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Wednesday, 11 November 2009 17:46

Interview with Jesusa Rodríguez (2004)

Mexican director, actress, playwright, performance artist, scenographer, entrepreneur, and social activist Jesusa Rodríguez moves seemingly effortlessly and with vigor across the spectrum of cultural forms, styles, and tones. Her 'espectáculos' (as both spectacles and shows) challenge traditional classification, crossing with ease generic boundaries: from elite to popular to mass, from Greek tragedy to cabaret, from pre-Columbian indigenous to opera, from revue, sketch and 'carpa,' to performative acts within political projects. Humor, satire, linguistic play, and the body are constants in her productions. Rodriguez's energy is intense and her commitment non-negotiable, always interrogating the nature, site, and consequences of power and its representation.

In this interview the artist comments on her particular use and transformation of the genre of 'pastorela' (Nativity play) in her cabaret performances, as a tool for contesting political and religious fundamentalism in the Americas. The pastorelas, used by the Catholic Church as an evangelization tool during the Conquest, are usually based on a clean-cut distinction between Good and Evil, sustaining a binary thought that has fueled political, cultural and religious agendas in the American hemisphere. Rodríguez proposal to use the pastorela genre against the ideologically conservative institutions that originally introduced and used it, subversively mixes humor with religion in order to contest the Manichean politics at play in contemporary Western society. Performances like 'Concilio de Amor' and 'Pastorela Terrorista' are commented by the artist as examples of this performative strategy, which Rodríguez links to a broader concern with civic empowerment and education, issues of civil disobedience and popular participation.

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