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History pushes and pulls in ‘Cascarones’

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Cristina Vigil is shown in a scene from “Cascarones” at Teatro Paraguas in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Paulo T. Photography)

Cristina Vigil is shown in a scene from “Cascarones” at Teatro Paraguas in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Paulo T. Photography)

Mary Margaret Caceres is an 18-year-old San Antonio, Texas, transit worker who encounters visions of Coronado as she copes with life.

A play by Irma Mayorga, “Cascarones” examines the conflicts of a present impacted by the past. A collaboration between Santa Fe’s Teatro Paraguas and DNAWORKS, the production opens Thursday, Sept. 4.

An associate professor of theater and performing arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts, director Daniel Banks discovered the play in a 2003 workshop at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.

“The characters live in multiple time zones,” he said in a telephone interview from Santa Fe. “There’s an awareness of how history pushes and pulls at every moment.”

The central character Mary Margaret is not only aware of history, she experiences reveries where she enters the past, he added. She encounters and interacts with John Wesley Powell – explorer and mapper of the Grand Canyon, which she visited as a child – as well as the Spanish explorer Coronado.

“She tries to impact the power of history by teaching them better information about the people they are going to impact,” Banks said.

“Cascarones” is not about victimization, he insisted. It’s about re-integrating history into the present so that people remember where they came from.

“I feel like I’ve lived in multiple time zones,” Banks said. “I’m in the present, but I’m thinking of something that happened in the past. It’s like layers of parchment.”

Mayorga has never seen a full production of the play.

“She’s never had Chicano actors in Chicano parts,” Banks said. “When I got to New Mexico and I heard Spanish speech patterns, I thought, ‘These are Irma’s characters.’”

Cascarones are confetti eggs used at Easter in Mexico and in parts of the Southwest, particularly San Antonio, Texas.

“The central metaphor of the play is that the family and the community and the society are both celebratory and fragile,” Banks said.

The cast includes Nicholas Ballas, Nicole Gramlich, Jonathan Harrell, Marcos Kelly, Roger Montoya, Bernadette Peña and Cristina Vigil. Mayorga will be in Santa Fe during rehearsals as an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute.

An assistant professor of theater at Dartmouth College, Mayorga earned the first doctorate by a Latino/Latina in the history of the Stanford University drama department. Her research includes contemporary theater and performance by people of color, women’s theater and performance, Chicana and Chicano expressive culture and U.S. Latino/Latina identity and representation. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Chicana Stages: Performance, Theatricality, Chicana Expressive Culture.”

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