Despite COVID snags, Teatro Audaz continues its mission of telling South Texas stories
Teatro Audaz will open its next play, “The Mesquite Tree, An American Tragedy,” on Thursday, July 7, after a week of delays due to COVID-19.
“The Mesquite Tree” by South Texas native David Davila, tells the story of a family of women struggling to break free from the patterns that have prevented them from realizing their dreams.
Alternating between difficult realities and a vivid sequence of flashbacks, the show is set solely in the kitchen and living room of one family. “The Mesquite Tree” instantly immerses the audience in the world of the six women on stage, providing a full glimpse into their hopes, fears and mistakes.
This is the third show of Teatro Audaz’ season. All of their shows this season center around the theme “Familia es Todo” or “Family is Everything.” This story encapsulates family, as a group of women who work to support each other through difficult times, with no help from the men around them. The family connects through several generations, as each mother teaches their daughter to make tamales and provide for their children. This process both unites the women and strains their relationships.
The play is full of heavy scenes and small details that make the story memorable, emotional and personal. From the array of crosses on the wall, to the bags of H-E-B groceries, to Fatima’s craving for Whataburger fries, “The Mesquite Tree” is unmistakably South Texan.
The play is directed by Vanessa Rae Lerma, who is also the managing director of Teatro Audaz. Lerma is a personal friend of Davila, the playwright, and after seeing a virtual reading of the show was instantly intrigued.
“What I connected with a lot was the bond between all of them and the struggle of trying to get out of something that they have almost no control over,” Lerma said. “It's that cycle of poverty, and when does that break?”
“The Mesquite Tree” highlights the voices and stories of Latina women, who are so often overlooked in works of theatre. Their stories in this show are poignant and powerful, and part of Teatro Audaz’ goal to highlight those that are underserved by the arts.
“Strong, fierce women are working on this show and it's awesome to be in a room with women like that,” Lerma said.
Elizabeth Raquel Ramirez plays Suzy, a young mother who provides much of the comedic relief, despite dealing with trauma of her own. Ramirez believes this play is unique, reflecting communities not often seen on stage.
“I've never connected to a family, to a character, to a world so much,” Ramirez said. “You know, you never think you're going to see a story like this, a story (with) all women, all Mexican-American, Hispanic women. It's incredible to see.”
Teatro Audaz specializes in telling stories that are meant to reflect the local community. Lerma believes that people will be able to identify with the women on stage.
“I feel like we recognize these characters, like this could be your cousin, this could be your aunt, this could be your best friend or your sister,” Lerma said. “I think everybody knows somebody like these people in the play.”
Laura T. Garza is the executive and artistic director and co-founder of Teatro Audaz. She also plays Blanca in “The Mesquite Tree.” Garza is originally from Eagle Pass, Texas and sees reflections of that community in the play.
In a house full of single mothers, Garza’s character, Blanca, finally realizes something must be done about the pattern of teen pregnancy that her family has become stuck in.
“She feels like she's drowning and constantly swimming against this tide,” Garza said.
Garza hopes this play can help to open discussions about family dynamics that lead to young women marrying or becoming pregnant early in life, especially in communities near the border.
“I am still fighting that mentality,” she said. “Still, to this day, I still have those conversations with family and friends.”
The show was originally slated to run two weekends with a total of eight performances. However, due to COVID-19 exposure they have had to cancel the first weekend of shows and postpone opening night from June 30 to July 7.
“Even though we got canceled for a whole week and postponed, we're still here and stronger than ever,” Lerma said.
They were able to adapt though, holding Zoom rehearsals when positive tests came up. They will perform four shows from July 7 to July 10 and are working to produce a recording of the show for those who can’t attend.
Tickets are still on sale for the show, which are at the Cellar Theatre (located at the Public Theatre). Tickets can be purchased here.
“People coming to see the show should really expect to see a heart-wrenching drama of some real women on stage, that are just putting their heart on the stage,” Garza said.
“These women are extremely talented,” she added. “It's been an honor to work with them and share the stage with them.”