Bilingual Theater Experience Comes Full Circle
October 5, 2022
Publication Date: October 5, 2022
The Frontera Project, a play developed and directed by Ramón Verdugo of Tijuana Hace Teatro and Jessica Bauman, a New York-based theater maker and lead in New Feet Productions, will be staged on Saturday, October 1st at Theater 101 in Henderson Hall from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Free tickets are available while supplies last. The cast and crew, comprised of seven members, will also host an interactive workshop on Friday, September 30th with a group of students and faculty affiliated with the Community Change Collaborative (CCC) of the Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG).
The play is a bilingual reflection on daily life along the U.S.-Mexico border. It challenges the stereotype-filled narrative that is typically attached to that boundary. Frontera’s performers use theater, music, movement, and play to engage the audience actively in a poignant but nonetheless joyous conversation about life at the border.
The performance in Blacksburg is a full circle moment for Bauman, a former student in 2020 in a graduate seminar cross-listed between Urban Affairs and Planning and Theatre Arts, called Arts, Culture, and Society. The class is co-taught by SPIA Professor and IPG Director Max Stephenson and Bob Leonard, Professor of Theater in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech. Bauman received a Theater Communications Group grant to fund development of this production, which facilitated an introduction to Verdugo.
After Verdugo and Bauman had worked for some months to create the piece through a series of workshops with the actors, they had to switch gears at the height of the pandemic, and turned toward developing a Zoom version. Working with Dr. Stephenson and Molly Todd, a PhD candidate in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program, the group performed virtually over Zoom for a Virginia Tech audience on April 13, 2021, and that event established interest in staging the play at Virginia Tech once the pandemic had subsided.
Todd, an instructor in the Department of Political Science, has also participated as an audience member for the production’s performances in Tijuana, Mexico, to understand better how residents in that border city were reacting to the play. The production has also toured to Bethlehem, PA; Swarthmore, PA; Ossington, NY; Montclair, NJ; West Orange, NJ; San Diego, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; and Washington D.C., and its producers are currently considering future venue possibilities.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephenson and Professor Bob Leonard of the School of Performing Arts who have led many meetings during the past two years to bring this production to Virginia Tech. The CCC and IPG would also like to thank our many Virginia Tech sponsors who have contributed financial resources to make this brief residency and performance a reality:
- School of Performing Arts
- University Libraries
- College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
- College of Architecture, Arts, and Design
- Center for Humanities
- School of Public and International Affairs
- Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment
- Outreach and International Affairs
- Office of Inclusion and Diversity
- Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies
- Graduate School
- Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
- Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.