“Hola! Bueno, when I was a transvestite and prostitute, my name was Hilda.”
This is one of the first lines spoken in Muse & Morros, a show generated by three men who have been working together on a concoction of comedy, politics and social commentary for three decades now. In fact, for the men of Culture Clash, this show is part of their 30th anniversary victory lap, and their first run in Boston since 2005.
Like the line quoted above, all of their work proceeds in a similar fashion; Culture Clash appears to be unflinchingly willing to dive head first into taboo topics, hot button language and naked portrayals of race. We witnessed this first hand when clashers Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas visited Boston in December to prepare for this current show. Visiting with a group of young adults at the Hyde Square Task Force HQ in Jamaica Plain, I was at first alarmed at the topics they were breaching in front of students, but then quickly impressed by how effective it became. At the end of the hour, kids who had seemed entirely unimpressed when the evening began applauded in a way that suggested that they felt empowered, that their voice had been heard. (Some of this night can be seen in this short documentary we produced about Culture Clash).
It makes sense that they operate with a masterful air about them, this is clearly not their first rodeo. Forming in San Francisco in 1984, their stage antics landed them a television program on FOX in the early nineties (but, like a lot of the best programming on TV, it was canceled before it could find its audience). In 1989, Ric Salinas was shot outside his Mission District apartment while trying to bust up a fight. After his recovery, the writing took a more dramatic turn, and the troupe’s legendary Bowl of Beings was born. They’ve been called “The Marx Brothers meet the Rolling Stones” by America Theatre and “heroes and geniuses” by actor Tom Hanks(!), to list just two of their many accolades.
There is tendency for this kind of long form, slow-burning, multi-decade art to get swallowed up by the instant, click-bait culture that powers the internet, and we’d like to implore you to fight against that movement by visiting the world of Culture Clash this month. Starting Thursday, the show will run for the majority of March. The tagline you’ll see on the poster is “Real stories from Americans in the margins”, not “When this Chicano comedy troupe transforms into a myriad of outrageous characters YOU WON’T BELIEVE what happens!” and that’s entirely on purpose. This is a show you’ll want to sit with, discuss, and think about for weeks to come. When’s the last time you said something like that about an article you read on Buzzfeed?
Post by Ryan Walsh
Marketing & Communications Manager, ArtsEmerson