Monday, May 18, 2009

Kicked In The Head By a Cow?? Como??

Spent the last couple of months writing, directing and staging a short skit for the area CRLA, California, Rural, Legal Assistance which provides free legal advice to poor agricultural workers. The skit, which we entitled "Asi Dice El Compadre Chuy" (According to Compadre Chuy), addresses typical labor issues of local dairy workers, wages, overtime pay, medical care, rest periods, and lunch breaks. We donned ourselves El Teatro: "Voz Del Valle" ("Voice of the Valley", for the performance.
The unfortunate husband, Juan (played by a former student Ismael Lara) arrives home for dinner in between two 8-hour shifts, has been kicked in the head by a cow as he desperately tried to eat his lunch, a bean taco, and milk the cow at the same time. He tries to pass it off as an accident due to a fall, but his fiesty wife Rosa, played by Marilu Isiordia, knows better. She reminds him of another time when the same thing happened. She demands to know why he didn't report it to the boss, and why he wasn't sent to the doctor. He, of course, is afraid of complaining for fear of lossing his job.

But it is when she asks to see Juan's paycheck that the milk hits the fan, when she shrieks "Is this all you got paid? What about overtime?" She reminds him they are late on the rent, the car payment, and how his two kids eat more and more each month! He shrinks into his seat, defeated and protests he is lucky to even have a job, in these rough economic times, and that others would gladly work for pennies, if he was fired.

According to Chuy, says Rosa, by law his boss must give regular 10 minute breaks, lunch hours and overtime pay!
When she shows him a business card with names and numbers of the legal firm who can help them, he is angry
"We are humble people, we can't afford a lawyer!"
In the end, she convinces him, but in the verbal contest,
his dinner has gotten cold, and he is already late for his second tour. When she offers to pack him a quick lunch of beans and freshly made salsa, Juan says in dismay, "What for?? So the cow can kick me in the head again!!" She softens the blow by offering his his favorite, a "Snickers" candy bar, and reminds him not to forget to call the legal center tomorrow. They hug and make up as he rushes off to work. In totally victory she thanks God, Mary, Jesus, and all the saints.
The two were awesome together, pure chemistry. The skit written in Spanish, was performed three times for the predominantly Spanish-speaking audiences. The audience was patient and mesmerized by the dialogues and action.
The whole thing took me back to the mid-80's when I taught Chicano Drama and directed many skits and full length plays at my college. What a difference to have worked with two dedicated and talented actors like Ismael and Marilu, in contrast to some of the unruly, untameable undisciplined students I often had to work with!


#167 Dad said...

Rick, you're a true renaissance man; teacher, writer, director and most imprtant - humanitarian. The world could use a few more humanitarians...

Rick Rivers said...

Thanks again, my faithful reader.
Worse part is that I love doing this stuff. You know the pride you get when you see your students do something they themselves are proud of... nothing like it. You know, you're a teacher.