Carne y Arena-Inspired Conversations About Immigration Now Online

Carne y Arena may be closed, but the conversation about immigration carries on.
Carne y Arena may be closed, but the conversation about immigration carries on. Kyle Harris
Along with most large-scale indoor events around Denver, Carne y Arenathe semi-documentary, virtual-reality experience from Birdman director Alejandro G.  Iñárritu at the Hangar at Stanley Marketplace — has been temporarily shut down under Level Red COVID-19 restrictions.

And that's a shame, because Carne y Arena is emotional, smart and transformative, bringing to life the wars, gang and domestic violence, and poverty that many Central American refugees are trying to escape by crossing the border. The visceral production gives viewers the closest thing that art can deliver to a firsthand experience of what it's like to be detained while migrating into the United States.

"I would love for every adult in Colorado to experience Carne y Arena," says Bryant Palmer, the chief storyteller at Stanley Marketplace, a space that's home to trendy restaurants and boutiques but has also proven itself to be one of the most innovative contemporary art venues in the Denver area.

For now, though, no one can experience the installation in person, and Palmer isn't sure when it will reopen; the Stanley team is talking with the producers of Carne y Arena to see if it can stay beyond January. And in the meantime, they've been working with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Carne y Arena's producers to host a series of virtual events about the issues addressed by the production.

The first, at noon today, Friday, December 4, is a conversation between three of the most-produced Latinx playwrights: Luis Alfaro, José Cruz González and Karen Zacarías. They will discuss sharing Latinx-centered stories on stage and talk about the issues of dealing with trauma through productions like Carne y Arena.

Tune in below:

There will also be a soon-to-be-scheduled Motus Theater production in the UndocuMonologues: Stories From Our Undocumented Neighbors series, in which congressional representatives Joe Neguse and Jason Crow will read the stories of undocumented immigrants and then discuss what it was like to perform those monologues. Uruguayan musician Elisa Garcia will respond to each reading through song.

The series of virtual events will wrap up at 1 p.m Tuesday, January 19, with "Response(Art)ability and Leadership in Continued Times of Injustice," two virtual roundtable discussions hosted by the Latino Cultural Arts Center (LCAC) with the Biennial of the Americas, the Denver Art Museum and History Colorado. Artist, musician and Westword MasterMind Molina Speaks will perform poems between conversations about art, culture, technology, immigration, politics, activism and more.

While Carne y Arena remains shuttered, the Stanley Marketplace is open for shopping and takeout dining, and has instituted the campaign, allowing shoppers to buy from multiple merchants with one click.

"Denver is in a make-or-break month for those businesses," says Palmer. And while management is doing everything it can right now to support them, he adds, it's looking forward to bringing back a robust arts and performance schedule as soon as that is safe. After all, art has always been critical to the Stanley's mission.

"In the very early days, we thought, 'What is going to make this project successful?'" Palmer recalls. "We wanted to be a beacon for the arts and do whatever we can do to be an arts-focused place. It’s one of the things that brings community together."

For more information about this series of virtual events, go to the Carne y Arena website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris