I am a working class Tejana writer and performer from the Rio Grande Valley. Schooled in Dallas, settled in San Antonio. I’ve never heard a cowboy say yee-haw. Never had a conversation with a daughter of the republic.
Growing up in the 80s on Crockett Street, Alamo, Texas, meant ruby red grapefruits and Grease Lightning. Somersaults under a flipping baton. Friday Goth in Reynosa. Big Bird sightings over the horizon and running through open fields arms flying wide open while a dust cropper sprayed pesticides like rain.
My cultural roots are a continuous point of artistic inspiration.
As an actor, writer, director, educator, and activist/critic, I engage at the intersections of theater practice. My work resides in action, community-building, and struggle.
I write short stories, profiles, and nonfiction essays and turn them into transmedia performances.
My protagonists are mujer malas, women who rebel against cultural expectations, while at the same time embracing the duality of Tejana-Méx border life, and the complexity of female roles of mother, lover, and Virgen. They are urban legends, la Border Goth. All my characters are isolated and searching for a place of comfort, a place to call home, like me.
I linger within my personas for months, sometimes years, adapting them from short fiction to live public-improvisational-interactions, still imagery, podcasts, performance videos, and ensemble plays. Character development is central to my writing and performance methods.
I found storytelling as a little kid: writing scary stories to spook my classmates on the playground at Bowie Elementary, and adapting Beowulf into a play in fifth grade. Tambien: confession-writing in my pink journal con tiny lock and key while listening to Van Halen.
My first lover, though, was acting. Our small, square concrete patio in front of my casita in Alamo served as my stage. I played all the Grease characters, including Danny. In the 90s, I studied acting, earned a BFA, then ran off to LA to “join the circus.” I survived by juggling fire at Solvang while wearing a feather hat. Not even kidding. The danger was not onstage, however. I felt I had to compromise too much of myself offstage to make it in the film and television industry at the time. The casting couch is not a cliché when experienced in real life. I came back to Texas to work as Artistic Director at Cara Mia Theatre in Dallas. I felt an overwhelming need to create theater about the Chicana experience.
I forgot about acting because I was busy advocating for space, funds, and representation in the Dallas arts scene. I did a pretty good job; the artistic director I hired to replace me when I moved to San Antonio in 2002 is still thriving. Cara Mia is now one of the leading Latinx theater companies in the United States.
After many chingazos over the years in San Antonio including a lost house, my lost then found soul, and many ex ex ex lovers, it took a plague for me to pursue acting again con fuerza.
I found solace in acting during the pandemic. Zoom was my tool for 2020, and I was fortunate to adapt my teatro practice. My performative memoir, “Tejana Rasquacha,” was refitted for streaming in July 2020. I embraced the intimacy of live teatro by having both prerecorded and live segments plus an audience in the Zoom room in the mood to interact. We had gente from across the US tune in. I also acted in two physically-distanced outdoor plays at the Tobin right after quarantine: Art Heist (October 2020) and The Office: A Parody (Spring 2021). Art Heist was directed by Canadian creators zooming from Vancouver and sustained a safe three-week run during a pandemic. We offered a land acknowledgement before each performance, a practice of honoring ancestors that I have continued at my own performances. The Office directors Zoomed from Florida. They cast me as Michael Scott…that’s what she said.
San Antonio opened up soon after with more live performance opportunities.
I needed live performances to recover from the isolation of quarantine.
I crave the process of mounting a play. I crave the community-ensemble that develops through this process. Acting is a portal into ourselves while at once connecting to our community. I love working on new plays, especially when they are from underrepresented voices in American theater. I dig into the text for discoveries while making discoveries about myself.
What unifies my theater work is mindful teatro, a theater practice that engages cultural identity through community-building and activism. Teatro is the choque between real life and imagined possibilities. I contribute to the collective identity of San Antonio by practicing teatro.
I have been creating mindful teatro since the 90s. In Dallas as Artistic producing Director of Cara Mia Theater, luego in San Antonio as Theater Director at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, plus projects in Dallas, Houston, Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and numerous venues throughout San Antonio.
I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Arts plus a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Literature and Social Justice from Our Lady of the Lake University.
My MFA work includes an original linked short story collection that I have adapted into various performances and actions over the last four years. This work needs a publisher. My graduate thesis about Chicana Goth, urban legends and contemporary folk tales transformed into a performative obsession with San Antonio’s Donkey Lady. She’s been to Luminaria, Jump-Start, Palo Alto College, the Guadalupe, y chingos de cantinas and taquerias around town. Ultimately, my graduate work investigates cultural preservation through storytelling across different mediums.
I have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, HowlRound, The San Antonio Report, Concho River Review, Latina Critical Feminism, Out in SA, Texas Matters, The San Antonio Current, Radio Esperanza 101.5 LP-FM, and TheaterJones, among others.
Every play I have acted in, written and directed is also a publication. From children’s shows at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in the late 80s, to performances at Latinx cultural centers throughout Texas, I have created hundreds of projects and productions.
I have trained and practiced various methods of theater-making such as Viewpoints, Stanislavski Method, improvisation through Viola Spolin teachings, Theater of the Oppressed methods for social change, La Pocha Nostra’s Exercises for Rebel Artists, Teatro Campesino’s actos, mitos and historias, with additional movement and voice practices such as the Alexander Technique and Linklater’s voice work.
I now mostly forget specific practices, listen to the room, and follow intuition. I trust my process and those of my collaborators.
Teatro is collaborative. So is writing. My written word is about community.
I am most alive when performing. I find territories of communion through performance by exploring my most vulnerable and honest self. My characters are hybrids of the people I encounter in life, the good and the bad. To practice theater is to study humanity by telling stories. We are nourished by our stories, the stories that matter to us, the stories that reflect who we are and what we want to become.
I am here to learn, to build community, to make theater, to create a home where I am not judged.
Copyright © 2022 Marisela Barrera - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by La Tejana-Méx