Arts & Entertainment

Teatro Dallas’ Little Mexico, Ayer y Hoy is a Bite-Sized Play in a Taqueria

Come for tacos, stay for theater.

There’s a neat little play set to be performed in a taqueria on Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff for the next three weekends, starting this Friday. Teatro Dallas received a grant from the city of Dallas, hired a playwright who teaches theater at University of California-Santa Barbara (with a focus on Latin American theater), and decided to resurrect a subject and theme they tackled years ago, but that is just as relevant today. Titled Little Mexico, Ayer y Hoy, the show features vignettes that touch on the Mexican-American experience in Dallas.

The venue is Taqueria Pedritos. The playwright is Carlos Morton, who has collaborated with Teatro Dallas in the past, and whose professional credits include the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre, La Companía Nacional de México, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, and the Arizona Theatre Company. The dates are June 1 through 10. The show runs 30 minutes. I sort of love this.

“The environment in which it’s going to happen is a taqueria. People sit down and eat tacos. So, it can’t be too wordy,” says Teatro Dallas founder Cora Cardona.

“Stories about Mexican Americans in Dallas, told through songs, theater, jokes, and dance. Dramatic and humorous. A family show in Spanish and English,” the banner on the Teatro Dallas website reads.

For Cardona, this represents a chance to raise awareness. An incredible archival photo of Chicanos arrayed in 1920s dress, celebrating Mexican Independence Day, heads the poster—women in flapper dresses, and men holding tubas, trumpets, clarinets, and trombones. Such complex Mexican-American realities are the ones on which she, Morton, and director Sorany Gutierrez hope to shed light.

“Because it’s so hot [in the summer], we actually have a taqueria in Oak Cliff [that agreed to be our venue]. And because the purpose of the play is to educate through entertaining,” she says, it’s actually rather perfect. Cardona had an existing friendship with the taqueria’s owner, who has welcomed other groups to the small stage that resides in his tidy, no-frills restaurant.

The play covers the swath of time from the days when the land that is now Texas was part of Mexico, up to and with a special focus on the 1950s.

“We talked to a lot of people who lived during those days, and we painted scenes of people,” says Cardona. One vignette is a silent, mimed scene of racial prejudice.

This is the second time Teatro Dallas has received a grant from the city for a summer show. The first was for a play they performed last year based on a poem by Gabriela Mistral, the feminist Chilean poet who was the first Latin American female poet to be named a Nobel Prize laureate.

“We will probably explore alternative spaces next year,” says Cardona. “And not in the summer,” due to the heat, which makes public performance challenging.

Meanwhile, come for tacos and taquitos, stay for the show.

Find details here.