"MÁS" Balances Poetry and Reenactment in a Theatre Docudrama
School of Theatre, Television, and Film’s production focuses on real-life political and cultural conflict
By Elizabeth Allison
The San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film continues its 2018 fall theatre season with MÁS, a docudrama about the dismantling of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. Written by Milta Ortiz, and directed by faculty member Peter Cirino, the production runs Friday, Nov. 2, through Sunday, Nov. 11, in SDSU’s Experimental Theatre.
MÁS engages the audience in the debates around the passage in 2010 of Arizona House Bill 2281, which effectively banned the MAS program. As each character describes their perspective of the fight to keep the MÁS program in Arizona schools, the play captures the soul of the movement, as well as telling a powerful story of community.
“This community learned about themselves through the Mexican American Studies program, and it gave them a sense of pride and hope,“ said playwright Milta Ortiz. “They decided to stand up for who they are.”
SDSU’s production is brought to life in an abstract sweat lodge, where four dancers represent Mexican deities watching over the contemporary characters.
Based on real-life events and people, MÁS highlights how people can choose different and often conflicting paths when working towards a common goal. The play does not shy away from the challenges the movement encountered, particularly surrounding issues of identity, race, and gender. While it shows the immense strength that can be found in difference, it also demonstrates how difference can be capable of ripping communities apart.
Some of the serious issues in the movement that echo the challenges seen in a wider community include sexual assault, racism, and misogyny.
The Importance of Diverse Representation in a University Production
Ortiz suggests that having MÁS performed in an academic institution is especially valuable. “It is good for people to see others like themselves represented as college students. People who are students. People struggling to continue a fight, or people struggling to claim who they are,” said Ortiz.
She acknowledged that growing up in different socioeconomic groups it can make it difficult to believe they are capable of doing anything and pursuing their dreams.
“I was able to dream outside the limitations of who I thought I was,” said Ortiz. “In MÁS, students can see they can live beyond their own perceived or real limitations.”
MÁS presents a message that students are able to fight for themselves and their education, and asks audiences to consider how they might respond when faced with the challenges that the students face.
“Having a connection to your past, your culture, it does not make you un-American,” said director Peter Cirino. “We have to identify who we are. After we connect to that identity and its world, forgetting who we are and where we come from is an act of apathy. We live in a world where we should always be moving forward and helping others to come to their own identities and truths.”
Performances for MÁS are scheduled for Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in SDSU’s Experimental Theatre. The production is roughly 2 hours long, with a ten-minute intermission. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $17 for students, seniors, and military.
Playwright Milta Ortiz will be attending the performance and participating in a free talk-back following the performance on Thursday, November 8.