'Crawling With Monsters - a bilingual piece for both sides of the US/Mexican border' (Jenny Anne Koppera, USA)

               I just sat there. It finished and I just sat there.  
An honest poignancy making me catch my breath - a reeling of sorts.
                    I look around.  I am not the only one.

The American Alliance for Theatre and Education recently sponsored a group of seventeen theatre artists (students and recent alumni from the University of Texas – Pan American) to attend the AATE Lakeside Reflections Conference in Chicago, Illinois early in August 2011.  Through a multimedia and documentary performance piece entitled Crawling with Monsters, the group brought to life the largely unreported, war-like conditions in Reynosa, Mexico, and the surrounding region.

This group of young theatre artists was originally created as a bilingual touring children’s theatre troupe that hoped to perform on both sides of the Texas/Mexican border.  When their tour fell through due to the recent outbreaks of violence in Northern Mexico, they became compelled to shift their work and to respond to the unstable situation involving their friends, family and communities.  

Their piece, Crawling with Monsters, weaves together their story, as a group of performers, as well as narratives from anonymous interviews with children, parents and teachers in Reynosa, Mexico.  Actors and musicians respectfully bring to life the voices of children and community members entangled in the violence and uncertainty.  The resulting production is engrossing and potent theatre for social change.  

Audiences at the AATE conference walked away struck by the simple and yet haunting style of the piece and the courage of the director, performers, and stage crew to take on such a daunting and dangerous topic.  Crawling with Monsters hopes to bring attention to what has largely gone unreported in both the US and Mexico. They are unable to perform in their own community out of fear of retaliation but are working to bring their production to other venues and festivals around the US in the coming year.  They see theatre as their unique tool, their weapon, against the injustice, fear, and silence that touches the daily lives of those living in Reynosa and similar communities.  

         May theatre always remain a viable way
             to ignite action for positive change.
         My gratitude goes out to these and other
           courageous artists around the globe.

~Jenny Anne Koppera