Traditional history has been found to influence the modern world in different ways. In some cases, history has taken over the modern the world whereas in others, the contemporary world has integrated modernity and historical traditions to emerge with a generic culture. One area that has been influenced greatly by history is performance arts and theatre. Contemporary theatre and performance art has its roots in the traditional art and entertainment that was performed in the days of old in different societies across the globe (Gordon 157). For instance, Chicano Teatro, a theatre performance and other performance art have borrowed heavily from the Mexican traditional form of entertainment known as Las Carpas. Following this point, this essay will examine what Las Carpas are, and identify different aspects of this traditional form of art that have been incorporated into the contemporary art.
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The Mexican history is filled with different forms of performance art and theater that continue to influence modern art and performance. Among these forms of art and theater performance is Las Carpas. According to Cody and Sprinchorn (2007), the words Carpa is used to define tents and comparable structures that were build with an aim of being used for theatrical performances (227). In essence, Las Carpas were theatrical performances that were performed in tent circuses and they traveled from one region to another while being performed. In other words, Las Carpas were the traveling performances that were performed among the Mexicans in the 17th and the 18th century. Alternatively, it is important to note that these shows were not performed just in a single region but rather in different region since the performers traveled to show forth their performances in different areas in Mexico. Las Carpas were the traveling shows that were common in Mexico and South Texas (227).
There are different forms of this traditional form of art that have influenced or rather that have been incorporated in the contemporary forms of art and as result, there are various aspects of contemporary art that emanates from Las Carpas performances. To begin with, the critical parts that comprise the contemporary art have been heavily borrowed from Las Carpas forms of entertainment include acrobats, skits, plays and other forms of art (Castro 38). These aspects of art were either performed together or rather all of them in one particular show or were performed separately in separate shows. In this regard, the contemporary art and performances have incorporated in their activities these aspects in different ways.
For instance, Chicano Teatro has more than often been found to incorporate plays and drama, music, etc in its performances (Huerta 59). These aspects of art performance were more common among the art performers in Las Carpas traditional forms of entertainment. In this regard, the performers of Chicano have found it appropriate to continue with these styles of performance to communicate with their audience and educate them on different issues in the society. Of particular importance is the fact that these plays are tailored in such a way that they are irresistible to the intended audience and are meant to communicate and educate them on specific aspects of the society. For instance, Chicano Teatro was performed among the Mexican farmers to educate them on their social and political position in the society thus stirring up social movements that enabled them to fight for their rights as farm workers.
Another aspect of Las Carpas that have been integrated in the contemporary art and performance is the stylistic devices that have been integrated into these forms of art and performance. In this respect, stylistic devices such as humor and satire were more common in the performances under Las Carpas. Whereas people were entertained with these forms of performance because of the stylistic devices that were used, the performers targeted specific issues that could only be addressed through such ways. In reference to Cody and Sprinchorn (2007), Las Carpas provided an uncensored platform to educate its audiences who were more than often illiterate during the political struggle of the Mexican revolution (227). These stylistic devices have also been employed in the Chicano Teatro. In this regard, political satire and humor formed a good part of the Chicano Teatro during the 1960s and 1970s by performers to enlighten farm workers on the importance of social movements. Thus, the aspect of using theater and performance art as a tool of opening the minds of people in the society has not died out.
Lastly, the idea of theaters was borrowed from the traditional forms of art whereby people gathered and watched their favorite performers. In this respect, one can argue that the modern theater halls have a direct relationship with the traditional forms of ‘theaters’ that were used in the past to present shows to people in the society, i.e. tents. Whereas contemporary forms of art do no have tents during their shows, the whole aspect of performing and then going backstage by performers emanates from the idea of using tents as a backstage. For instance, Cody and Sprinchorn (2007) assert that even Protestants performed in tents to teach people their faith (227). In the same way, the modern theaters are built in such a way that they have a backstage where performers can go and rest before or after their performance. Importantly, some stage directions are given from backstage.
To sum up, it is important to note that performance art and theater have existed in the history of mankind for a long time. In line with this, the modern performance art and theater have borrowed different aspect of traditional art and performance. In this regard, there are different forms of performance art and theater that have incorporated different aspects of Las Carpas, a Mexican traditional form of entertainment into their performance and art among them Chicano Teatro.
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