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Fiesta's flamboyant spoof Cornyation takes the Empire Stage

Lauren Farris
Farris Family Film & Photo

Fiesta is nothing if not strange, fun and often over the top. And the one event that may be the strangest and most over the top is Cornyation. For those who haven’t been, Cornyation is a live production staged at the Empire Theatre. Jesse Mata knows it well.

“Cornyation is an annual satire where we take a look at everything that's happened over the past year in terms of politics, culture, celebrities, et cetera, and really do our best to try to savage it in every way possible,” Mata said.

Mata knows Cornyation well because he’s been working it for a long time.

“Almost 20 years for me. That’s a typical story for folks in Cornyation,” he said. “The show itself has been around for 55 editions. I believe the first one was in 1952.”

Those who come can expect to see proven the old adage that “sacred cows make the best burgers.”

“Yeah, and it's a cookout every year, and we certainly don't pull our punches. I think the one rule that we adhere to is that we don't punch down. We're not mean,” Mata said. “Frequently we'll have folks in the audience who are being lampooned on stage, and they’re, for the most part, laughing right along with us.”

Cornyation has an ethos all its own, an absurdist world that makes sense three nights a year when they perform.

“Originally Cornyation was first presented as a salad. It was the court of the cracked salad bowl,” he said. “And so the different courts were presented as salad ingredients. So you had lettuce and tomatoes and different elements. And then ultimately the last thing were the anchovies that were put on top of the salad.”

Each year King Anchovy is selected to reign over the onstage madness. The name is a broadside hit on Fiesta’s King Antonio. This year’s King Anchovy? Jesse Mata himself. He thinks it’s both a bit ridiculous…and a huge responsibility.

“King Anchovy is the ultimate in fake royalty, utterly meaningless and at once one of the greatest honors I've ever been asked to fulfill,” Mata said.

Show starts Tuesday, April 5, and tickets are still available.

“It'll be the (April) 5th, 6th and 7th at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Empire Theater. Six total shows over the course of the performance,” he said.

Mata said the show is a good one for family members who are 18 or older.

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Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii