PILSEN — Aguijón Theater will present “La Pinche India,” a play about racial discrimination, bringing the dark comedy to the United States for the first time this weekend.
Shows are 90 minutes long, starting 7:30 Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. It marks the finale of Destinos 2023, the sixth Chicago International Latino Theater Festival.
“La Pinche India,” written by Mexican playwright Mario Cantú Toscano in 2010, follows Gigi, an upper-class girl who wakes up one day turned into an Indigenous woman. As a former green-eyed blonde, her life changes completely. While she searches for a new identity, she comes to understand racial discrimination, realizing all the privileges she had before.
Marcela Muñoz, executive director and co-artistic director of Aguijón Theater, said the play’s title — which loosely translates to “That F*cking Indigenous Brown Girl” — can initially come off as offensive and strong. But she said the theater chose to present the play to their audience because it can spark conversations and reflections within the audience.
Muñoz said colorism in the Latino community has extended to acting spaces and caused controversies. When Yalitza Aparicio, an Indigenous Mexican actress, was nominated for an Oscar for her role in “Roma” in 2019, some Mexican actors criticized Aparicio’s background, Muñoz said. It’s reflective of an ever-present tension in Latin American and Latino communities, Muñoz said.
“We’re a product of the conflict. We’re a product of atrocities. We’re a product of mixtures and all kinds of things,” she said. “There’s always this conflict within many of us, of who we are, what our race is, what we value within ourselves what we don’t. This play is an exploration of that.”
The director, Sándor Menéndez, has incorporated new interpretations into the original work. Muñoz said mirrors are very important to the plot, as that’s how Gigi discovers she’s become Indigenous, and Menéndez plays with using cast members as “mirrors” themselves, seating them inside the audience.
Each actor will bring something to share, whether that be a personal story or a news article, and they will engage in asides with the audience.
In some ways, the play is less about reacting to the discrimination people experience on a day-to-day basis and more about having the audience members explore that conflict within themselves, Muñoz said. She hopes people will evaluate what their prejudices are and learn how to move forward with them.
“What is our issue with the other, with what is different? [We can] both explore it and laugh at ourselves within it,” she said. “Sometimes we get so touchy about it, but it’s like, let’s recognize it. Let’s admit that it’s there, even laugh with it.”
Tickets are $35 for general admission; $20 for students, older people and educators; and $10 with a donation of a new or gently used coat at the door. Sunday’s show, which is free, is sold out. Muñoz is excited about the free opportunity and hopes it will expose people to the power of theater and inspire them to come back more often.
Flooding in July damaged Aguijón’s home theater, 2707 N. Laramie Ave., but Muñoz said the plan is to open “La Pinche India” in the National Museum of Mexican Art this week, and then bring it back home to the restored Laramie theater in February and March.
“We want to make sure that people are there, that both the actors and the audiences are enjoying themselves, are having a conversation, regardless of how difficult or how uncomfortable things might get,” Muñoz said. “It’s really a conversation starter for you.”
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