The Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble is community theater in its finest mode. No, not the kind of stale community theater that churns out tried and true middle-of-the-road fodder, but a theater that cares as much as its surrounding community as it does in getting that community's asses in its seats.
Highly political and purely grassroots, it's an ensemble that has been producing vitally relevant and topical work since 2006. But the work doesn't stop at the walls of the theater; many of its pieces have dealt with keenly important issues to the demographic surrounding its downtown Santa Ana space, from AIDS and immigration to the rather complicated view of homosexuality in the Latin world.
An example of how the theater brings theater to its community is an intensive writing workshop this weekend courtesy of Bay Area writer Cherrie Moraga, an award-winning Chicana playwright, poet, essayist and activist. The author of numerous published plays and co-editor of an important Chicana feminist work, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Moraga was born in Whittier, was named a 2007 Rockefeller Fellow and is currently an artist-in-residence at Stanford University.
Moraga will work with students on writing, while Adelina Anthony, a powerful creative force of her own, will handle the acting part of the workshop, which is geared for writers and actors of all experience levels. Some of the topics covered in the writing exercise include: The Mundane as Metaphor, and The Body of Desire. No idea what either of those approaches entail, but Moraga is no lightweight when it comes to intellectual creativity, so it should be a powerful experience.
Interested parties can either take the morning session, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., which costs $75, or the full day session, which lasts until 5 p.m. and cost $150. For more information, visit www.breathoffire.org. (The world premiere of Moraga's latest play, Digging up the Dirt, opens in late July at Breath of Fire.)
A workshop of another kind takes place at Fullerton College Saturday: the Best of the Fest, the handful of plays chosen by a panel of judges to be the best of that school's 15th annual Director's Festival, which began Tuesday. More than two dozen short plays were accepted into the festival and the best of the student-and-faculty-directed pieces get revived at 8 p.m. With only a handful of rehearsals under their collective belts, this is a chance to see actors, directors and designers working with the nuts and bolts of a play, always an illuminating–if occasionally frightening–experience.
Finally, another workshoppy thing from Orange County's longest established playwrighting organization, the Orange County Playwrights Alliance, comes to the small performance space at the Mysterium Saturday: An informal reading of Donna Bader's Cutouts, a play featuring several veterans of local storefront theaters. It's billed as a “war between the sexes fought on the battlefield of the highest adult fashion.” For those not familiar with play readings, it's basically just that: Actors reading a play. But the funny thing is that even though readings generally don't have blocking, costumes or technical bells and whistles, they're often more faithful to a playwrights' words than a full-fledged production. It's a way to hear a playwright's works before other creative people get the chance to ooze their creative fluids all over it.
Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble, 310 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana. Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.breathoffire.org.
Fullerton College Best of the Fest, Fullerton College, 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, www.theatre.fullcoll.edu. Sat., 8 p.m. Free with one item of non-perishable food.