Everyone loves a parade, especially when the audience is encouraged to join in the fun. Cara Mía Theatre and Teatro Dallas collaborate on ¡Soltar!, a magical pageant and interactive procession through downtown Dallas April 17 and 24.
“It’s an invitation to play,” Sara Cardona, Teatro Dallas’ Executive Artistic Director, said.
¡Soltar! marks the first collaboration between the two theater companies who both engage and uplift the Latinx community. “We’ve been like family for 25 years,” David Lozano, Executive Artistic Director of Cara Mía Theatre, said.
“We have a lot of shared values in terms of our work with the community,” Cardona said. “We thought, ‘How can we pull our resources together to address this since we’re already doing it separately?’”
The theater companies are using the outdoor event to bring the community together safely and celebrate the renewal of spring. “In traumatic times, our communities have often already in a natural way sought joy and levity and humor as a way of dissipating a lot of stress,” Cardona said. “In times of pandemic during the medieval time period and across the world, there was a need for theater at its most fundamental way, which is to decompress the mind, take it offline by doing things that are very physical.”
¡Soltar! is a play on two words: release and sun. “It’s an homage to us coming out into the light after a dark period,” Cardona said.
The event begins at 2 p.m. with Grand Marshall Michelle Gibson and the New Orleans Original BuckShop guiding participants from Exall Park in a procession to the Latino Cultural Center. At the cultural center, the performers costumed by Ryan Matthieu Smith will bring carnival masks and puppets to life for an outdoor performance and ceremony. Attendees are required to wear masks and socially distance to participate. Comfortable footwear is recommended for the two-hour event.
Frida Espinosa-Müller designed an array for multicultural masks to be worn by both performers and the audience. The audience is also encouraged to arrive in festive and colorful attire. “In these kinds of traditions, the line is blurred between performer and audience. We’re calling patrons ‘participants,’” Lozano said. “So, we can have this moment of shared transformation.”
Both theater companies have worked with masks and know how to use them to create a joyful atmosphere. “One of the principles of masked performance that is at the heart of the artists’ work in this experience is that a mask allows you to express more of yourself. You’re liberated by wearing a mask and you can explore more aspects of the character,” Lozano said. “These masks are anthropomorphic. They have exaggerations. The designs are fantastical. Like it has been said of Mexico, it is a surreal country, and the masks are surreal.”
Large puppets called mojigangas help participants drop any hesitation from fully participating. “They create an atemporal space. It takes you out of your present moment because they are out of scale,” Cardona said. “They are transformative, and they are associated with ritual, so people respond to that. The minute you see something larger than life, it moves you out of the everyday and moves you into suspended animation, a space where we all create something new together.”
¡Soltar! is a contemporary spin on the ancient rites of spring. “We want to connect a thread from the past into the present. And we’re also having a lot of fun inviting material in from our contemporary time so that they co-exist. This is not just a showcase of ancient folkloric things. They are reinvented and we’ve added new material that is fun because people will recognize things from their present moment in these events,” Cardona said.
Cara Mía Theatre uses processions to engage with the community. “The company has been doing processions in neighborhoods with the intention of activating neighborhoods for cultural expression so people can assume cultural expression as a part of their neighborhood. It is not something exclusive to museums or expensive theater buildings,” Lozano said.
Last fall, Cara Mía Theatre’s Day of the Dead procession was as much a protest of the government’s handling of the pandemic as it was an expression of cultural traditions. “It leaves a real imprint on people’s memories about what culture can mean,” Lozano said.
Moving forward into a new phase of the pandemic, Lozano focuses on the essentials of creative work. “I hope we have deepened our connection to our craft and our personal missions of why we make theater and why we have theater companies at all,” Lozano said.
Cardona has found value in serving smaller audiences and letting go to preconceptions. “We’ve been through this trial. It’s like being tempered by fire,” Cardona said. “I hope it has been an opportunity to shed the things that don’t work and to reimagine other ways of doing things.”
¡Soltar! is currently sold out. To join the waitlist, call the box office at 214.516.0706 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more: https://www.caramiatheatre.org/soltar