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A cross-border theater production trying to change minds about the border

 July 27, 2022 at 6:00 AM PDT

S1: When the show finishes , there's something in the air about the moment that audiences and artists went through together. A feeling in the air. Of gratitude and love.
S2: Every day to get an education in the US. I used to go back and forth to my school in San Diego for AM. Wake up 5 a.m. my on ride home and prepare for school. 6 a.m. in the house , back and forth , back and forth.
S3: We are making something happen in a way that we are being told all the time shouldn't be possible and we are proving that it is possible and that the really beautiful things can come out of the effort to connect across the difference in business.
S4: The aloha sobre la Posibilidad controller's Torres Quotidiennes in La Frontera.
S5: From KPBS and PRCs. This is port of entry.
S6: Where we tell cross-border stories that connect us.
S4: I'm a little.
S6: And I'm not believer in.
S5: Theatre has always been used by artists as a tool for reflection and social transformation. It's a space you can go to laugh , think , feel , and sometimes even cry.
S3: The thing that is powerful to me about theater is that it opens up the possibility of getting inside the experience of someone whose experience you might not expect to be inside of.
S5: This is Jessica Bauman.
S3: I think there's something really magical about the actors in the audience being in the same room together , that it essentially forges a kind of temporary community that allows us to go on journeys that we wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to go on.
S6: Jessica here is the co-director and co-creator of the Frontera Project , which is an interactive , bilingual theater experience that engages the audience in a conversation about life at the US-Mexico border.
S3: I started out wanting to come to Mexico after the child separation policy of the previous administration became public. And I really felt like I couldn't let what my government was doing speak for me. And I felt like I had to show up and speak for myself in some way.
S5: Jessica received a travel grant from Theater Communications Group , a national organization that promotes communication among professional community and university theaters in the U.S..
S6: This grant was supposed to help nurture new relationships across borders for American theater artists.
S3: I got that grant and sort of came to Tijuana without really knowing very much about what to expect. When I got here and I realized when I got here that everything I thought I had understood about the border was wrong.
S6: Today in Port of Entry.
S5: We continue with stories about crossing the border to change minds.
S6: In this episode , we introduce you to a group of artists from the border who are boosting the theater scene in one and sharing that theater scene across the border.
S5: Thank you for listening.
S6: And we're on.
S3: What I discovered when I got to Tijuana was this incredibly rich and exciting culture of people who live here and are deeply rooted here. This was really a revelation for me. It was not a story that was getting told in any of the media that I could consume or that I had access to. And it kind of blew me away. I fell in love with the people I met here and the whole world of arts and food and culture and life that I found in Tijuana. And I felt like I have to get the word out to people like me who don't even know what they don't know.
S5: Jessica felt like she had to create a theater project that could tell that story to people like her who didn't have a clear image about life along the border.
S6: And she first reached out to Ramon. But Hugo EMPRESAS Quintero , the directors of a well-known theater company in Tijuana , called the Juana as a veteran.
S5: And after lots and lots of video calls and endless brainstorming with a bunch of workshops in Tijuana and San Diego , they came up with the Frontera Project.
S3: We had kind of decided that we wanted to do something where we worked with artists who had connections to both sides of the border , and that we wanted to do something that would reach audiences who didn't have a firsthand experience of the border.
S7: I cannot see it always , in a way. I mean this immediate jibber jabber , but we hear it coming.
S3: We wanted it to make sure that everyone we worked with was able to do their best work. And that meant using whatever language was most useful to anyone in the moment.
S5: And so they knocked down a wall separating the two different languages.
S3: And so from the very beginning , the room that we're any room we're working in has gone back and forth between English and Spanish , I would say , most of the time. It's been maybe 75% Spanish. 25% English. That.
S6: That.
S4: Jose Ramon Verdugo Song director. Artistically , Tijuana said that through codirector de la Frontera Project.
S6: Ramon is the co-director of the Front Setup Project and the artistic director of Tijuana Asset Dentro. It is a theater company founded in 2007 that alternates artistic productions with workshops to introduce people to theater and scenic design.
S4: Been setting competition art direction the center Kashima production possibly as a scene comparison with Dificil por Canosa. We expect them in the mural in this you see even my sister in law mismo canela with externalities and these always comes true even come inauguration bundle.
S6: Ramon mentioned that at first it seemed impossible for him to direct the production in two different languages.
S5: Yeah , they were each speaking their own language and kind of leaning in to understand what the other person was saying.
S7: Maybe Valerius would say , Are you sure ? I guess in California.
S4: Everything makes me think.
S6: Was like.
S6: Some of the artists in the project had dual citizenship.
S5: But other members of the team had only a mexican passport , including Ramon. So they had to go through the process of getting a visa to travel to and work in the U.S..
S4: Second Vietnam. What ? That your finger thing got unofficially broken. Pakistan. Local Azharuddin Hussein used pressure. Impossible. Now , he said real artists. When there is a movie exclusive.
S6: Rahman had to apply for an artist visa , which is really hard to get because it's very challenging to prove that you qualify for this type of visa.
S5: He also mentioned that the Frontera Project was possible in large part because he was able to obtain the visa.
S4: One of the rappers extrapolating was a visa. So you're not doing a service problem and different than a project. Andrea Otro otra linea. You love Frontera. Look it up. Romeo and me is suing Amica. What they say is a posse. We are there this year. We walk Esther Caruso , La Frontera Europe. We all go different. We were those moondance dingo those dingo dollar ritzy parcels as you see them perform we normally Salva book association say there's a beginning to this normally say like existentialists to those territorios.
S5: Ramona is talking about what it's like to grow up along this border town and how oftentimes dissonances can normalize the coexistence of these two territories.
S4: As Mottola stresses in important the mental illness idea most important , not all as linguist important ism. It but I think is important to us I think is to establish can idiomatic lingua across causality or solace because mutual most practical parallel army that you know the famous Cousteau thing that lets you focus your importancia analyses stories in so lingua and CDO material read more looking so savvy and idiomatic. Imelda las cosas isn't see mismo or not exactly to that.
S6: But I'm only saying that all stories matter and all languages matter to. And it is very important for people to continue telling stories in their native languages because it is a cultural richness that we cannot miss or ignore. In the fall of 2021 , the Frontera Project did a little tour around the US to Pennsylvania , New York and New Jersey.
S5: And while they were touring they offered workshops at different places to students and community groups to share their artistic process.
S3: Our audiences were largely white people who didn't necessarily have any connection to Mexico or to the border or to immigration.
S6: This is Jessica Belman again.
S3: And I think that one of the things that surprises all the audiences most is how joyful the piece is , that there's music and there's singing and there's comedy.
S6: And so they kept spreading the word about border stories that are not being told.
S3: We give people opportunities to share their feelings with us and to share their perceptions with us. It's really satisfying because it shows us in this very clear , unmediated way that people's minds are expanding to include a whole range of stories that they had never considered before.
S5: At Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. One of the students raised her hand and mentioned how grateful she was for the experience.
S3: And the thing that was really remarkable about that was that she was Korean. She was the child of Korean immigrants. And her family had been homeless at one point and her parents had been undocumented. And like it sounded like she had had very intense experiences as a child , as an immigrant to the to the United States. But none of the things she talked about were things that we specifically addressed in the show. She felt like the humanity with which we talked about the experience at the US-Mexico border spoke to her as a Korean immigrant. And we were all blown away by that.
S6: For Jessica , it is super important that these stories resonate beyond the border.
S3: I am extremely aware that the stories in the Frontera project are not my stories , and I really think of my role as being that my job is to. Make these stories as accessible to people for whom they may feel distant or foreign or unfamiliar as I can.
S1: Specifically , a theater artist has filmed like a journey full of surprises here.
S6: I think that being an artist , yeah , it makes you an activist , even if you don't talk about directly political issues.
S7: Fossils of butterflies have been found that day through the pages seen here 56 million years ago. Yes.
S1: Yes.
S2: Well , that's the economics. People are honest with me because , you know , my mom , my stepfather stick up.
S1: For for me right now. The theater is like my home , my family , the people that I love that I spend time with , the that I dream about the future with are my colleagues are the ones who who are doing what I love to do.
S5: This is Casas Quintero.
S6: Quintero is the executive director of the Juana Nassif Dentro and one of the actors in the film theater project.
S1: The sharing , you know , of emotions of moments together with my colleagues and with the audience , I am grateful for every single time that I am able to to perform. So those moments are really priceless.
S6: But before the entire project and before their theater company was created , it was a very different scene in Tijuana.
S1: The response to the theaters by. But the audiences was very , very long. We started asking people and most of them told us , and it's because I'm not aware that there's a theater being done in Tijuana.
S5: This is how the name of the company was created Tijuana as a theater.
S6: The one that does theater.
S5: And so they started pushing the theater scene in the city with lots of productions and workshops for everyone who wanted to learn about or do theater.
S1: Before Jessica came , I remember having these thoughts that , Hey , there's something. I mean , of course we have all of that , all of what bad news are telling about the city. But where are we , you know , or where's my work or my friends and my. My family's are still I'm very interested in creating new stories and stories that portray not just me but us , hoping that others also find something that resonates with them.
S5: Castles told us that the media is always portraying the negative side of the city , but it is also very important to talk about everything that makes people who live in Tijuana love the city.
S1: I could have gone anywhere in Mexico. I could have gone to Mexico City to pursue a career there. But I really love my city and I didn't want to leave. It is in our hands to make it better or worse. How many people out there actually know that we are a functional city ? You know.
S6: And this is how he feels about being part of the front , that a project to.
S1: Be recognized by some of these audiences as a vessel to portray their experiences or their needs or dreams. And when we were just trying to share some stories about the water , you know , so it made me feel like as humanity , we're not that different and that we might even be closer to each other than we think.
S6: Ola so Lou best mutual which all stuff.
S7: I'm just I'm more look at who's got me faster travel left me you.
UU: Know what I mean ? I I. That.
S7: That.
S6: My mom is from Mexico City. My dad is from in Canada. So even though I grew up in Tijuana , my family was very south orientated. Lou Best is one of the other actors in the film theater project.
S7: Everybody's saying that the gas prices are like crazy in California.
S6: Oh , you're.
S7: Right in California.
S6: Oh , you're right. I'll just wait til Tijuana. Oh , there's a target. Yeah , that's right. Lou studied theater in Mexico City and did a master's degree in music therapy and friends.
S5: But her Fronteriza essence traveled with her wherever she went.
S6: I remember that I had a teacher in France when I was doing my my master's in music therapy. I was this teacher was telling me , you are really a border being because you always do things kind of in between two other things , like you live between Mexico and the United States , you live between theater and music , you live live between art and therapy. So you're always like a bridge between two different worlds. And that , I think , was the most beautiful description of a border person that I could find.
S5: Even though she grew up in Tijuana. Lou says that being part of the Frontera Project made her see the border with a different perspective.
S6: Actually , I have to confess that I oh , when I was growing up , I was rather a person that wanted to go to Europe and I wanted to go to Mexico City , and I really wanted to go away. And I didn't see myself as coming back , but I did. I'm really glad that I did. And when I started working in the front that it really made me see the border in a different way. It opened my eyes open , my heart and her relationship with the audience. What really surprised me was that so many people got moved by the fact that we were talking about the way that people got to the United States and the fact that a lot of them in their families or in their surroundings , talking about getting into the state , especially if they came as a man with no papers , was like a taboo. And a lot of them told us that seeing this show opened a door for having this conversation with their children about how they got to the United States and why they came. We are live from that project and we believe.
S2: In the power of connection.
S5: Earlier this year. For the better part , they performed at the Wow festival in San Diego.
S6: We were there and after the performance we talked to some members of the audience.
S1: I thought was wonderful. It was inspirational and informative and , you know , the perfect blend of art and stories and , you know , human voices. And I think this really helped me understand a lot of the sort of details that were hazy for me.
S8: I thought it was amazing. The time went by so fast and it was really well done and fast paced and I actually learned a lot. I guess my first thought was I should go there more often. I haven't been to Mexico in so long and it's so close , you know , experience the culture and experience everything that they talked about. You know , they were our neighbors.
S5: I think in some way , like small parts of every of every scene touch me because I'm a border kid as well. I live in Tijuana. I've been crossing since since I was a little kid. One thing that he sees that when you get in the border bus to go to Disneyland like I did that when I was a kid , you know ? And I yeah , I used to cross the river just to go.
S6: Later this summer , the Frontier Project will be performing and teaching workshops at the Folger Theater in Washington , D.C..
S2: We are here. Local stallions and the spectacular women seem to support.
S6: These stories matter this effort that you do every day waking up at 4 a.m. to take your kid to school. The other side , it matters.
S5: This is Lou Best again celebrating the stories they tell about life along the border.
S6: This sacrifice that you're making crossing the border to our lives to have a better income for your family , it matters. We can talk about this. We can talk about privilege. We can talk about bad things. You can talk about everything. And we can also celebrate the fact that when migrants come here , sometimes the authorities , they don't even take care of them. It's the civil organizations that take care of them and is the city that takes care of them. And now you see people from all over the world that came in hoping to get asylum and they're now working in Tijuana and Taiwan is giving them work and giving them a way of life. So I think that it's a way to acknowledge and celebrate people who make this city. If you want to learn more about the Frontera Project , you can go to the Frontier Project.
S5: And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at Port of Entry Pod.
S6: The opening and ending track of this episode was composed by has seen something in.
S5: This episode of Port of Entry was written and produced by Natalie Gonzalez.
S6: Maria Lobos is the director of Sound Design.
S5: Alisa Barba is our editor.
S6: Lisa Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content.
S5: This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Private Corporation , funded by the American people. So let them.
S6: Eat your sewing. Natalie Gonzalez knows , goes around pronto.

Jessica Bauman
In this episode we profile a bilingual theater experience called The Frontera Project. It is a company of Mexican and US artists that use theater, music, movement and play to actively engage the audience in conversation about life along the US/Mexico Border. Their mission is to encourage audiences to recognize each other across differences and to spark a dialogue about what divides us and what we share.

Port of Entry is back, this time with a series of stories on how the border can change minds.