By Anna Alejo, June 2, 2022 at 10:45 pm
DENVER (CBS4)– A gem in Denver’s theater scene is celebrating its 50th anniversary by finding new ways to respond to its audiences’ needs. Su Teatro will soon open a new production of “Chicanos Sing the Blues.”
The theater company is now using its stage to promote community mental health.
The “Blues” show includes a ballad mocking Arizona’s controversial “Show Me Your Papers” law – SB 1070. The catchy tune makes light of an anti-immigration measure that’s instilled fear and anxiety in a generation of Latinos.
Su Teatro launched “Drama versus Trauma” to explore generational trauma in the Chicano community. Realizing their stage work triggered repressed memories, Executive Artistic Director Tony Garcia said audiences were hungry to share their own stories.
“It was an opportunity for us to heal, to talk things through. We at one point had to bring in the EMTs after one of the shows because somebody just started to have this tremendous flashback,” said Garcia.
Unleashing the therapeutic power of theater, “Chicanos Sing the Blues” explores the connections between Chicano music and Black R and B. It celebrates the strength of communities in creating art as a means of healing.
“Drama versus Trauma” is a three-year initiative funded by the Caring for Denver Foundation. After performances, trauma-informed coaches support the audience during a live talk back about the themes raised during the show.
Garcia said, “When we ask those questions about ‘how did they create this incredibly gorgeous, beautiful reaction to pain, suffering, slavery, disenfranchisement?’”
Yolanda Ortega has performed with Su Teatro for 48 years. She says audiences love seeing their own stories come to life – the good times and the tough ones too.
Theater, she said, “Leaves you with some hope. Not that we have the solution in our shows but it leaves you with that yeah I’m OK. I’m gonna be OK.”
During a recent rehearsal after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas performing the soulful music was especially cathartic for cast members.
Ortega said, “And I think it felt good to know that we’re reflecting what people are feeling because we feel it.”
“Chicanos Sing the Blues” opens at Su Teatro at 7th and Santa Fe on June 9 and runs until June 26. It plays Thursdays through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with one Sunday performance at 2 p.m. on June 26.