After 27 years of showing “Zoot Suit,” Casa Zapata has changed its annual play programming this year to “Watsonville: Some Place Not Here” by Stanford artist-in-residence Cherríe Moraga.
The play, opening this Friday, showcases the lives of Latina cannery workers experiencing substandard living conditions and also explores the themes of lesbianism, cultural identity and immigration. The break from tradition came after a series of town hall meetings, according to Casa Zapata’s ethnic theme associates (ETAs).
“Last year’s ETAs held a town hall to talk about the future of theater here,” said ETA Erica McDowell ’16. “It was mostly people who had been in ‘Zoot Suit’ or had lived in Casa Zapata who came to that. And we talked about what it would look like to do ‘Zoot Suit’ again versus exploring something else.”
Despite varying opinions among town hall attendees, the ETAs decided to produce “Watsonville.” ETA Peter Madsen ’16 said they aimed to open up their horizons to new themes and groups.
“We just wanted to have the opportunity to explore different Latino perspectives,” Madsen said. “This play focuses much more heavily on women than ‘Zoot Suit’ did.”
Madsen said that to the best of his knowledge, Zapata’s annual play is the only consistent Latino theater on campus. Another thing that sets this annual tradition apart is that it is almost fully produced and performed by students. This year, professional actress and director Wilma Bonet, the director of the production, is the only person outside the Stanford community called in to help.
Bonet said she is able to work around students’ busy schedules but still push them as actors to produce the best final result.
“I understand their limitations… and one of their biggest limitations is midterms and schoolwork,” she said. “I think that I’ve been putting up with it pretty well, so I think that’s why they keep calling me back.”
Bonet urges students to watch the play “to see a slice of history that exists and is fading quickly.”
“Because of these [cannery] strikes, our food is being moved around to cheaper areas like Mexico and Central America, and that means that our food is going to come back altered in some form,” she added.
The show is open to the public and will be performed at 8 p.m. on the Zapata side of Stern Dining on Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28.
Contact Tristan Vanech at tvanech ‘at’ stanford.edu.