Collaborating through the Covid Crisis
In this article, artistic director, Marc David Pinate, discusses how the pandemic spurred innovative collaborations that have forever changed the scope and ways we work. From writing workshops and festivals to radical new ways to present performance and connect with audiences, Borderlands Theater’s many collaborations are not only sustaining us, but allowing us to thrive.
Like most theatres at the start of the pandemic, Borderlands was forced to cancel what was left of its 19-20 season. The shock of lockdown subsided into the looming realization that it would be a long time before the public returned to the theatre. But as the cliché goes, behind every cloud is a silver lining.
Like it or not, the pandemic pushed us into the virtual world, a transition easier for some more than others. Here is where another famous quote comes in: So the last shall be first and the first last. In this brave new world, our pre-pandemic shortcomings – lack of a theatre building, no scene shop, no stock scenery or costumes because we didn’t have a storage facility, a very small, very part time staff – became a profound asset. Our “lack” gave us the capacity to pivot into livestreamed digital content.
And then almost by accident, in the morass of daily zoom meetings, we discovered something truly liberating. This new medium no longer required people to be in the same room, or the same state, or even the same country to make art together.
As of the writing of this article Borderlands Theater is involved in eight collaborative with individuals and organizations based in Phoenix, Mesa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Puerto Rico, San Antonio, and yes a few just across town too. Here is a quick run-down:
Lunada Virtual Literary Lounge, Our most developed and visible work, this monthly literary series features Latinx poets and performers from all over the world (July featured poets from Ireland and Mexico) with an emphasis on Afro-Latinx artists. The historic Galería de la Raza (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) in San Francisco co-presents this series splitting costs and production labor straight down the line with us. The curatorial team hails from around the country too. Sponsored in part by Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona.
Writing Home Creative Writing Seminar. Starting this week spoken word phenom, Los Angeles based Yosimar Reyes, a rock star of the poetry world is teaching a virtual creative writing workshop for undocumented and formerly undocumented writers. The four-week course generated 65 applicants for 15 available spaces offered for a sliding scale tuition of $0 – $40.
Tucson Meet Yourself. A pillar of Tucson’s festival season known for its almost limitless food, music, and dance performances, Borderlands Theater was tapped by the long-standing festival to oversee the transition of its performance elements to an online digital format. We can’t give too many details just yet, but exciting surprises and innovative plans are in the making. We are extremely honored to be trusted with such an important task.
Mask Alive! Our very first livestreamed offering back in May featured mask maker and master sculptor, Zarco Guerrero, dawning his award-winning masks to tell children’s’ stories. The monthly series, created in partnership with Mesa based Cultural Coalition, run by power couple Carmen and Zarco Guerrero, has evolved into a behind the scenes studio visit where Guerrero shows viewers how he creates the masks and giant puppets he has crafted for past and upcoming Borderlands Theater productions.
Cycles. Associate artistic director and playwright, Milta Ortiz’s new documentary play about the lives of young women in the foster care system breaks new ground as our first virtual play production (not a reading) offered at the end of August in collaboration with StoryWorks and the Arizona Daily Star.
Ingenio 2020 Festival. Now in its fifth year, this annual new play festival normally produced in Portland, Oregon by Milagro Theatre, will go virtual in September. Borderlands Theater is part of Teatros Unidos, a national coalition of Latinx companies first assembled by Milagro Theatre, who are sharing resources and technical innovations to present virtual readings of new plays in September. Sponsored by a National New Play Network Collaboration grant.
Conceal and Carry. This one-man play directed by our founder, Barclay Goldsmith, and produced by SplitSeed Productions will be broadcast online with multiple virtual talk backs on different days hosted by different organizations in Tucson. Borderlands Theater is excited to produce and host one of them.
Antigone at the Border. Bridging the Tucson-Phoenix corridor, Borderlands and Teatro Bravo of Phoenix come together to produce a radically experimental livestreamed experience of Marc David Pinate’s adaptation of the Greek classic in November. With considerable funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Network of Ensemble Theatres, and the National Performance Network the two ensembles (who share a lot in common in structure and challenges) aim to create a long-term network of brown theater makers from the state’s two most populous cities.
All this work wouldn’t be possible without Borderlands staff and ensemble members: Milta Ortiz, Ensemble/Associate Artistic Director; Adam Cooper-Terán, Ensemble/Technical Director; and Jonathon Heras, Ensemble/Digital Performance Teaching Artist; Veronica Conran, Digital Content Producer