“Mexpatriot.” One man’s search for his bicultural identity
By Nancy Flores
It’s easy for Oaxaca’s magical energy to seep into a visitor’s soul and invigorate the spirit. For Austin-based playwright Raul Garza, the charm and mysticism of the city helped bring to life his one-man show, Confessions of a Mexpatriate, which will have its Mexican debut Feb 28-Mar 2 at Shelter Theater in San Miguel.Theater Confessions of a Mexpatriate Fri, Feb 28, 7pm Sat, Mar 1, 7pm Sun, Mar 2, 5pm Shelter Theater Vicente Guerrero 4 120 pesos 154-7524
Garza’s latest work, directed by Ken Webster, delves into issues associated with straddling two cultures but remains a universal story. The play, which is told mostly in English with some Spanish lines, focuses on the character of Samuel, a “heavily American media-saturated man” who works in the corporate world of a fictionalized Austin. He’s a little neurotic, cynical and self-absorbed at times. Samuel, played by Mical Trejo, is also dealing with a strained relationship.
Just as the play takes audiences through the cobblestoned streets of Mexico, it also takes us inside Samuel’s office cubicle in Austin and his troubled love life. “Every piece of our identity doesn’t live on an island on its own—it’s linked to another piece,” Garza says. Samuel’s Mexican side and American side are woven to show a complete portrait of the character.
Confessions of a Mexpatriate brings together a powerful creative trio of Garza, Trejo and Webster, who share a long history in Austin’s theater scene. Trejo and Garza both participated in a multimedia sketch comedy troupe for years called the “Latino Comedy Project.”
Trejo describes the play’s narrative as reading someone’s journal, which he says makes it more powerful when it’s delivered by just one person instead of a cast. That also means he’s driving the narrative from start to finish a challenge he says was intense but rewarding.
“Athletes run marathons and actors do one-person shows,” Trejo says. Playing a complex character like Samuel intrigued him, especially since Trejo says that at times Samuel can seem like a jerk but “hopefully by the end you’re pulling for him.”
“Anytime a character goes through a type of catharsis … I feel like that’s something I can relate to,” Trejo says. “We’ve all gone through an “aha” moment in our jobs, personal lives or relationships.”
Samuel faces some powerful truths along the way and learns life lessons through several compelling characters. Despite the heavy themes, Garza takes a comedic look at the journey and brings lightheartedness to Samuel’s situation.
Though the story draws influences from some things Garza saw and experienced in Mexico, he says it’s not autobiographical. Garza does relate, though, to the character’s bicultural experience traveling south of the border.
“When a lot of Mexican-Americans go to Mexico, I think they see the layers as separate,” Garza says. “Here in the US, it’s like you’re this mezcla (mix) of both culturas (cultures). When you go down there you can really separate this and say, “This is the American side of your brain, this is the Mexican side.” You see where they conflict and where they complement.”