Producing Quilapayun’s “La Canata de Santa Marie de Iquique” on US Television
This 1976 taped interview is excerpted from the KQED TV production of Humberto Martinez’s theater piece based on Quilapayun’s La Cantata de Santa Maria de Iquique. I interviewed cannery worker-actress Hortensia Perez, theater director Humberto Martinez about basic ideas on the uses and role of popular theater in the hands of the community. Through this theater piece and others, Community Theater Arts Workshop went beyond entertainment to become a means for people to explore and express their own histories. My ideas were very influenced by my work with Huberto Llamas creating theater based on the lives of local people in the rural areas of Cuba a year earlier. They also reflect my years of teaching, directing and producing agit prop theater in the US and my enchantment with the works of Bertolt Brecht.
The Cantata de Santa Maria de Iquique is a narrative vocal composition with instrumental accompaniment recorded by the Chilean group Quilapayun on Paredon Records, USA. It describes a famous historic Chilean Labor struggle.
San Francisco in 1976 was filling with immigrants fleeing the civil wars in Central America, the bloody Chilean coup, and the Argentine repression during the “dirty war”, all supported by US foreign policy, official or clandestinely in the shadows. At the time I was running a beautiful little non-profit, Community Theatre Arts Workshop, in the pre-computer days from my desk, typewriter, and phone in my living room. Our mission was to create bilingual theater training workshops and performances, which we did.
As I was very active in peace and anti-imperialist solidarity work, I quite naturally met Humberto Martinez a theater artist and recent arrival from Argentina. We conducted several actor training workshops together using his very effective techniques that I have since incorporated into my eclectic teaching repertory.
Humberto used techniques influenced by “physical theater” movement to train a group of cannery workers in San Jose, California to enact this moving documentary cantata. Humberto had produced this piece in Argentina but given the military dictatorship in the country at that time, he was forced to leave.
The cannery worker were a very politicized group of Chicanos and Chilean refugees who were active in the solidarity and relief efforts of Sacred Heart Church in San Jose, CA. They trained diligently. When the work was ready I produced it through Community Theater Arts on KQED’s OPEN STUDIO through the late Loni Ding, a very active and talented KQED producer and film maker.
I want to thank Daniel del Solar for having the foresight to preserve this lost documentary and Irving Fromer for creating the hand made subtitles for the film.
The entire one hour telecast of the production is available below here. Enjoy!