Tierra y Libertad | KCET
This exclusive web extra features Joe Grimm and Phil Lamarr performing an excerpt from "Tierra y Libertad," a play by Ricardo Flores Magón, as well as an interview with Colin Campbell, stage director of "Variedades: The Ballad of Ricardo Flores Magón."
Tell us about the variety show format today?
Well the variety show right away breaks rules of theater because it's a variety of acts, it's a variety of forms. So the audience comes in, they don't see a straight play, they don't see a music group, they don't see a spoken word artist or a visual artist, or a dance piece, they see all of them. And that's exciting to me, because it awakes the form. People coming to the theater, they have no idea what the next act is going to be. And so that's exciting to me.
How did you start to bring together these different elements?
The way we put this variety show together was we first looked at the writings of Ricardo Flores Magón, and one of his central pieces was a play, "Tierra y Libertad," and so I wanted to right away stage that. Obviously just a scene of it, because it's a variety show, so I showed the scene that I felt was the most indicative of his voice and what he wanted the audience to hear. He has these great speeches by Marcos.Then Ruben has a collection of musical artists that he is friends with, and it's really about inviting the right mix. Who would fit into this variety show? Who would bring an interesting voice different from somebody else? Hopefully, we have a very eclectic mix of artists coming and sharing their work.
Chicano/Son -- Marco, who you'll hear from later -- is an anarchist, so it's a natural fit. And Los Illegals is a natural fit, coming from a punk scene from the 70s, they have an anarchist spirit, in whatever they do. So they're a perfect fit. Marisoul was not an immediate perfect fit. We thought, we'd love to invite Marisoul, she's such a fantastic performer but is anarchy right for her? And then working with Quetzal, the music director, they came up with "Shoplifters of the World Unite", which is perfect. And we knew she would bring a unique take on that song, so it made sense to have her.
Why is it important to invoke Magón's name in 2012?
It's important that we invoke Magón's name, his writings, his work in 2012 because it's part of a hidden history in Los Angeles, and it just erupted last year with all the protests: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Downtown LA, and there is a feeling out there that the system needs to be changed. And there are a lot of idealists out there who want to change it. But we don't have an awareness as a society, as a culture, of the roots we have in these idealistic constructs that go all the way back to Magón, so it's important now that we know this history of protests, of idealists who want to change the system because it gives us a bedrock.
There is a humorous, Brechtian quality to the show. Why did you choose that for the Magón material?
The Magón material has a lot of Brechtian qualities, there is no fourth wall, we have direct access to the audience, we're giving a political message. And part of the Brechtian ideal is to get the audience to take direct political action. We're there to give them radical political ideas from which to act upon. Part of the way to get the audience to open up to these radical political ideas is through humor. So in the show we have humor and it gets the audience warmed up, it's a fun show, it's a very inviting show, let's all go out and change the government.