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Syncretic Sites in Luis Alfaro's Electricidad.

In recent years on the U.S. stage, a variety of productions of Athenian drama have been emerging that syncretize the ancient form with distinctly U.S. identities. Will Power's (2006) The Seven, Allain Rochel's (2007) Bacchae, the Classical Theater of Harlem's (2008) The Trojan Women, Take Wing and Soar's (2008) Medea, and Luis Alfaro's (2005) Electricidad all engage with questions of gender and racial identities through the medium of Athenian drama. In what follows, I want to discuss the ways in which a contemporary revision such as these resignifies the traditional associations of classics with a monolithic Anglo-American identity (1) and at the same time challenges any singular view of American identity itself.

In his Electricidad and specifically its performance at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, in 2005, MacArthur Fellow and solo performer (2) Luis Alfaro infuses Sophodes' Electra with cholo charm and adapts the play's murder-for-justice motif into the context of contemporary gang violence among the cholos (3) living in the Boyle Heights district of LA. Electra becomes Electricidad, a plaid-shirt wearing chola who longs for her brother Orestes to return from "X-file" in Las Vegas to avenge their father's murder. Alfaro has said that his interest in the Electra myth was inspired by his work in a youth authority program for teen felons, where he met
  a young girl who had killed her mother. Shortly afterward I went into
  the Arizona Theatre Company's bookstore, and they had a collection of
  the Greeks on sale. I thought, I should read this. And you know,
  you're reading Electra and it's basically the same story. Nothing's
  changed. Why do we still have a need to avenge? (Johnson 2006, 64).

In connecting the violence in Electra to the violence in the urban barrio, Alfaro transforms the plot, the characters, and the corporeality (embodied social codes as exhibited through costume, gesture, voice, setting, etc (4) ) of the ancient Greek version into the movement, language, and Aztec mythology of the Boyle Heights cholos. The resulting revision, which has been performed on major stages and workshopped with youths, demonstrates that Electra belongs as much to cholo culture as to any other.

While the play's corporeality creates a distinctly cholo surrogates (5) of one of the central myths related to Western democracy, the performance's syncrisis of culture also raises provocative questions about issues of identity in contemporary America. The hybrid structure of the play, from its use of Spanglish to its cholo costume, metatheatrically addresses the identity issues at the heart of the cholo community, whose trouble identifying with mainstream America has been cited as one of the root causes of gang formation. In this way the form of the play functions as a sort of therapy for the sociological problems that contribute to violence in the cholo community and to the marginalization of the community at large.

The Cholo World

Electricidad's setting and corporeality merge its precursor with the socio-cultural environment of the cholos. Like Sophocles, Alfaro localizes the Electra myth. He uses numerous references to the city of Los Angeles., from the Santa Ana winds to Mariachi Plaza, K-Earth 101, and Forest Lawn Cemetery. From Electricidad's plaid shirt and baggy pants to La Ifi's puffy goose-down jacket and heavy eye makeup, the costumes embody the dress style that, according to sociologist James Diego Vigil (1988, 112), "marks one's closer associations to the barrio gang." (6) As Vigil discusses, the cholo's style is a key part of their identity, and together with these clothing choices, "other gestural and demeanor patterns also reflect the cholo style" (1988, 113). In Alfaro's work, tattoos, graffiti, low-rider culture, slow-dancing, and a leisurely gait function like the identity markers that Vigil lists in his study. When the grandmother "pulls a joint out of her cleavage" (Alfaro 2006, 77, col. 2) and talks about storing "knives, joints; [and.] food stamps" in her hair (Alfaro 2006, 77, col. 3), the gestures reference cholo decorum but also seem funny, particularly in an adaptation of a classical play. The medium of performance creates an environment in which the cholos not only retell the ancient myth but also embody it in their own style and terms.

In addition to these corporeal mergers, Alfaro joins the plays' plots through the systems of retribution which affect the lives of the title characters Electra and her chola teen double Electricidad. his interest lies in the insight that Athenian drama gives to situations of violence in the contemporary world, for the Sophoclean murder-for-justice motif resembles the cholo code of gang violence. In the myth of the House of Atreus, each transgressor's murder must be requited in a system of retribution: Orestes must kill his mother, who killed his father, who killed his daughter, whom Artemis demanded as a sacrifice to make the winds sail the ships to Troy. The play channels this system of retribution through its old cholo order: "Violence begets violence begets violence--[which] is one of the big themes of the play" (Johnson 2006, 65). Electricidad says:
  You are the old ways, Papa. You are the history and the reason we know
  how to live. I want to live the old cholo ways, Papa. Simple and to
  the point. You mess with me, I mess with you back. You want to party,
  party in your own backyard. You shoot, I shoot back. It's simple. Why
  can't we live the old ways? She says I act like a man. Good. I'm not a
  girl. I'm a chola! DE LOS EAST SIDE LOCOS! (Alfaro 2006, 70, col. 2)

The cycle of family violence begins in the play after the Vampira-esque Clemencia (Sophocles' Clytemnestra), snazzily coiffured in her all black threads, kills her abusive husband Agamemnon, who took her virginity in the back of a car when she was 13 years old. While Clemencia wants to move on and sell her Boyle Heights bungalow to pursue a more economically and emotionally liberated life, Electricidad, her obstinate daughter, keeps Century 21 on hold by clinging to her father's stinking corpse, which she has enshrined in their front yard after stealing it from the cemetery. Despite her father's abusive behavior, Electricidad obsessively laments his death, which also represents the death of the old cholo order. She has been hanging on to the 'old order' of the cholo gangs and attempts to deny her mother's dream for a new way of life. Through this contemporary system of retribution, Electricidad intersects with the ancient Sophoclean themes.

Through these thematic and corporeal connections Alfaro demonstrates that both Electra and Electricidad belong to a world without a system of justice that they can trust. Sophocles' Electra must rely on a vendetta system of justice since no alternative yet exists. The play takes place in the mythical heroic past before the establishment of the court of the Areopagus in which homicides could be tried.? Electricidad, on the other hand, resides in Boyle Heights, a gang-infested neighborhood, situated just east of the LA River, long known as a gateway for immigrant communities, who typically mistrust the police. Las Vecinas (the Neighbors), three chatty gossips who continue to sweep around Agamemnon's tomb performing a pun on limpiar ('to clean' and 'to purify'), comment on this situation in the manner of a Greek chorus but without any literal music and dance. (8) The women discuss how King Cholo Agamemnon used to protect the neighborhood:
  LA CUCA: 'And] all of us. LA CARMEN: But from what? LA CONNIE.: The
  elements, mujer. LA CUCA: The city. LA CARMEN: The other gangs. LA
  CONNIE: The thieves. LA CUGA: La policia. LA CARMEN: And the
  politicians. LA CONNIE: Thank dios for cholo protection. (Alfaro
  2006, 67, col. 2)

Although their comments seem sarcastic, the women mean what they say.

To many inner city communities in Los Angeles, the police appear to be a worse evil than the gangs. As La Cuca says, "We don't dial the 911 no more," and La Carmen confirms, "No place for la policia in these barrios now" (Alfaro 2006, 67, col. 3). This quotation characterizes the "friction between barrio residents and law enforcement, much like what is found in other low-income neighborhoods" (Vigil 1988, 37). Scandals in the Los Angeles Police Department, such as those of the Rampart Division in the late 1990s, have done much harm to the relationship between citizens and police in certain neighborhoods. In the Rampart scandal, several officers in the elite gang unit known as CRASH were accused of routinely planting evidence, framing, and even shooting innocent. people. Since the investigation began, over 100 criminal convictions have been overturned, and several civil and criminal convictions of officers ensued.9 (Corrupt police such as these, together with the 1 992 acquittal of several officers on trial for the brutal beating of Rodney King, have contributed to the distrust, fear, and anger with the U.S. justice system which eventually erupted into the L.A. uprising/riots of 1992. Such situations have led to antagonism toward the. police, which is among the strategies into which barrio youngsters are socialized. Electricidad internalizes this antagonism and, like Electra, believes that she has no recourse to legitimate institutions. She experiences family stress, isolation, arid adolescent struggles for identity, all factors associated with gang formation and violence.

The Hope of Forgiveness

Unlike the ancient version, however, Electricidad offers an alternative to this violence through the forgiveness inherent in Christianity. This peaceful alternative is symbolized by the character La Ifi (Iphigenia). Using themes from the Euripidean plays Iphigenia in Aulis (that Iphigenia was transformed into a deer when her father sacrificed her to make the winds sail the Greek ships to Troy) and Iphigenia in Tauris (that she was whisked away to Tauris), Alfaro creates Electricidad's "born-again" sister who arrives while Orestes is away in Las Vegas training to become a real cholo. Alfaro's introduction of an Iphigenia character in place of Electra's Sophoclean sister Chrysothemis seriously undermines Clytemnestra's claim in all the Greek versions that Agamemnon's murder is merely in retaliation for the king's sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia. However, La Ifi's Christianity is a necessary and intrinsic part of the cholo terms and culture into which Alfaro translates, for "being born-again has become a big thing in gang culture, a way of avoiding violence" (Johnson 2006, 65).

Wonderfully characterized physically in the Taper production by Elisa Bocanegra, La Ifi is clad as a dowdy nun donning a puffy, black goose-down jacket. Tattooed in skull and crossbones, she has a very butch appearance in spite of her nun-duds and humorously swings between her past aggressive behavior and newly found pious demeanor. Born-again, she has rejected the cholo code in favor of her new religion and attempts to instruct her family in the practice of forgiveness:
  IFIGENIA: Don't forget what he [Agamemnon] was. Yes, rey of our
  barrio, but also a mean-ass cholo. ELECIRICIDAD: How do you think he
  got to be cholo, down on his knees asking Jesus to make him leader?
  IFIGENIA: Hermana, he gave us these tattoos. But these tattoos are
  also scars. ELECTRICIDAD: Yo puedo ver que she poisons your
  mind. IFIGENIA: "Forgiveness is a virtue." ELECTRICLDAD: What are you
  talking about, macha? IFIGENIA: I just learned that one. I don't know
  what the hell it means. ELECTRICLDAD: You like your convent? IFIGENIA:
  It's just like jail, but with better food. And silence ... (Alfaro
  2006, 73, col. 1)

The comic relief of La Ill's quips also symbolizes a way out of the barrio and its violence through unconditional love, which she defines as "love, like ... beyond the barrio" (Alfaro 2006, 78, col. 3). Alfaro "thought it was important for everyone to see the choice Electricidad is making. She sees other options, Ifigenia presents one, and yet she chooses to do what she does" (Johnson 2006, 65). Pitting mother against daughter, sister against sister, and son against mother, Electricidad localizes the all too repetitive questions of if, when, and how the cycle of violence, cholo gang violence, will end; and the play suggests that the cycle will continue "as long as it takes to forgive" (Alfaro 2006, 67, col. 2).

La Ifi's experience models those of gang members described by Vigil such as Henry whose "mother tried to get him educated and conforming (Catholic school) and regularly admonished him about hanging out with the wrong crowd" (Vigil 1988, 83). Some escape temporarily, some leave for good, others never make it out at all. For the young students participating in Allaro's workshops, La Ifi's perspective represents an alternative way of life. She tries to convince her mother that "a stick is not the answer. Love is" (Alfaro 2006, 79, col. I ), but the message is never received. In this way, the born-again La Hi becomes an embodied manifestation of the futility of retribution and hope in the Christian forgiveness--as opposed to the Aeschylean Areopagus or the American judicial system--to heal the wounds of history.

This peaceful conversion almost seems possible when Electricidad's sexy ahucla (grandmother) nearly convinces her granddaughter to accept her father's death peacefully. When Electricidad finally breaks down, the ahuela calls on Las Vecinas to perform a "limpia [i.e. purification] but more car wash style" (Alfaro 2006, 82, col. 2) on Electricidad, who emerges looking "strangely angelic" and wearing all white (Alfaro 2006, 82, col. 2). The ritual stages a rebirth less reminiscent of Catholic ceremonies than of rituals in syncretic religions such as Santeria and Candomble which help to protect believers from evil spirits. However, immediately following this ritual, Orestes returns, and calling on Coatlicue the Aztec goddess and on her daughter Coyolxauhqui, Electricidad soon convinces her lagging brother to murder his mother Clemencia.

As Las Vecinas continue their relentless sweeping, they begin to realize that all hope for peace and acceptance has disappeared. The cycle may never end. La Carmen says:
  Electricidad got what she wanted. LA CONNIE: The gods answered her
  prayers. LA CUCA: All is good. LA CARMEN: Peace at last ... LA
  CARMEN: What is to be done, vecinas? LA CoNNIE: What can be done? LA
  CUCA: We never learn. Beat. LA CARMEN: Apoco. LA CONNIE: No me digas.
  LA CUCA: Ai ... Beat." (Alfaro 2006, 85, col. 3)

As Deane/dad closes, the audience hears the sounds of police or media helicopters descending, like hungry vultures ready to pounce on the bloody, lifeless body of Clemencia; but through the performance itself, Alfaro reverses this usual media lens by telling a classical story in cholo terms. Staging this revision at one of the city's major theaters, he suggests that the violence of the cholo code is as much a part of greater Los Angeles as Electricidad's Boyle Heights' suburb.

Theater as Therapy

In this way, Electricidad addresses the identity crisis that Vigil suggests contributes to the fostering of violence in the cholo community. The cholos feel neither quite Mexican nor quite American. They call Mexican nationals and immigrants "chtintaros" and "wetbacks," and at the same time, they deny being "engahacheado" (anglicized) (Vigil 1988, 42). The marginalization they experience in school and society at large are two of the key sociocultural factors in the "choloization of Mexican American youth," despite improvements in these areas in recent years (Vigil 1988). While not all cholos join gangs, many do, especially because conventional opportunities seem out of reach. In response to this subjugation,
  The gang has constituted a secondary "fringe" organization to
  resocialize members of the group to internalize and adhere to
  alternative norms and modes of behavior. Such gang patterns
  play a significant role in helping mainly troubled youths
  acquire a sense of importance, self-esteem, and self-identity.
  In short, rather than feeling neglected and remaining, socially
  and institutionally marginal, the gang members develop their
  own subcultural style to participate in public life, albeit
  a street one. (Vigil 1988, 63-4)

Through workshopping the play with cholo youth and bringing their culture from the fringes of the barrio into The Mark Taper Forum, Alfaro integrates these worlds and ameliorates some of the marginalization that contributes to the formation of gangs.

Alfaro also combats this marginalization by humanizing Orestes and Electra and demonstrating the ways in which their inner-city environment corrupts their good natures. He invites the audience to identify with the familial and social pressures of their world. These cholos are "made by man ... the product of racism ... and neglectful mamas" (Alfaro 2006, 67, col. 3). Although Electricidad and Orestes are bred from violent circumstances, they still show potential for goodness. Their actions, like those of their ancient counterparts, are violent, but their vendetta justice is simply part of the world in which they live. As La Abuela says, "[We stay in the barrio for] the same reason we all do, young chola [i.e. Electricidad]. Where do cholos go in a world that won't have us? This is the 'nuncio we know Good or had. Es lo que is (Alfaro 2006. 77. col. 2).

Nevertheless, Las Vecinas demonstrate the impact of this violent behavior on the surrounding community, and they remind the audience of the personal responsibility that the characters must take for their actions:
  LA GARAMEN: The moon drips blood. LA CONNIE: For them. LA CUCA:
  Los cholos. LA CARMEN: Con Sus ways. LA CONNIE: COn sus gangs.
  LA CUCA: Con su violence. LA CARAMEN: So different. LA CONNIE:
  Rut vet ... LA CUCA: They look just, like us ... (Alfato 2006,
  74, col. 2).

Not everyone in the barrio is a cholo. Not all cholos kill, and those that do don't have to. Electricidad offers this complex view of the cholo life, and wages its own gang war on both the circumstances and individual choices that perpetuate violence.

Comedy and Stereotypes

Alfaro's war, however, is one not of weapons but of words, and he launches his offensive through humor. (10) La Ifi's frequent peppering of Christian proselytizing with her pungent expletives, and Electricidad's sportive spitting match with her grandma, add levity that could easily detract from the piece's serious point; but Alfaro's use of humor instead reflects class and race. On the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, for example, Latinos can make fun of the dead, and, here as well, humor becomes the mask that allows the actors and audience to face the painful story and experience the gang motto of 'you laugh until you cry'--you live it up until you get caught" (Johnson 2006, 64).

The power of the humor rests predominantly, however, on the syncretization of mainstream American and cholo cultures. Electricidad's pop references cast generic American cultural references into the framework of cholo dialect. Las Vecinas describe Electricidad's mother Clemencia as a power-hungry villain. La Carmen begins by saying Clemencia wants "Power" La Connie follows: "Her own business." Then La Cuca says:
  Her own territory. LA CARMEN: Wants to own the block. LA
  CONNIE: Wants to own the Casa. LA CUCA: Wants to own
  the carro. LA CARMEN: Be a queen. LA CONNIE: Be an
  entrepreneur. LA CUCA: Como la Oprah ... (Alfaro 2006, 68,
  col. 1)

Characterizing at first Clemencia as a power-hungry, materialistic chola not to be messed with, Las Vecinas then undo their villain-like description of her by comparing her drive and ambition to the well-loved TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. Clemencia's entrepreneurial ambitions are as American as Oprah. The humor in the punch-line, "Como la Oprah," arises in the juxtaposition of an image of a power-hungry villain to that of the most successful, cheerful, and well-loved of American TV talk-show hosts. If laughter has a "social signification," as Henri Bergson (1991, 65) suggests, the Spanglish punch-line also indicates a cultural anxiety surrounding minority women in positions of power.

"Como la Oprah" is one of a number of other pop-culture references mixed into the play's framework. For example, Las Vecinas describe Clemencia as
  smoking her cigaros. LA CUCA: Laughing on her telefono. LA CARMEN:
  Watching the Price Is Right. LA CONNIE: Planning her takeover ...
  LA CARMEN: But she'll get hers. LA CONNIE: Don't they know. LA CUCA:
  That everything is a circle. LA CARMEN: What goes around come around.
  LA CONNIE: Everybody pays for their MTA ride ... (Alfaro 2006, 68,
  col. 3)

While the humor in this dialogue also highlights a cultural fear of women in power, at the same time the joke points to an anxiety concerning the mingling of cultures which lies in the casting of apple-pie American household references, such as Oprah and the "Price Is Right," into Spanglish. This anxiety over hybridity and assimilation resonates in both Anglo-American and Chicano culture, since
  we [i.e. Chicanos] are dealing with our Americanism--we've got
  one foot on each side of the border--not necessarily the way
  you think about Mexico/U.S., but about assimilation and
  tradition. We truly possess an American psyche, and we're
  dealing with what is it to be American. It's natural to use
  what's in the culture at the moment. (Johnson 2006, 64)

The tension between holding onto tradition and assimilating into a new culture marks a struggle with identity both in cholo culture and in the U.S. at large. Pop culture functions as a bridge between the two and becomes a key syncretic site where mainstream and cholo cultures merge.

Alfaro's comic pop references punctuate and challenge the class divisions and stereotypes that contribute to the marginalization of working class Latinos. Electra's royal status does not translate into Electricidad's world, where the characters refer to consumer chains such as Krispy Kremes, (12) El Polio Loco, (13) Targot, (14) and Food 4 Less. (15) For many new immigrants, these stores present affordable buying opportunities that may not have been possible before. Within a U.S. context, however, these items, as well as wine coolers, lowriders, (16) malt 40s, tamales, and pointy-bras from Woolworths, all have clear class connotations. While these references may seem to reinforce negative stereotypes about cholos, particularly when performed before a largely middle-class audience, Allan), inspired by the Mexican traditions of Carpa and Tanda, (17) which "contested U.S. cultural representations of the Mexican," (18) In instead uses these class references to a humorous effect in order to combat pernicious cultural stereotypes.

For example, Orestes looks at the tattoo of Electricidad that he has just imprinted on his chest, and Nino (the pedagogue who trains Orestes to be a warrior while they are in Las Vegas) declares, "Better than the Sears family portraits!" (Alfaro 2006, 80, col. I ). In addition, Electricidad threatens her grandmother by saying that she will go to her "little casita and break all [her] Princess Diana plates" (Alfaro 2006, 77, col. 2). When Orestes first sees his sister, who has just been cleansed by Las Vecinas, he exclaims, "Electricidad, my sister, You look like a statue. The most beautiful statue in Caesar's," (Alfaro 2006, 82, col. 3). (19) These pop culture references illustrate the characters' mindset, and in every instance, the characters speak of kitsch consumer goods as if they were luxury items. The humor in these anecdotes feeds on the anxieties surrounding class and racial stereotypes and the social and economic obstacles faced by many U.S. communities. In this way, the characteristic humor and Spanglish of the play operate as poetic tools to dismantle these stereotypes and construct in their place a bridge between classes and cultures.

Together with these attempts to combat class and racial. stereotypes, Electricidad raises questions related to gender. Alfaro asks, "Does the matriarchy become a patriarchy in order to survive? Or is Clemencia saying to the daughters that we can become a new society?" (Johnson 2006, 64). While the story weakens the male characters and centers instead on three generations of women, these women seem to offer no alternative to the old masculine ways and instead behave like men. Through her devotion to her father and dependence on her brother, Electricidad upholds the masculine rule of the barrio, and although Alfaro sees Clemencia as "feminism" (Johnson 2006, 64), this character nevertheless mimics the violence of the patriarchy, even though she tries to escape these "old ways" in her ambitious aim for a better life. Clemencia accuses her daughter of acting like a man (Alfaro 2006, 70, col. 2), but through her murder of her husband and attempted murder of her son, Clemencia does the same. Nevertheless, she aspires to a world beyond the barrio. She does not aspire to more killing but rather "to take back every bruise your [i.e.Electricidad's] father gave [her] and turn it into a dollar" (Alfaro 2006, 75, col. 3). She wants to start a business and tries to manipulate her daughter by offering her a cut of the profits (Alfaro 2006, 75, col. 3), but when Clemencia fails to persuade Electricidad, she decides instead to "kick her ass" (Alfaro 2006, 79, col. I ). Clemencia has aspirations but cannot reciprocate or embrace Ifigenia's offer of unconditional love, which in this play appears to be the only way beyond the barrio (Alfaro 2006, 78, col. 3). This reiteration of the old ways that Clemencia fails to overcome suggests the difficulty of breaking the cycle of violence that continues to perpetuate itself from generation to generation. Both women and men internalize this violence and can fall victim to its replication.


Through the syncretic corporeal interplay between ancient Greek and cholo culture, Electricidad pursues a more diversified trajectory in the adaptation and performance of Athenian drama. Although the play could seem to reinforce certain stereotypes of cholos, the hybridized performance at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum has instead used the performance techniques of Carpa and Tanda to combat pernicious stereotypes. At the same time, by workshopping the play with atrisk youth, Alfaro has used Electricidad as a vehicle for their empowerment, while the play's performance on major U.S. stages has become a means to educate the public at large about the concerns of the Boyle Heights cholos and the sociological factors that contribute to the alienation of those residents who experience identity issues in assimilation to mainstream U.S. culture. (20) In the process of this social project, Alfaro invigorates Electricidad's ancient precursor with a contemporary American language, culture, and identity (21) and, at the same time, demonstrates the importance of Electra to the modern inner-city. (22)

Works Cited

Alfaro, Luis. 2006. "Electricidad Playscript." American Theater Magazine 23.2: 66-85. Bergson, I lend. 1991. "Laughter." In Wylie Sypher, ed., Comedy. Baltimore. 61-146. Bernal, Martin. 2006. Black Athena: The A oAsiatic Roots of. Classical Civiliation, vol. 3:

The Linguistic Evidence. New Brunswick.

--, and David Chinni Moore. 2001. Black Athena Writes Back: Martin Bernal Responds to his Critics. Durham.

Broyles-Gonzalez, Yolanda. 1994. El Teatro Cantpesino: Theater in the Chicano Movement. Austin.

Eagleton, Terry, Frederic Jameson, and Edward W. Said. 1990. Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis.

Foster, Susan. 1996. Corporealities: Dancing Knowledge, Culture and Power. London.

Fusco, Coco, ed., 2000. Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas. New York.

Gi1roy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic. Cambridge.

Haas, Lisbeth. 199.5. Conquests and Historical Identities in California 1769--1936. Berkeley.

Johnson, Cassandra. 2006. "Electricidad. Interview with Luis Alfaro." American Theater Magazine 23.2: 64-5.

Lefkowitz, Mary R., and Guy Maclean Rogers. 1996. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill.

Moritz, Helen E. 2008. "Luis Alfaro's Electric/dad and the 'Tragedy of Electra.'" Text and Presentation 2007, series 4: 122-66.

Munoz, Jose Esteban. 2000. "Memory Performance: Luis Alfaro's 'Cuerpo Politizado.'" In Fusco 2000, 97-114.

Prieto, Antonio. 2000. "Camp, Carpa, and Cross-Dressing in the Theater of Tito Vasconcelos." In Fusco 2000, 83-96.

Rabkin, Gerald. 1984. "Lee Breuer on The Gospel at Colonies" (Interview). Performing Arts Journal 8.1: 48-51.

Roach, Joseph. 1997. Cities of the Dead. New York.

Sterngold, James. 2000. "February 6--12; L.A..PI ). Blues." The New York Times. 13 February. (accessed 1 May 2011).

Taplin, Oliver. 1986. "Fifth-Century Tragedy and Comedy: A Synkrisis." JHS 106: 163-74.

Vigil, James Diego. 1988. Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California. Austin.


(1.) See Bernal and Chioni Moore 2001, Bernal 2006, and the rebuttals in Lefkowitz and Rogers 1996 for debates over the association of classics with European identity.

(2.) Luis Allan) is well known for his work as a solo performer and for his Emmynominated short film Chicanismo. In his essay on Alfaro's Cuerpo Politizado, Jose Esteban Munoz (2000, 97) describes the sole.) performer's work as presenting "views of the intersecting worlds that. formed him as a queer, working-class, urban Chicano."

(3.) Vigil (1988, 41--2) defines cholos as members of an urban subculture characterized by "a street based amalgam of Anglo-American and Mexican features with innovative syncretisms." His glossary definition reads (177): "A Chicano street style of youth who are marginal to both Mexican and Anglo culture; also used historically for cultural marginals and racial hybrids in Mexico and some parts of Latin America."

(4.) See Foster 1996 on corporeality and her theory of "choreography," which "challenges the dichotomization of verbal and nonverbal cultural practices by asserting the thought-filledness of movement and the theoretical potential of bodily action ..." (17). Choreography addresses a social network of embodied knowledge as opposed to the individual execution.

(5.) See Roach 1997, 25 on the circum-Atlantic world's process of "surrogation," a term that Roach defines as "how culture reproduces and recreates itself."

(6.) All production descriptions refer to the performance of Electricidad at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, directed by Lisa Petersen, on 6 April 2005, with Justin luen as Orestes, Zilah Mendoz as Electricidad, Bertila Damas as Clemencia; costumes by Christopher Acebo.

(7.) Aeschylus dramatizes the foundation of this lawcourt. in the Oresteia, which includes his version of the Electra myth.

(8.) Moritz (2008, 133 note 3) argues that their rhythmic speech and sweeping substitutes for music and dance.

(9.) See, e.g., Sterngold 2000.

(10.) Although Electricidad follows the plot of the Sophoclean tragedy rather closely, the play's marked use of tragicomedy and innovative dramaturgy rather resembles the style of Euripides. Euripides' late tragedies especially assume a comitragic quality that scholars such as Oliver have attributed to the turbulent, war-torn environment of late fifthcentury Athens. clitplin (1986, 165--6) has argued that Euripides takes his use of comic touches, which characterize his later plays, to a new degree in Bacchae: "Such contraventions of the generic boundaries [i.e. in Bacchae] are, no doubt, all part of the crisis in the last years of the fifth century which produced fascinating innovative plays--I think particularly of Orestes and Philoctetes--but which also marked the end of growth for classical tragedy. In that case, this confirms rather than weakens the distinction between the two genres before the brilliant breakdown."

(11.) A holiday, with Aztec roots and celebrated by Mexicans and Latin Americans, that honors the deceased and occurs in connection with the Catholic holy day of All Saints' Day.

(12.) A popular U.S. doughnut chain.

(13.) Literally, 'the crazy chicken,' El Pollo Loco is a popular U.S. fast-food chain, primarily located in the southwestern and western areas of the country.

(14.) A popular U.S. retail store, known for its cheaply priced goods.

(15.) A chain of ultra-cheap grocery stores, primarily located in Southern California.

(16.) Gussied-up vehicles with ultra-low suspension, lowriders form a Chicano subculture, where clubs get together to have barbecues and go cruising.

(17.) Broyles-Gonzalez (1994, 7) states: "It is impossible to define the Mexican catra as one thing, for it encompassed a field of diverse cultural performance practices popular among the poorest segments of the Mexican populace." See this work for further discussion of carpa and its use especially in the work of El Teatro Campesino, a Chicano/a 'heater troupe founded by Luis Mikity during the California farm labor movement in 1965. On carp t, sec also Prieto 2000.

(18.) Haas (1995, 210-1) continues: "immigrants drew on this transnational development of language, images. and content to define '10 mexicano' over time and to interpret the bilingual and bicultural reality in which they lived ... "

(19.) Caesar's Palace is the Las Vegas casino, where Orestes has been in exile.

(20.) Jameson (I 990, 64) discusses a similar feat of resistance accomplished through the textual practices of Ulysses through "appropriating the great imperial space of the Mediterranean in order to organize the space of the colonial city, and to turn its walks and paths into the closure of a form and of a grand cultural monument."

(21.) Cf. Lee Breuer's term "American classicism," which Breuer, perhaps problematically, uses to describe his Gospel at Colones (a version of OC set in an African-American Pentecostal church). Breuer recognizes that "a different tradition is at work here [i.e. in the U.S.I and a different classicism has to be developed" (Rahkin 1984, 51, citing Breuer).

(22.) Electricidad has also participated in a historical moment that included the election of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an election which occurred on I7 May 2005, just a month after the plan's opening at the 'liver, and which marked the advancement of representational power of Latinos in Los Angeles.
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Author:Powers, Melinda
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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