Baktun 12 leads a lineup of diverse polit-performances at Monterey Live.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Underground culture is a trip. It rails against the mainstream, but is partly defined by it. It is insular, but prides itself on being diverse. It abounds with conflict. It also sees, explores, and speaks on things that polite society would rather not. From apartheid protest songs to anti-war street theater, gay rights parades to public radio, political-hip-hop to prog blogs, the underground often helps position tomorrow’s moral stance.
Costa Nostra’s promotions pointman and musician Vito Triglia knows a thing or two about underground culture. As a student event coordinator at CSU Monterey Bay, he alligned the school’s Black Box Cabaret as a viable spot for underground acts to stop between Los Angeles and San Francisco— during his three-year tenure he channeled a stream of bands like LA’s Living Legends and Mexico’s Fecta Core, and speakers like Jello Biafra through the sleepy campus.
Today Triglia, 25, sits in a chair in front of the empty stage at Monterey Live that his performers will soon occupy. That audience will come to see his latest endeavor— the eighth show he’s put together at the downtown venue, and likely his most unique: an agitprop Chicano-centric music/theater show called Social Action Teatro.
“There’s nothing like theater,” he says. “You get away with a lot in theater that would get filtered out of TV or film or a music label. There’s something electric about it.” Triglia admits that he’s more versed in music than in theater, but his approach to art is broad, with an emphasis on its ability to bring people together in one place.
“People don’t know how disconnected they are, he says, because TV gives the illusion that they aren’t alone. But there is no substitute for human beings gathering together.”
His enthusiasm for the arts and for community in general is informed by his political zeal— Triglia is as comfortable talking social justice as he is sax chords. “Working people create wealth,” he says. “Without maids, without farmworkers, without truckers, things stop.” The Social Action Teatro show reflects that focus.
Starting off the party is Salinas’ ska-jazz band The Simmer Downs, for whom Triglia plays sax. After their opening salvo they will be joined by The Brassmatics, the horn section for the reggae/ska/punk band Wasted Noise. This is one of the few purely musical acts slated for this show.
Next in the line-up is the San Juan Bautista-based music/theater/slam poetry group now called Indigenous Caos, started by Dorothy Martinez’ grandfather in 1976. “He performed for farmworkers on back of a flatbed truck,” she says, “and worked with Teatro Campesino and Cesar Chavez. My family was nourished on Luis Valdez like menudo.”
The core of Indigenous Caos has long been made up of Martinez’s family— four generations worth. The youngest current member is 6 years old.
“None of us have had professional schooling,” says Martinez. “Our formal training has been in the street, in front of people.” They will perform signature pieces like “Cali Corps” and “Good Morning, Aztlan,” both no-holds-barred political vignettes.
Oakland’s multicultural performance trio, Head Rush, seek to link topical social commentary to history, adding relevance to both. On speakoutnow.org, stand-up comedian Bill Santiago salutes their live show’s “youthful dynamism, political consciousness and humor.”
The anchor performance thoroughly blends the mixed formats around a unified message of awareness and activism. Baktun 12 is a guerilla theater/music collective of activists, actors, MCs, DJs and comrades in art who met, grew up, studied and presently live in Salinas. Citing Cesar Chavez and Luis Valdez as their inspiration, actor Rafael Garcia, 33, describes an ambitious plan. “It’s going to be a variety show with sketch pieces, political satire, making fun of prejudices, of ourselves and society,” he says. “We’re gonna do some hip-hop. We’re bringing in Dubwize from Salinas to back us up with hip-hop, rock and reggae music.”
Garcia says that Baktun 12 tends to use theater for satire and hip-hop for the angry stuff. In both instances, though, the focus is on Chicano culture and local issues.
“When we get mad, we want to explore that anger constructively,” says Garcia. Stanzas like “I want reparations for the Aztlan nation/ and Africans who were taken from their civilizations” from their song “Sick of It All” are tempered by comical theater skits like “SuperChicana vs. Governator” in which a super-hero Latina and her sidekick do battle with Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Triglia is excited about the prospect of bringing this kind of show to the heart of downtown Monterey. Six of his prior shows at Monterey Live sold out.
“My shows have a tendency of clearing out the chairs,” he laughs, sitting among rows of orderly seats. His unassumming small-town manners belie his drive. “I’ve done shows that are just fun, which is great. But I think people are also starved for something that says something. This is a real experiment for us all.”
In the future he wants to add local visual artists and filmmakers into the cultural stew. He also wants to do all-ages shows, which he says would access an under-served segment of the community. But he doesn’t like to talk much about things that haven’t come to pass.
He quotes from Shakespeare: “Action is eloquence.”
THE SOCIAL ACTION TEATRO show starts at 9pm Saturday, June 30, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. $5. 877-548-3237 or visit montereylive.com or myspace.com/costanostrapresents.com