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“Teatro Libertad and Chicano Theatre in Tucson” (exhibit)

Dates: September 3, 2013 - February 20, 2014

Location:   Main Library

Contact: Bob Diaz


A local street theatre company from the 1970s, Teatro Libertad, is featured in a new exhibit on display from Sept. 3, 2013 - Feb. 20, 2014 at the UA Main Library. A special event on Tuesday, Oct. 1 will reunite many of Teatro Libertad’s members in an evening of reflection, discussion about the community impact of their performances, and viewing of select scenes from La Vida Del Cobre (The Life of Copper), one of the group’s plays. The event will be held from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in Special Collections, 1510 E. University Blvd.

Formed in 1975 by seven local actors and musicians – Scott Egan, Barclay Goldsmith, Teresa Jones, Arturo Martinez, Pancho Medina, Arnold Palacios, and Sylviana Wood – the group was influenced by the tradition of teatro Chicano, the Chicano movement of the 60s and 70s, and with inspiration from El Teatro Campesino – a group formed by Luis Valdez in the early 1960s.   

Teatro Libertad tackled real life, everyday issues as experienced by the Chicano community in Tucson and the Southwest. Using satire, comedy, and music, the group wrote and performed their plays with the goal of getting people to think about issues such as unemployment, union organization, race, and cultural identity. Among the plays written and performed by Teatro Libertad were Los Peregrinos, El Vacil de 76, Los Pelados, La Jefita, Semilla Sembrada and La Vida Del Cobre.

The bilingual, multicultural group relied on simple stage sets and props – old boxes, masks, and signs – when performing in local neighborhood centers throughout Tucson and in Mexico City, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and New York. The group also performed – sometimes from a flatbed truck – in Arizona’s mining towns for striking miners or farmworkers.

More than 25 performers participated in the all-volunteer Teatro Libertad during the group’s 14-year run. Additional members included Pamela Bartholomew, Olivia Beauford, Bob Diaz, Lilliana Gambarte, Pernela Jones, Jean McClelland, Juan Villegas, and a host of others.

The exhibit, “Teatro Libertad and Chicano Theatre in Tucson,” is a retrospective review of the societal and cultural context in which the group performed. Original scripts, promotional materials, photographs, newspaper articles, reviews, and other original documents recreate the work of Teatro Libertad. Special Collections curated the exhibit, with material on loan from former members, with the goal of establishing a permanent archive of Teatro Libertad for the benefit of future academic research and scholarship.  

Related Coverage
AZ Daily Star | Theater group explored issues of the day