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Sounds of Cultura: La Esquinita, USA

Airdate: February 16, 2017
La Esquinita, USA is a play about a small border town in decline after the big factory employer leaves for China. We'll talk to actor and playwright Rubén C. González, who portrays 11 different characters in the production.

Guests:
  • Rubén C. González - Actor and playwright
Category: Sounds of Cultura

Keywords: Sounds of Cultura, art, play,

View Transcript
IN SOUNDS OF CULTURA S-O- C, LA ESQUINITA, U-S-A IS A PLAY ABOUT A SMALL BORDER TOWN IN DECLINE AFTER THE BIG FACTORY EMPLOYER LEAVES FOR CHINA. ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT RUBEN GONZALEZ, PORTRAYS 11 DIFFERENT CHARACTERS IN THE PRODUCTION. JOINING ME HERE NOW IS RUBEN GONZALEZ. WELCOME, RUBEN, TO "HORIZONTE." I KNOW THE PLAY WAS WRITTEN IN 2010 ORIGINALLY. BUT IT IS HARD NOT TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW WITH THE FACTORY MOVING TO CHINA. TELL US AS THOUGH WHAT YOU WERE INTENDING TO DO WITH THIS.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: PART OF IT IS SEEING HOW WHEN BIG BUSINESS MAKES DECISIONS LIKE THIS AND HOW IT AFFECTS A COMMUNITY AND WHAT THAT DOES TO THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF WHICH COMMUNITY AND NOT JUST ON THE PHYSICAL PLAIN BUT INTERNALLY WHAT IT DOES TO US AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH OTHER. THAT IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WANT PEOPLE TO GET FROM THIS PLAY; WHAT IT DOES TO US INTERNALLY AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS TO THE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY AND HOW WE RELATE TO EACH OTHER ESPECIALLY WHEN PUT IN A POSITION OF SURVIVAL.

JOSE: I SAID IT WAS WRITTEN ORIGINALLY IN 2010 BUT THE PLAY REFERS TO EVENTS THAT OCCURRED IN 1960.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: YES, THE BIG TIRE FACTORY IS THE ONE THAT CLOSED DOWN AND IT WAS THE RIPPLE EFFECT. IF YOU THINK ABOUT REAGAN ECONOMICS AND WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH THE TRICKLE DOWN EFFECTS. THAT WAS A WHILE AGO. YOU SO IT STILL HAPPENING NOW IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF OUR COUNTRY.

JOSE: IT IS SET OVER THE COURSE OF A DECADE. YOU PLAY THE NARRATOR. WE HAVE PICTURES OF SOME OF THE CHARACTERS. IF YOU WANT TO PUT THEM ON THE SCREEN AND TALK ABOUT THEM AND THEN TALK ABOUT THE SPECIFICS. WHAT IS THIS CHARACTER REPRESENTING? LOOKS LIKE HE HAS JUMPER CABLES AROUND HIS NECK.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: THIS IS SOMEBODY WHO HAS HAD A ROUGH LIFE. HE IS JUST GETTING OUT OF PEN AND HIS WIFE NEEDS CARE AT THE CLINIC. THE KID DANIEL, WHO WE SEE THE SHOW THROUGH HIS EYES, HE HAS IDEAS ON WHO SOMEONE LIKE HE IS. THE NARRATOR TELLS THE STORY OF WHO HE IS DANIEL IS TAKEN BACK BY THE MAN'S HISTORY. WE HAVE STEREOTYPES AND WE PUSH THEM TO THE SIDE AND SAY THAT IS WHAT HE IS. BUT WHEN YOU FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM AND WHY HE IS THE WAY HE IS THE KID DANIEL HAS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE OF WHY THE GUY IS THE WAY HE IS. WE DO THAT ALL THE TIME IN THIS COUNTRY. THEY ARE MUSLIM SO THEY ARE THIS WAY.

JOSE: WE WILL PUT UP ANOTHER PICTURE OF ANOTHER CHARACTER. TELL US ABOUT THIS CHARACTER.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: THAT IS DANIEL. THAT IS THE 18-YEAR-OLD KID THAT WE SEE THE SHOW THROUGH HIS EYES AND HE IS THE ONE LEARNING THESE LESSONS. THE ENTIRE SHOW TAKES PLACE AT THE CORNER. IT IS ALSO THE CORNERS IN OUR MIND THAT GO INTO WHAT WE SHOVE EACH OTHER INTO. THIS IS DANIEL. THIS IS THE STORY. IT WOULD HAVE WORKED THERE. BUT DANIEL IS AN ONLY CHILD. HE IS AFFECTED BY LIVING IN THE TOWN AND THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS DEVASTATING IN THE TOWN. HE IS JUST A PRODUCT OF THE COMMUNITY. SO YOU SEE DANIEL STRUGGLE THROUGH THESE THINGS. DANIEL GOES THROUGH THIS JOURNEY AND I THINK THE POWER OF THIS SHOW IS THAT DANIEL IS ALL OUR CHILDREN, YOU KNOW. IT IS US, TOO. AND THE THINGS WE STRUGGLE WITH. WE JUST HAPPEN TO SEE IT THROUGH THE EYES OF A YOUNG MAN.

JOSE: WE FOUND ONE MORE CHARACTER WE WANT TO PUT ON THE SCREEN AND HAVE YOU TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON?

RUBEN GONZALEZ: THAT IS YOLANDA THE GIRLFRIEND OF THE NARRATOR. SHE WAS A COMMUNITY LEADER AND TRYING TO KEEP EVERYBODY TOGETHER WHEN THE TIRE FACTORY SHUTDOWN. SHE SAW ONCE THE FACTORY MOVED THERE WAS FIGHTING BETWEEN THE AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND MEXICANS THAT LIVED THERE. WHEN THEY USED TO WORK TOGETHER THEY WERE FINE. THEY WERE NEIGHBORS. BUT AS SOON AS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE COMPANY, THE MAIN SOURCE LEADING, PEOPLE STARTED TO FRACTURE IN THE COMMUNITY. WE TEND TO LOOK FOR THE DIFFERENCES IN EACH OTHER AS OPPOSED TO THE THINGS THAT ARE THE SAME. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS AND THE UNFORTUNATE THING THAT HAPPENS. A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS IS A TOWN LIKE OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA. OAKLAND WAS A PORT TOWN, THRIVING AND THE INDUSTRY LEFT AND YOU SEE THE FRACTURING HAPPENING. IT IS A BROWN AND BLACK TOWN.

JOSE: YOU HAD A BLACK CHARACTER IN THIS. TELL US ABOUT THE ONE WE WERE TALKING ABOUT EARLIER IN PARTICULAR.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: WELL, DANIEL'S GIRLFRIEND IS BLACK. THAT IS THE BIG, YOU KNOW, THE BIG AH-HA MOMENT AT THE END OF IT. SO HIS FRIENDS FIND OUT HE HAS BEEN DATING THIS BLACK GIRL AND DANIEL HAS TO MAKE THAT CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO STAY WITH HER BECAUSE HE REALLY LOVES HER. HE CAN'T KEEP GOING ON OTHER PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS OF HER. THE SKINNY BLACK IS THE ONE WHO HANGS OUT WITH THE MEXICAN AND HE IS TRYING TO HELP THE CHARACTER WITH THE JUMPER CABLES BECAUSE HIS MOM GOT A CHECK IN THE MAIL AND THE CHECK WAS FOR $911 DOLLARS. SO HIS MOM WAS GOING TO LET HIM HAVE SOME OF THE MONEY TO HELP OUT HIS WIFE WITH THE CLINIC.

JOSE: WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME. I KNOW THAT YOU PERFORM THIS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU ARE AT IS THE AUDIENCE YOU ARE PERFORMING IN THE REACTION IS POSITIVE WHETHER IT IS A WHITE AUDIENCE, BROWN AUDIENCE OR BLACK AUDIENCE.

RUBEN GONZALEZ: THE THING IS UNIVERSAL. THAT IS THE REACTION I HAVE GOTTEN FROM PEOPLE OF ALL RACES AND ECONOMIC BACKGROUNDS. THEY ALL CONNECTED TO THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE SHOW. THE SHOW IS PLAYING AT THE HERBERGER THEATER UP UNTIL FEBRUARY 26TH.

JOSE: LOOKS GREAT AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON “HORIZONTE".