A few words with a Culture Clasher

A few words with a Culture Clasher

A few words with a Culture Clasher
Photo courtesy LA Theatre Works
via The Hollywood Reporter
Richard Montoya, author of our upcoming, season-closing show American Night: the Ballad of Juan José, has become known for satirizing aspects of society, especially as founding member of the comedy troupe Culture Clash. Recently, Marketing Assistant Vicente Guzman-Orozco had the chance to ask him some questions about the show and Portland:
Vicente Guzman-Orozco: What are some of the stronger
reactions you have encountered throughout your history creating provocative
works?
Richard Montoya: We’ve performed in hard core
red country – Tea Party land – we love it – its exciting, but we will not be
bullied in the theater. The problem with the far right is that they are so
thin skinned – we laugh at ourselves – the other side of the aisle does not do
that so well – I see Obama laugh all the time – I never see Rush or O’Reilly
laugh – Jon Stewart: a laugher! Our politics and satire have always worked
best when there is a laugh or an emotion connected to it; it serves to make
human, in this case, Juan José –  in this fashion we take back the town hall
where not the loudest voice is heard but maybe the funniest or most sincere.

VGO: There have been attempts
recently to embrace revisionist history (Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Georgia,
Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) that became national news. In
your view, why is that happening now?

RM: If you take slavery out of the
history books we are doomed to repeat it – some might argue that the I-5
corridor from Seattle to Portland is a human trafficking zone – and it might be
– we may be closer to repeating history that we thought – and remove history? 
A very scary thing – Culture Clash plays were banned in Arizona – we felt very close to another part of
history where books were burned – history is our greatest too for not repeating
dark chapters of our past.
VGO: What has changed since the 2010 premiere at OSF?
RM: Since 2010 there have been 2 high school versions, which kick major butt; shows in La Jolla, Denver, LA, Oakland, Yale Rep and a live cast recording! I’ve learned
a lot – keeping it fresh – the headlines on race and class are moving fast; we
need to keep pace – Emmett Till is there as a warning – a
reminder that Ferguson and Washington State are keeping us from moving forward
as a united nation.
   
VGO: Do you have any thoughts or
predictions on
American Night being performed in what’s often referred as the
“whitest big city in the country”?
RM: I really want Juan José to
brush up against the Portlandia hipsters – in LA and San Francisco’s Mission
district the hipsters have pushed everybody out  – so while there might
be an upscale Latin fusion eatery there are no Mexican families any more – no artists!!  
It becomes a cultural tourism –
where we sample something but not the real thing …

I was impressed with Portland
because I met so many people that had actually helped build the city – all the
little pubs and cafes and bookstores were owned and operated by, yeah some
white kids, maybe hipster. But I met multi-cultural people in the mix but mostly
people that deeply cared and helped make Portland one of the most interesting
cities and destinations in the country – that’s different than a kid with a CBGB
t-shirt on pissing on your mother’s lawn who never walked a foot in the Bowery
of NYC where CBGB was or cares that the ‘hood he’s urinating on was home to Chicano families as well as the likes of Upton Sinclair! All true in my
neighborhood of Echo park in LA – I felt there
was a measure of respect in Portland. 
From that we can build and tell
our story of immigrants then go have a pint at the pub and head bang a bit!
Don’t miss Richard Montoya’s thought- and laughter-provoking show, which will have its Portland premiere this May 1 (preview April 30). Join us for a post-show conversation with the playwright on May 2nd, and maybe join him for a pint afterwards!