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Review of The Panza Monologues by Karen Jean Martinson (2005) Despite its namesake, many assert that nothing

new ever arises in Phoenix. Often assumed to be as culturally arid as its desert landscape, the city of Phoenix conjures images of relocated retirees, endless pavement, and the conservative politics of Barry Goldwater. Yet, original theatre is proving the exception. Teatro Caliente!, an annual festival of alternative performing arts in the Southwest, opens a space for the artists who live in the area to come together as an eclectic performance community. It turns out that these artists have something important to say because as one of the nation's fastest-growing cities, Phoenix manifests all of our national problems; the city stands as a battleground for wars over identification, immigration, education, the distribution of limited resources, and the formation and maintenance of personal and political relationships. The festival has many strengths, perhaps the greatest of which is its dedication to ethically representing the diversity of the region. Teatro Caliente! creates a forum in which a multiplicity of Southwestern voices can speak and be heard. By allowing artists to come together in their own particularities to speak in a variety of languages, performance genres, and forms, the festival interrogates the region's deep history and reimagines its future. The second annual incarnation of the festival featured over twenty participants, who offered a wealth of artistic creation, including solo performances concerning identity and interpersonal relations; theatre pieces examining xenophobia and bigotry in USAmerican culture; butoh dance evoking the cold cruelty prevalent in contemporary culture; and multimedia explorations of the marginalization of queerness and the legacy of white patriarchy. In a festival rich with innovative performances, several pieces stand out for the critical insight they offer. Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga presented The Panza Monologues, a multilingual collection of Latina women's thoughts and experiences surrounding their panzas. In the most simple translation, panza refers to the belly, but more metaphorically references the heart, the center of the body, and the center of life. The production makes visible the way political, economic, sexual, and cultural oppression play out on the female body. Initially conceived at San Antonio's Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, where Grise and Mayorga worked together as activists, the performance grew out of the recognition that as the Esperanza women fought for social justice, it sometimes seemed the most tangible gains they made were in their own waistlines, at the expense of their physical well-being. This revelation made clear in a personal way the link between the health of the body and of a culture. As noted in The Panza Monologues, over sixty percent of USAmericans are overweight, a statistic that disproportionately affects minority and impoverished people. In contemporary US culture, it has become a privilege to eat well and to be physically active. At the same time, USAmericans are subjected to a deluge of media information about the perfect female body, which is always tall, thin, and

white. The Panza Monologues explores the complex terrain of learning to care for your body while loving it for what it is. While the tough work of questioning the cultural practices that lead to obesity is somewhat underdeveloped in this piece that favors celebrating the overweight panza, the monologues chart a course through the landscape of identification rich with humor and sadness, resistance and repression. By introducing us to an entire spectrum of womenwomen who harness the power of their bodies, whose bodies are the site of physical abuse, who have destroyed their panzas and themselves, and those whose panzas have, in one way or another, led them to political or spiritual knowledgeThe Panza Monologues reveals how the panza connects us to everything, most importantly each other. The performance builds bridges across the cultural lines that divide us precisely because it is situated thematically, linguistically, and aesthetically in the particularities of the USAmerican Latina experience. It is thus fitting that the production shares the stage with latinidad. The Panza Monologues animates latinidad scenically by employing a festive altar, complete with flowers, fairy lights, and pillows. These elements become materials of transformation as Grise (directed by Mayorga) deftly enacts the many monologues. A pair of pliers becomes a comic prop as Grise performs a woman fitting herself into a too-tight pair of jeans with the aid of the tool, while a feather boa functions as a relic of sexiness to an older woman remembering her younger days. Titles announce and demarcate the monologues, and projections inform the stories through photographs, images, and text. In a particularly powerful moment, Grise dances as noticias flash across the screen. These bits of information, excerpted from news stories, provide a sharp contrast to the evocative, lyric monologues as they lay out the correlation of obesity and poverty in the cold, objective language of journalism. Grise's performance throughout is powerful and honest. Using vocal and physical variation, she convincingly creates separate personae for each monologue. Her bravest moment, however, arrives when she shares her own story with the audience. Putting herself in a position of vulnerability, Grise grapples with the complexities of her own identity. She begins by mapping out her diverse ancestry, temporarily disallowing herself the stability of a singular ethnic position. Grise then interrogates how she both considers herself to be and is marked by others as a Latina, the culture in which she was raised and which she fully embraces, and explores how such identification is disrespected in the United States, made to feel outside the boundaries of acceptability. The piece climaxes with the recall of an encounter with a Cubano that casts her understanding of self into confusion. Remarking on her weight, the Cubano proclaims that obesity is an illness of capitalism because capitalists want to take all that they can, even at the dinner table. The Cubano merely sees in Grise her United States heritage, and Grise is left to wrestle with her double consciousness, recognizing that she is both oppressed

and informed by USAmerican culture, and as such occupies a conflicting position of marginalization and privilege. The Panza Monologues consciously adopts and revises the form made famous by Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, investigating how women's bodies have been made shameful to them and seeking to reclaim the body as a scared site. Yet, The Panza Monologues also offers a necessary critique of the white liberalism that underlies The Vagina Monologues. Grise begins by sitting on a stool, telling the story of a woman who wrote a play about women and their chochos, pointing out that women who use the term "chocho" are already removed from this piece about vaginas because their sacred story is that of the panza. As Grise continues to relate how this woman sits on a stool and performs their stories, she makes clear the colonialist underpinnings that enable Ensler to take possession of another's words, thereby claiming herself as an authority of the other while masking the privilege that makes this authority possible. At this point, Grise jumps off the stool, proclaiming that she cannot just sit any longer. Grise speaks with an urgency that stays present throughout the performance, especially as many of the monologues respond to current events, as when the panza brujera, referencing the thenupcoming election, threatens to give W the ojo, cursing him through her look. The Panza Monologues needs to be performed and witnessed now.

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