Arts and Culture

Now Showing: Tony Garcia and Tria Xiong

For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide, we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today, we hear from independent theater directors Tony Garcia and Tria Xiong.

See also: Now Showing: Chip Walton and Brian Freeland.

Tony Garcia, Executive Artistic Director, Su Teatro.

Tony Garcia recently celebrated his fortieth year with Su Teatro, Denver's premier Chicano and Latino theater, which he grew up with and eventually shaped into one our most important theatrical powerhouses locally. Su Teatro upholds the diversity of the Southwest with music, heart-wrenching drama and a lot of winks. That's right -- winks, because humor is Su Teatro's and Garcia's secret weapon, in addition to just being what makes the world go around.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?  

My generation of Latino theater makers was motivated by the Chicano Civil Rights movementl however, we were also, like many in our generation, in search of our identity. That search led us to explore an aesthetic that was unique at the time. It was bilingual, multiracial and merged urban and rural sensibilities. It was eclectic and held no ironclad bond to the Western European canon. What is so exciting about today is that approach is now the norm. That firewall that existed then, that forced us to constantly contextualize our approach, has fallen. This, then, has allowed artists in my field -- a field that has merged to overlap multiple disciplines and to include all culture and arts community builders -- we can now approach so many new and interesting conversations. We can be part of the dialogue, without having to prove we have the right to speak. Sounds silly, but we were trailblazers, because the trail was always being blocked. What is exciting is that the  present journey no longer requires an established trail.

What could be done to improve the scene?   

We still are holding to the concept of 25 years ago that there is one centralized place ( the downtown area) where art lives, and that everything circles and evolves from there. We place our resources there accordingly. That is no longer the reality. People are creating in a myriad of locations and feature a number of approaches. The old centralized and concentrated art-establishment vortex was tied to a business model of the downtown being the central business district and people gravitating to that space. Presently and increasingly, the economic center as well as the cultural and artistic center rotates. I am saying this after Su Teatro has moved to the center of the synergistic Santa Fe Arts District, but in reality, Su Teatro created art for 21 years in a tiny neighborhood space six blocks from the stockyards. We hosted national artists and created significant work in that old school building. A vast improvement would be in our looking at developing a concept for 25 years from now. Why can't every neighborhood large and small have a space where they come together to celebrate with equal passion the experiences that the arts offer? Our pre-Columbian ancestors believed that no community was complete without a "cuicacalli" -- literally, "a house for their drum," or, as we call it today, an arts center. This is happening already, but I would like to see this concept that defines ourselves us as a city and as a metropolitan area. It should be our mindset that quality art exists in every corner of our city. It is not segmented so the good stuff is downtown and only those in that space can experience it.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career? 

I have been inspired mostly by my community. Our most powerful stories are those of regular people. I have been asked to write a number of biographies or stories with historical people. I really don't find them as interesting as the people who makes things happen on an everyday basis. I don't want my characters to speak in prose that shows that they read the dictionary that morning. I am inspired by the poetry in the everyday, the drama in the mundane and the might in the meek. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances are stories that interest me. I am inspired by the audience experience to live performance; I am driving to duplicate the emotional, intellectual and spiritual experience that I have for everyone seated in our house. Because a work of art moves me and transforms me, I want people to have that opportunity to be moved and transformed by that work of art.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season? 

I am excited about Placas, by Paul Flores, which Su Teatro will present in the spring. It is a story of redemption as a former gang member goes through the process of tattoo ( placas) removal as a means of reclaiming his life and family. Paul spent years interviewing gang members in El Salvador as well as their counterparts in the Bay area. I want to see 5 Points Wrapped Around My Soul, by The Source, I really dig that '60s rhythm and blues. I have a lot of friends from the coast who are in Just like Us at the Denver Center; they are very excited about the development that playwright Karen Zacarias has made since the reading last spring. My favorite Chicano/Chileno hip-hop/rap/world-music band Debajo del Agua will be releasing a new album in December, and lastly, Chicano Studies at Metro will be honoring visual artist Alma Lopez as the Richard T. Castro Distinguished Professor next month.   Visit Su Teatro online for more information.

Continue reading for our interview with Tria Xiong. Tria Xiong, Artistic Co-Director, Theatre Esprit Asia.

Tria Xiong is half of the duo (with Maria Cheng) that leads the new company Theatre Esprit Asia in Aurora. Essentially, TEA -- a rarity of all rarities -- does for Asian voices what Su Teatro does for Latino ones: produces original works with Asian themes while supporting Asian actors. What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

I love seeing small theaters like ours, Theatre Esprit Asia, fill a much-needed void.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Big theaters that have the visibility and weight in this town could do more to showcase/represent the diversity of culture and people in this town. Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

My business partner, Maria Cheng, has been the most inspiring person in my artistic career today. She came out of retirement to help me build this wonderful theater company; she writes and directs, sits on the board of our company and has been handling the majority of the administration. On top of all that she does, what inspires me most about her is her need for success, need for artistic expression and the willingness to risk rejection. I really respect that in another person, perhaps because I share the same beliefs.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

The Athena Project -- empowering and fostering women in the arts.   Learn more about Theatre Esprit Asia at the website.

Visit the Fall Arts Guide archive for all of our Now Showing artist profiles.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd