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Artist David Reynoso shares the inspiration behind ‘La Lucha’

 May 11, 2023 at 5:14 PM PDT

S1: Welcome back. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. La Lucha is an immersive theater experience created through La Jolla , Playhouse's Without Walls or Wow program. This world premiere event is inspired by Lucha Libre and its masked Mexican wrestlers. La Lucha invites visitors into what it calls a realm of ringside thrills and backstage secrets. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando got a behind the scenes tour of the show with creator David Israel Reynoso. David.

S2: David. We are here at La Lucha. So explain a little bit about what this experience is , because it's not traditional , typical theater.

S3: La Lucha is an immersive theater piece that's taking place at the Museum of Contemporary Art , San Diego in the downtown space. It's a wonderful partnership between both MKC and La Jolla Playhouse. This is at the intersection of two incredible institutions. And the third component , I should say , is my company , Moderna , which is dedicated to creating bold experiences that peer through the eyes of another and inviting folks to get a chance to see things from a different perspective or a new lens. Now , this is.

S2: Not officially a WOW production , but you are a veteran of a number of wow shows. So this is the Without Walls kind of notion.

S3: These opportunities to be experimental within the Without Walls Festival. It is through what we learned through these explorations that we were able to then take into play as we created and imagined what it would be like to have something that felt to be on a larger scale , but only that has a more permanent run. The Wow Festival is sort of an incubator of a very sort of quick sort of weekend , which you get to see some really exciting things and there's kind of an element to that urgency that you can't miss this thing. And yet there's always hunger to sort of revisit some things. The idea that , Oh , I wish I could have seen that or I heard that was really great. And so the Playhouse and Mia in particular was very hungry to find a home for a while piece that could have a longer run.

S2: Now , as the title implies , there are Lucha doors or the idea of Luchadores running through this piece. So talk about what intrigued you about them and what it was that you wanted to explore.

S3: And when we created Waiting I don't Know is about really looking at that story and looking at their new lens. The same idea , this idea of what is it like to sort of take an event that's very culturally specific , but what are themes in it that are universal to the human experience ? So when I thought about Lucha Libre , well , it's an incredible art form that has very a very epic quality to it. I was really struck by a series of photographs of Lucha Doors who outside of the ring were in their more domestic spaces but still wearing their masks. And it made me consider how there are moments in life that are maybe more private , that get less fanfare , but require just as much courage and in some ways are quite noteworthy , despite the fact that they're not seen by thousands of spectators. There's no sort of roaring crowd to cheer you on. And I think with the nature of Lucha Libre , there's so much of that idea of the good versus evil , this idea of really hiding your identity in some ways and being very protective about it. And there's great efforts to then shame and ridicule those who are ultimately defeated and are failures within Lucha Libre. And so I think there's something in which we as humans , regardless of the fact whether or not we are in the ring or not , struggle with the fear of failure of being defeated. And so I wanted to lean into that.


S3: Certainly not every wrestler wears a mask. But I was very inspired by the idea of the ornamentation , the incredible level of consideration that goes into what a loser wears. And I think to the protective nature of how masks really are , a second face , that obscure sort of your true identity. And it made me consider how we in life have more public versions of ourselves and more private versions. And sometimes when those become something that we feel like we need to protect one or the other , there's great efforts to become quite concerned with being fully known. And I think this story follows four characters that are wrestling with their their authenticity , their identity. And there's a level two kind of more private confrontations , more domestic confrontations that are sometimes seen in a surrealistic setting that feels equally epic. Despite the fact that there are more private matters.

S2: And your company is optica Moderna.

S3: You sit down , the lights dim , the curtain rises. There's a lot of ritual that we take for granted in terms of the traditional theatrical experience , and it made me consider , are there ways in which you can create that same liminality , that same transition from a very familiar and traditional world that we are now entering into this imagined and surrealistic one ? And it felt like visiting someone who's going to then challenge your perception or maybe outfit you with this optical gear that then now shifts. Your perspective is very much employing the same tactics that a more traditional theatrical ritual might do.


S3: You know , I became less interested in trying to replicate something that already is an incredible experience in going to see a Lucha libre fight. That is an incredible art form that I'm not interested in replicating , but instead finding a way to take those same visuals , the same excitement that goes behind it , and maybe shifting what occurs inside of a ring and then also maybe occurs in sort of more private spaces that feels in some ways just as epic or just as confrontational as what occurs under the sort of bright lights and the roaring crowds. And it's an invitation to maybe consider the bravery and courage that each person takes within their day to day lives.

S2: And if people come to your show once , they're not actually seeing everything. So explain what this experience is like in that respect.

S3: I think in the way that we are challenging your perception through this Opticians gear and this opticians office that you're being brought into this world , it felt important to be able to offer that. There are multiple vantage points to this story. So your journey begins at a series of portals into this dimension , and due to your entry points into the show , you will meet a character who then will. You'll now have context in terms of this character's journey that another audience member does not. Similarly , there are moments within your experience in which you then might get separated from your group. You will be invited through secret doorways and then even there are moments where it's just one audience member gets a chance to see something that the rest of the group does not. And my hope is that it invites something that becomes a singular and individual experience to turn it into a communal one. And the fact that then now there's you know , we have our cantina space after the show in which I've seen complete strangers now share space , share a drink , share food and really compare their stories. And I think that there's something so credible and so wonderful about now sharing your perspective and holding validity despite the fact that someone has a very different take on something.

S2: And you have a choreographer on this show. So talk about how movement is basically the way the actors are communicating more so than dialogue. Yes.

S3: Yes. So the way that the show operates on a practical level , there is a soundtrack that you're listening to and the performers are able to cue into what it is that you're hearing in your ears. I became more interested in how it is that both movement and space and your senses are activated in a way that feels much like a dream , much in the way that you sometimes wake up from a dream in which if you were to analyze it from a more logical sense , might not make any sense. But you know deeply what you felt. And you know that with certainty.

S2: So talk about the elements that you brought into this to create this kind of it's both a Luchador space. A Catholic space. Yes. A Mexican space.

S3: Well , it was really wonderful that we had permission to activate these galleries in a really exciting way. And we also have our audience enter the space from a way that feels unexpected. So for those who've been to this downtown space before , you will now see it from a very different perspective as well. We give ourselves permission to open up , to feel things when we feel like we are no longer in a familiar realm , we kind of lose ourselves. And so this space is very purposefully designed in a way that you are turning corners at every moment. You are disoriented in a way that I think feels playful and I think hopefully also allows you to really immerse yourself , let yourself fully submerge into this new realm. And I think the thing that's been really exciting is to be able to create something that is both visually stunning , sort of is and has the same considerations to something that feels like an incredible installation in its own right. And so if there were no performers , you'd be satiated by that. And yet there's an incredible component to being able to activate it with some incredible human beings who are now telling you a story that is very moving. And so I think the combination of those two elements feels really special. It also feels like it is both inviting the core audiences of MCAD and La Jolla Playhouse and yet also stretching them beyond what is familiar to them and inviting them to maybe consider that there's an intersection between the two art forms and the two modes of creating artwork.



S4: Santo Plata contre La Invasion de Los Marciano's.

S3: At some point , right ? There was something in which the idea that there was both someone who in person did some extraordinary things in a Lucha Ring world campaign. Come. And yet somehow also were superhero like. And the fact that they now could like go and fight on or against the sort of like these mummies or some zombies. So there was this element to this person , this persona , I should say , that is both accessible but then also superhuman. And it made me wonder about what was that like for this individual to to have this this expectation of of being superhuman at all costs ? And what is it like for them to then have to go home at night when they sort of remove their mask ? And then who do they consider themselves to be outside of that ? That's probably my first memory of Lucha Libre. And I've always been really struck by all that incredible kind of epic nature of of of Lucha Libre and the incredible artistry and color that goes into it.

S2: And because your audience experiences so many different things , what kind of reactions have you gotten ? And have some of the audience members surprised you and what they've come up with ? Yes.

S3: I think what's been really exciting is some people really understand the intention of what we seek out with the story. I also fully embrace and I'm very excited by people's personal take on something. They may see something that resonates with them and reminds them of of an experience that they've had or something that they feel deeply and it's equally valid. I think oftentimes with this type of work and I think sometimes with with work that is experimental , it can create anxiety for an audience member that they're doing it right or that somehow , oh , I must not be smart enough to understand. And on the contrary , I want this to be accessible enough that human beings , regardless of their take and their experience , that there's validity to it and that they give themselves permission to feel what they have felt , to understand what they did. We have had folks in Lucha Libre masks come through. It's also been interesting to see some people do show up to the show expecting something that replicates a Lucha libre fight and then their expectations are upended and maybe they have been stretched and they've seen something now and now reconsider their experience on Lucha Libre. And then there are folks who have very little kind of experience with it. And this is their first foray into understanding a world. And so I love that it is getting to expand their perspectives and their take on what Lucha Libre might be.

S2: Well , thank you very much for talking about La Lucha.

S3: Thank you for having me. It's been great.

S1: That was Beth Accomando speaking with David Israel Reynoso. La Lucha runs tonight through June 4th at the Museum of Contemporary Art , San Diego on Kettner Boulevard , next to the train depot.

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Promotional image for "La Lucha."
Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse
Promotional image for "La Lucha."

"La Lucha" is an immersive theater experience created through La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls, or WOW, program.

This world premiere event is inspired by Lucha Libre and its masked Mexican wrestlers. "La Lucha" runs through June 4 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando got a behind-the-scenes tour of the show with creator David Israel Reynoso.


David Israel Reynoso, creator, La Lucha