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Reviewed by:
  • Trans/Acting: Latin American and Latino Performing Arts
  • Ana Elena Puga
Trans/Acting: Latin American and Latino Performing Arts. Edited by Jacqueline E. Bixler and Laurietz Seda. Bucknell Studies in Latin American Literature and Theory. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2009; pp. 266.

This collection of fourteen essays and one performance script deploys multiple meanings of the prefix "trans" to bring together a wide range of perspectives on Latin American and US Latino intercultural theatre and performance provided by some of the most significant scholars in the field. The anthology grew out of the 6th Conference on Latin American Theatre Today, held in 2005 at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. The text of Guillermo Gómez-Peña's keynote performance, "Mexterminator vs. The Global Predator," crowns the volume with a hilarious though painfully true monologue that was written to skewer former president George W. Bush and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that is just as applicable to the current Barack Obama and Jerry Brown administrations, given how little borderland battles have changed.

Laurietz Seda's introduction and her essay "Trans/Acting Bodies: Guillermo Gómez-Peña's Search for a Singular Plural Community" define "trans/act" as

negotiation and/or exchange while in the act of performing. To trans/act is to open up possibilities and to be open to possibilities of mediation, transformation, or transgression within, across, and beyond the absolutist limits and definitions that attempt to control subjectivities. To trans/ act is consciously to opt for a ceaseless process of reinventing and redefining the art of living "in-between," to avoid succumbing to commodification or to the very paradigms and binaries that this process places in question.


The succeeding essays take up this definition, moving from crossings between space and nation in the Southern Cone, to crossings between genre and media in Cuba and Mexico, and to crossings that involve gender and sexuality in both Argentina and in the US-Mexico borderlands.

The late George Woodyard's "Transformation and Transculturation in Twentieth-Century Latin American Theater" historically situates the complex discussions that follow with a useful overview of Latin American theatre's international connections to Europe and Asia. The next two essays, Sharon Magnarelli's "Transitional Stages: Space and Illusion in Las polacas by Patricia Suárez" and Sarah Misemer's "Transgressing Spaces: Within, Without, and Beyond the Stage and Uruguay in Gabriel Peveroni's Theater," both consider the fascinating phenomenon of plays that simultaneously evoke two different countries in the same space. In her analysis of the three short plays that comprise Las polacas (The Polish women, 2002), which take place in Poland and aboard a ship on the Atlantic yet simultaneously evoke Argentina, Magnarelli explores how Suárez uses space to highlight "illusions and theatrics that, in the broader sociopolitical context, have (mis)represented home and homeland as safe havens" (38). Misemer also takes up the issue of space in her analysis of two plays by Peveroni that [End Page 656] similarly complicate the idea of a clearly bounded nation: Sarajevo esquina Montevideo (El puente) (Sarajevo on the corner with Montevideo [The bridge], 2003) and El hueco (una tribu urbana) (The hole [an urban tribe], 2004). She argues persuasively that the plays redeploy traditional Uruguayan themes like immigration, politics, and the economy in innovative frameworks that superimpose national and international spaces (56).

Bixler's "The Politics of Tradaptation in the Theater of Sabina Berman" and Camilla Stevens's "Theater Transformations: Reading Race in Abelardo Estorino's Parece blanca" both focus on adaptations. Bixler borrows the term "tradaptation" from French Canadian director Robert Lepage and enhances its political potential by using it to elucidate Mexican playwright Sabina Berman's transformation of an Irish play, Marie Jones's Stones in His Pockets (1999), into a critique of globalization's destruction of Mexican cultural identity. Bixler's analysis underscores the difficulty of artistic resistance to commodification, as she notes the irony that Berman's production exemplified the commercially successful importation of a European cultural product. She concludes, however, that "tradaptation can be just as political and at the same time just as Mexican as the nondomestic original" (87). Stevens's analysis of Parece blanca...