October 18, 2005
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138, email@example.com
The work of an award winning Chicano playwright is set to take stage at California State University, Bakersfield. Performances of Luis Alfaro’s “Electricidad” are scheduled Nov. 3-6 in the Doré Theatre on campus.
“Electricidad” is an adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy “Electra.”
Those familiar with the original work should not be deterred from seeing this version. In fact, Kenneth Elliott, CSUB theatre professor and director of the production, said, “This adaptation is extending the violence found in this Greek myth into a contemporary setting. And using this setting really resonates with people.”
Alfaro’s interpretation is set in an East Los Angeles barrio filled with gangs and generations of Latino immigrants. Spanish is spoken, but Spanglish, a combination of English and Spanish, is more dominant.
Electricidad is the “main heroine of the play in a sense,” said Elliott.
“But she is wrong-headed.” Electricidad’s mother, Clemencia, has murdered Electricidad’s father who was a gang leader. Elliott said Electricidad can’t forgive her mother. “She is consumed with avenging her father’s death,” he said. “She embraces the old ways that her father represented.”
Elliott said although Alfaro is not trying to justify Clemencia murdering her husband, “You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for her,” he explained. “Clemencia wanted to prove she could have power she never had while she was under her husband’s thumb. Alfaro is trying to create an understanding for why these cycles of violence go on.”
Although Alfaro’s tale seems to be one of great tragedy, it still shows more than a hint of wit. “It maintains a tragic and violent ending,”
Elliott explained. “But it contains topical humor.” For instance, Electricidad has stolen her father’s corpse from the cemetery and created a makeshift grave for him in her front yard.
The intensity this play demands has been quite a challenge for its leading lady. “Electricidad is an extremely complex character, whose thoughts and true motives I haven’t so easily gotten a hold of,” said Leah Espericueta.
“The script calls for such extremes so quickly, one right after the other.”
The senior theatre major said the play is really melodramatic. “But then you have lines like, ‘I’m gonna go use up my anytime minutes!’ in the same breath as ‘It’s your last breath que quiero!’ People should come see this play because it’s unlike anything Cal State or the majority of theatres around town have ever done before. We’re shouting out to Mexican-Americans in a town that has an abundance of us.”
Alfaro grew up in East Los Angeles and is writing about his own experiences to explore what is behind the behavior and stereotyping of the Latino community. “Stereotypes remain in place in part because people tend to avoid telling complex stories about the kind of people that get portrayed as stereotypes,” Alfaro has said. “Changing stereotypes depends on telling stories about those who are usually reduced to a simple image that supposedly tells everything about that person and his or her culture.”
The playwright won the MacArthur Fellowship or “genius grant” in 1997. The award is issued by the MacArthur Foundation each year to individuals who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” He won a $230,000 no-strings-attached grant for his strength as a writer and organizer.
In the 2002-03 season “Electricidad” was one of six plays to win the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays. The fund's mission is to “help ensure the continued vitality of American theater by supporting its emerging playwrights.”
“Electricidad” opens in the Doré Theatre at the CSUB campus on Thursday, Nov. 3 for a six-performance run. The curtain will rise at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 3-5, with two matinee performances Nov. 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. Following the Sunday matinee, Elliott will have a talk-back with the audience to discuss the play.
Cost is $10 general admission, $8 for faculty, staff and senior citizens, and $5 for students with identification. For tickets, please call the Doré Theatre Box office at (661) 654-3150. For more information, please contact Elliott at (661) 654-2256.