that crosses the Tempe town lake. What a magnificent metaphor for theater, for the arts, for crossing over, for reaching out, for transcending and transforming and that's exactly what we want to do.

José Cárdenas: And a metaphor that really fits Arizona in particular, it can also mean crossing the border and particularly this time when we're once again in the midst of some legislation that may signify to outsiders that we are intolerant towards diversity. This sends a different message.

Zarco Guerrero: It does send a different message and for me as an artist, a community activist, that's exactly my goal. I want to create something through this festival that's going to project us nationally in a positive light as being a diverse community, a community that comes together to celebrate the arts and a community that accepts people from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, and that we're a community and we're a state that is much more than what's being perceived right now in the national scope because of the legislation coming out of Arizona.

José Cárdenas: And this event, too, is a pretty sizable grant. It's for more than one presentation.

Zarco Guerrero: Yes, we're going to have two puente festivals for the next two years. Every fall and spring. And then once the grant runs out, we want to continue this as an annual event. We want to make a big impact in the next two years. Get as many our community members involved, artists, families and people who want to experience the art in a new way and want to participate. That's really our goal to get people who haven't been exposed to theater to come to the theater and to feel like it's part of their lives and part of their culture. That's what we're striving to do is to re-create, reinvent the culture here in Arizona and make it something that really impacts people's lives and make it significant in what's going on here throughout our state.

José Cárdenas: So the first event is March 9th; is that right?

Zarco Guerrero: March 9th.

José Cárdenas: So the people that go, what will they experience?

Zarco Guerrero: First of all, they'll experience community artists from the area, including community theater groups -- A lot of different organizations, schools and community groups who have been making masks and creating theater and art for the community, they're all going to come together at Tempe Center for the Arts under umbrella of this magnificent celebration.

José Cárdenas: And you I talked a little bit off camera, masks is a particular emphasis of this event and unique in Arizona.

Zarco Guerrero: Yes, it's been my goal for the last 30 years to reinvent the use of masks in our society, in our culture in particular and to give it a new life in a contemporary, urban situation and for me, it's an excellent way to get people involved. Once you make a mask and you put it on, you're part of the show.

José Cárdenas: And we've had some pictures on the screen while we're talking about the kinds of things that the kids will be able to wear. Tell us about the procession itself, how that's going to work.

Zarco Guerrero: Well, the procession will be a procession in the traditional sense. We're going to meet at one side of the bridge, we're going to gather there. There will be music and there will be people performing and then at a certain time we're going to congregate and cross the bridge to the other side.

José Cárdenas: Like the people we had on the camera a moment ago with the animal masks which you've created over time.

Zarco Guerrero: We're going to have a lot of the masks that have been used in community celebrations in the past and a lot of new masks that have been created by the community itself.

José Cárdenas: And I understand one of the special features about the procession is it will be led by the Cat in the Hat because there's theater performances that will be going on while you're there.

Zarco Guerrero: Well, Childsplay does -- everything they do is fantastic. And so this year, they're presenting Cat in the Hat and the Cat in the Hat will be the person or the thing that's going to be leading the procession into the theater where the audience will be presented with this performance of Cat in the Hat by Childsplay.

José Cárdenas: And as I understand it, the first 200 kids or audience members who want to be there get in free. And then at the end of that performance, the Cat in the Hat's going to lead the procession?

Zarco Guerrero: Exactly. How there's only room -- there's only room for 200 people in the theater but everybody will have a theater experience. As I mentioned before, there will be many artists performing right there in the atrium of the theater and activities inside, out, food, everything is free.

José Cárdenas: That sounds like a wonderful event coming up soon. Hope you get a good crowd because it sounds like a fantastic event.

Zarco Guerrero: Thank you, it will be.

José Cárdenas: And thanks for joining us to talk about it.

Zarco Guerrero:Artist;

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