Culture Clash publishes 'Oh, Wild West!' trilogy
Culture Clash, the seriously irreverent L.A.-based Chicano/Latino performance troupe, has tailored site-specific stage works for cities across the United States. But California has always been home base for the trio of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza, who started clowning around in the Bay Area in the 1980s and later migrated to Los Angeles.
Now Theatre Communications Group press has published the troupe's magnum opus of stagecraft dealing with the Golden State, "Oh, Wild West! -- The California Plays," a $16.95 paperback, illustrated with photos.
For many L.A. theatergoers, two of the included works are fondly etched in memory, thanks to their world premiere productions at the Mark Taper Forum, which commissioned them. "Chavez Ravine" (2003), dramatizes and parodies the power plays that led to the destruction of a historic Chicano neighborhood and, eventually, the building of Dodger Stadium. "Water & Power" (2006) is a film noir-ish cautionary tale about -- among other things -- race, L.A. and the unintended consequences that can result from unholy alliances between businessmen and politicos.
The third work in the trilogy, "Zorro in Hell!" which reenvision's California's early-adolescent phase through the masked eyes of the sword-wielding hero, premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2006.
The new collection includes an essay about "Zorro" by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone and an interview of Montoya about "Chavez Ravine" by John Glore, associate artistic director of South Coast Repertory.
And there's a preface by Montoya, the trio's principal writer, pondering pop-culture images of the Wild West, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Beats and Russell Means. "The grim pioneer is at the door again," Montoya writes, "and he looks a lot like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- we need a barroom fight; we need to laugh."
He can say that again.
-- Reed Johnson
Photo: Culture Clash's Ric Salinas, left, Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza onstage. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times