Imagine a group of construction workers, immigrants, breaking into a rendition of Shakespeare at the site of the new arts complex on South Tryon.
It’s a stretch, I know, but the thought went through my mind as I was reading this story about a similar scenario taking place at day-laborer sites in Los Angeles.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Teatro Jornaleros Sin Fronteras – Day Laborer Theater Without Borders – is performing plays at city work sites to entertain other day laborers. The stories include real-life challenges such as alcoholism and religious themes such as fighting off demands of the devil. There have even been a few plays about life as an illegal immigrant and fears of being swept up in a raid.
"In our culture, some guys have never seen a play," said Juan José Mangandi, a Salvadoran laborer who serves as the troupe's director. "They think that only high-life people, like in Hollywood, can make theater. But when they see us, they say, 'He's like me.' "
Members of the troupe were recruited at day-labor job sites. About 50 people auditioned for the dozen spots. The actors come from Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which cosponsors the troupe, said that the artistic depiction of day-laborer issues is especially relevant given the economic meltdown that has left many immigrants without work. He added that Teatro Jornaleros also offers a little humor during stressful times.
"It's bringing a smile to their faces in this moment of crisis," Alvarado told the Monitor. "Times are tough. Competition has increased. When the Teatro Jornaleros comes to a [street] corner that's going through a difficult time, it's beautiful."
Photos: flickr, John D. Simmons - firstname.lastname@example.org