Watching Elia Arce's latest performance piece, The Fruitvale Project, is more like eavesdropping on a conversation than gazing at a representation. By conveying the experiences of Latino spoken-word artists who completed an eight-month residency in the community, the project vivifies Fruitvale's International Boulevard. Rather than master a landscape through conventional narrative, these artists channel it through images, sounds, and the figurative language of poetry.
Directed by Arce, the Fruitvale Project features Jime Salcedo-Malo and Prophets of Rage's Rico Pabón (pictured), Melissa Lozano, Paul Flores (Los Delicados), and Pablo Rodríguez (Los Rudos Revolutionary Front). During their residencies, these artists conducted interviews with people on International Boulevard, and wove their dialogues into an amalgam of five personal blueprints of the neighborhood.
Using poetry as their point of departure, the artists began plugging in other media. The wall-to-wall soundtrack provided by Afro-Cuban hip-hop producer Greg Landau has the sense of serendipity a DJ mix would provide. Moriah Ulinskas' video piece, which serves as a backdrop for the performers, captures the architectural design of International Boulevard. By projecting a sidewalk onto either side of the stage, she makes it appear as though the artists are performing in the middle of the street. Incorporating Selina Young's improvisational lighting and hip-hop dance choreographed by Rashad, the project creates an intensely visceral experience of the landscape.
According to Arce, experiential theater has personal and collective dimensions: It's not just about soaking up an environment and reproducing it on stage. With this in mind, the artists worked with the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, Asociación de Comerciantes Ambulantes de Fruitvale, and the Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation to understand issues facing the community.
See The Fruitvale Project this Thursday at 8 p.m. at Fremont High School (900 High St., Oakland). Admission costs one whole dollar, with all proceeds going toward establishing a Ballet Folklorico Troupe at Fremont High. Info: 510-849-2568, ex. 11.
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