by Jonathan Farrell
Argentina-born Virginia Blanco, who resides in the Richmond District, recognizes the present situation where there is a lot of frustration concerning the political landscape so she will be performing in a series of satirical plays called “May Mayhem: Power Plays,” which is being presented by the Theatre of Yugen.
“First of all, the opportunity to express an ideological point of view through art is amazing. I am not an American citizen. I can’t participate in elections. But, I am lucky and grateful to have a space to contribute to the political debates that are going on,” Blanco said. “We are doing ‘Power Plays’ because we are living in a peculiar moment in American history, where awareness is being raised about so many topics that urgently need to be discussed. We have to think of which role we are playing as a society member, about how we can participate and take action accordingly.”
Founded 40 years ago, Theatre of Yugen’s goal is to bring Japanese-style theater to America. But, as Blanco discovered, regardless of cultural style and forms, much of what is expressed is universal to all people – including those with a Latino heritage, like Blanco.
“It is fascinating how a Japanese piece from the 14th century can be the trigger to convey Western contemporary ideas,” Blanco said. “That it can also be an excuse to laugh at political nonsense and find the inspiration to take action. I love the idea that the show speaks from an active place, rather than a passive one. There is hope, because we the people have the power to make it happen.
“Maybe we all do not have the time to be a 24-hours-a-day activist, but we all can do an introspective check about the way we are relating to others. We can do something about how we can improve our communities,” she said. “And, about what we can give. We live in a ‘meme culture,’ where meme basically translates to ideas or attitudes that are over-simplified and spread rapidly. Meme is where humor is reduced to one image: we laugh, maybe comment about how brilliant it is, and we keep going. That’s it!”
Blanco thinks society is in danger of getting lost due to the rapid speed of information across various platforms.
“Through the aura of live performing works of art, like live theater – particularly with plays like these – we can not only have comic relief to cope with harsh realities but also find a place to develop critical thinking. That is for both actors and the audience,” Blanco said.
One of the plays performed at Theatre of Yugen starting May 4 is called “Mushrooms,” which is an adaptation from a classic Japanese play.
“It was marvelous to have the chance to read it and see it performed by fellow actors. That gave me a sense of the original forms of the staging; not only of the physical parts but also the vocal aspect,” she says.
“I think audiences of every background will appreciate the disruptive effect that comes from using the Japanese-style approach to portray American social and political realities. I hope audiences enjoy the flavor of that rhetoric gap, feeling refreshed, inspired and powerful,” Blanco said.
An upcoming series of plays to be performed at the Theatre of Yugen, called “May Mayhem: Power Plays,” begins May 4 and runs until May 13. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays, at 7 p.m., and Sundays, at 4 p.m. For tickets or information, visit the website at http://www.theatreofyugen.org/power- plays or call (415) 621-0507.