With Special Guests: Lupe Castillo, Ramona Grijalva, Barclay Goldsmith, Teresa Jones, Arturo Martinez, Valerina Quintana, and Silviana Wood.
Hosted by Veronica Conran
This project is supported by Arizona Humanities
Join actress and Borderlands Theater digital content producer, Veronica Conran, and very special guests to celebrate and honor the work and accomplishments of one of Southern Arizona’s most prolific Chicana dramatists.
The event features a circle of elders who share oral histories of art and culture of the Chicano movement in Tucson along with memories of Silviana Wood. Confirmed panelists include: historian and community organizer, Lupe Castillo; community organizer Ramona Grijalva; Borderlands Theater founder and Teatro Libertad member, Barclay Goldsmith; Teatro Libertad members, Teresa Jones, Arturo Martinez, Mujeres que Escriben co-founder with Wood, Valerina Quintana; and the guest of honor, Silviana Wood.
More About Silviana Wood
A writer, activist, performer, teacher, single mother, and in many ways, folklorist of the Mexican-American border culture of Southern Arizona, Silviana Wood made a name for herself in a field and during a time when women of color were rarely recognized. Her mastery of code-switching in the barrio vernacular known as caló – a dynamic mixing of Spanish, English, and Spanglish – can only be compared to the African-American vernacular in the plays of August Wilson. Her wit and word play rivals that of legendary Mexican performers Cantinflas (a source of inspiration for Wood) and Tin Tan.
From humble beginnings in Barrio Anita, Wood attended Davis Elementary and John Springs junior high school, eventually earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Energized as a young woman by the Chicano civil rights movement in Tucson and the protests to make El Rio golf course into a public park, Wood started Teatro del Pueblo with her brothers and some friends in the early 1970s. Through an improvisational process influenced by the work of Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino, Teatro del Pueblo created theatrical skits performed at political rallies and community centers. By the mid 70s, Teatro del Pueblo became Teatro Libertad creating full length bilingual plays that traveled beyond Tucson to festivals around the country and in Mexico.
By the 1990s Wood was teaching Chicano theatre classes at Pima Community College, and travelling around the country on playwrighting residencies and as a touring actress. She was part of the first wave of female Latinx playwrights – which included such names as Cherie Moraga, Edit Villareal, and Josephina Lopez – to be published and produced professionally. However, many Tucsonans best remember her character of Doña Chona, a barrio archetype who gave advice and chisme (gossip) on KUAT’s “Reflexiones” bilingual television show for some fifteen years.
Addressing issues of social justice, linguistic marginalization, oppression, class, gender and sexuality, the dramatic works of Silviana Wood resonate as much today as when they were first written and produced.
Neto Portillo, Jr. characterized Wood’s works in an article he wrote when Barrio Dreams was published –
Her characters spring from her family and people she knew in the barrio, her fellow students at John Spring Junior High School, and activists with the United Farm Workers in California. Some are real, others are imaginary but not far from truth: Nana Cuquita, assorted comadres (BFFs) and chismosas (gossipers). There’s Eddie Spaghetti, Tony Baloney and Ramón Jamón. And there’s Catungas, Watusi, Moonbeam, el Militante and, of course, the Mexican comedian Cantinflas, a comic source of inspiration for Wood.