Borderlands Theater has been chosen to participate in the A-ha! Program: Think It, Do It, funded by the MetLife Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the professional not-for-profit American theatre. The $50,000.00 award enables theatres to dare to try new approaches to problem-solving artistic, managerial, production and/or technological challenges-to try things the organization doesn’t and couldn’t normally do.
Led by new Producing Director,Marc David Pinate,the Barrio Stories Project will utilize cross-sector partnerships to collect oral histories from the residents of Tucson’s historic barrios. These narratives will be theatricalized and performed in sight-specific locations. The first iteration of the initiative will focus on Barrio Libre, Tucson’s original Mexican-American enclave that was demolished with the construction of the Tucson Convention Center. Pinate hopes to enlist the cooperation of the city and perform the work on the grounds of the Tucson Convention Center with promenade style staging. The play will open in March, 2016 as part of Borderlands’ 30th anniversary season.
Dr. Lydia Otero, a historian and author of the book,La Calle (University of Arizona Press), which chronicles the history of Barrio Libre and its ultimate displacement, has signed on as a project consultant. Borderlands will engage high school seniors in the Trio Upward Bound Program in partnership with the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona to collect oral histories from surviving residents of Barrio Libre. Borderlands Theater is working with Pima College to offer participating youth college credit for their efforts.The inter-generational passing down of collective memory from elders to youth is a key component of the project. The full interview transcripts will be sent to three nationally recognized playwrights to turn into a play script. Award winning writers, Elaine Romero, Virginia Grise and Martín Zimmerman, have been confirmed.
Pinate conceived the project and has led the conversations with collaborating partners. His experience working with community, directing sight specific works, and graduate research in civic practice make him a strong choice to lead this project. Pinate, along with his wife, playwright, Milta Ortiz, has already undertaken an interview based project for Borderlands Theater – the M.A.S. project, a new play commission about the banning of Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson Unified School District.
This project was partly inspired by Creative Time’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.Partnering anthropologists, historians, under-served high school students, community elders, nationally recognized playwrights, and theatre makers to create a new work based on oral histories is a first for Borderlands Theater. Through this initiative Borderlands desires to legitimize creative placemaking and civic practice as the next major movement in American theatre. This project is about re-imagining how, where, and for what purpose theatre is made. “If we can impact the field, we wish it to be in a direction that views theatre making as an essential part of community sustainability; as a vibrant, organic entity woven into the fabric of our everyday reality, in dialogue with community,” Pinate said.