Cultural quakes

Cultural quakes

‘Evangeline REMIXED,’ featuring Louie Perez and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, draws parallels to a different time

By Victor Payan 04/11/2013

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Los Lobos’ multitalented songwriter, drummer and guitarist Louie Perez remembers crossing the bridge from East LA to the West Side as a youth to see his first rock concert.  It was the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience performance at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 14, 1968.

For a teenage Chicano venturing out of the barrio two days before Mexican Independence Day, this would provide a glimpse into a magical revolution he knew he needed to be a part of.

Fans of that revolution and of Los Lobos’ own brand of revolución musical will have a chance to see the two visions meet in a special sneak preview performance of “Evangeline REMIXED,” a new touring version of local theater company About Productions’ critically acclaimed play set in the tumultuous year of 1968.

The performance, which features a live rock band fronted by Perez and band mate David Hidalgo, takes place on Wednesday at the First Congregational Church of Pasadena. 

Co-written by Perez with About Productions’ Artistic Director Theresa Chavez and Associate Director Rose Portillo, “Evangeline REMIXED” is a semi-autobiographical exploration of crossing the great divide separating East LA from the cultural revolution taking place in Hollywood.

It is also about what it meant to young Chicanos facing their own battles for civil rights, education, cultural pride and refusing to be funneled into a questionable war.

Perez says working on the script gave him a new relationship to the stage and to the writing process.
“I was used to getting in and out in three minutes,” says Perez, “so this is a different process. But it’s very cool and challenging. They’re kind of the same muscles, but they’re getting worked out in a different way.”

For co-creator Chavez, the play explores not only the cultural and generational divides, but also the opportunities available to Chicano students and young women in the ’60s, a subject which is very relevant in light of the activism of today’s students around the DREAM Act and the “War on Women” that is currently raging in Washington.

“Even though it’s set 45 years ago, it’s all very present, so it’s not just a history piece,” says Chavez.

Seen through the eyes of a young Chicana seeking to redefine her role in a new era, “Evangeline REMIXED” features a great selection of ’60s music and revved up songs from Los Lobos’ 40-year catalog.

“To me, it’s like seeing the characters who have populated these songs have suddenly come to life, and that’s an incredible experience,” says Perez.

The talented young cast, which includes Catherine Ladstone as Evangeline and standout Karen Anzoategui as her feisty friend, Rita, moves the story along quickly.

The cast also includes Portillo as a concerned mother trying to protect her family from the dangers of the outside world in the wake of the sudden death of her husband.

In addition to the great music and the strong performances, the audience gets a chance to peek into other cultural quakes, such as the upstart Southern California pop art scene that challenged New York’s artistic dominance in the fine art world. In one scene, an iconic Ed Ruscha painting greets the characters like an enigmatic messenger of change.
About Productions includes youth workshops in the creative process through its Young Theaterworks and intergenerational Through the Ages workshops that create and perform original short plays based on interviews between local youth and elders.

The company received funding from the Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division for its local production, which also includes a free morning show for high school youth. Spaces are still available for the morning show, and Chavez wants to spread the word to local schools about the free performance.

“Evangeline REMIXED” is also scheduled to tour the Central Valley communities of Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced and Folsom, and both Perez and Chavez understand the importance of bringing this piece to underserved youth in communities far from the cultural centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Chavez also hopes to connect “Evangeline REMIXED” with sponsors or benefactors who will help realize the Central Valley tour and youth workshops.  
And while funding theatrical productions is always a challenge, Chavez says a good way to support this project is to come see the performance on Wednesday and to make donations on the About Productions Web site, aboutpd.org.  
“Evangeline REMIXED” is a definite treat for Los Lobos fans who get to experience songs from the band’s 40-year catalog in a fresh, new way. The live music takes center stage, and the opportunity to see Louie Perez and David Hidalgo rip it up in an intimate setting is more than worth the price of admission.

The Pasadena sneak peek performance of “Evangeline REMIXED” is at  7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the First Congregational Church of Pasadena, 464 E. Walnut St. Tickets are $15 general/$10 students and seniors.  Admission includes a post-play discussion with Perez, Hidalgo and members of the cast.

Victor Payan is a cultural critic and multidisciplinary artist. Visit his Web site, victorpayan.com

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