Action at the tiny Teatro Cometa Playhouse heats up today and Saturday as the Los Angeles-based Chicano Secret Service brings its self-proclaimed guerrilla comedy to Orange County audiences for the first time.
Teatro Cometa, founded in 1979, is a bilingual theater troupe that toured the county before christening its own 50-seat theater in downtown Fullerton last November. It has mounted two of its own productions in the space; the shows by Chicano Secret Service are the first by an outside group.
In a series of sketches, Chicano Secret Service mixes political and social satire with rap and hip-hop dance. In one skit, CNN--the Chicano News Network--covers President Bush delivering a speech translated into Spanish with the help of his “little brown ones” (as Bush once referred to some of his grandchildren).
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (re-dubbed Frida Kahlua) also makes an appearance, as does raza rapper MC Chorizo.
Lalo Lopez, one of three members of the group, pronounced himself happy with the Teatro Cometa Playhouse during a rehearsal there this week. “We like these little black-box theaters,” said Lopez, 25. “People are really in your face. The sweat level just builds.”
Ticket demand has been strong enough to warrant adding a second show Saturday. Lopez cited that as evidence that Orange County residents “are hungry to see and hear . . . Latino entertainment.”
The idea for CSS was born on the anniversary of the Chicano Rebellion, Aug. 29, 1988, when Lopez and Elias Serna, now 22, were en route to UC Berkeley after spending summer break in their native Los Angeles. Joined by Oxnard resident Tomas Carrasco, 26, the trio performed at campus rallies and on college radio espousing the Latino movement.
“We were obnoxious Chicano activists,” Lopez said recently from his East Los Angeles home.
Although none of the thespian-activists are formally trained in theater (Lopez has a degree in architecture, Carrasco in political science and Chicano studies, and Serna in English), the group has received guidance and support from the Los Angeles-based Latino Lab and Teatro Campesino.
Despite their emphasis on Chicano issues and use of Spanish (which includes “Spanglish” slang), group members believe non-Latino audiences can appreciate the humor and message the Service delivers.
“We’re here to promote our cause to everyone,” Lopez said. “People should come and learn about the non-stereotypical side of Chicano life.” The 90-minute show is followed by an open question-and-answer session about the skits and the Chicano political movement.
Jaime Gomez, co-founder and artistic director of Teatro Cometa, said he is trying to line up a production for the playhouse in February. Teatro Cometa will return after a break in March with a new offering of its own.
The playhouse is still in something of a “tryout” stage, Gomez said, but he said the group hopes to build it into a regular showcase for both Latino and non-Latino theater, comedy and other performance arts.
Chicano Secret Service will perform today at 8 p.m. (sold out) and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m. at the Teatro Cometa Playhouse, 116 1/2 W. Amerige Ave., Fullerton. Admission: $7. Information: (714) 680-3691.