By Jenna Purcell
City on a Hill Press Reporter
“You’d better come when a woman fingers you.”
Adelina Anthony pointed a manicured finger suggestively at an unsuspecting audience member and delivered this ultimatum during her performance of “La Angry Xicana?!” last Tuesday night in the Stevenson Event Center. As she strutted the stage in her stilettos, sparkling evening gown and cowboy hat, Anthony kept up the full-frontal style as part of her sassy lesbian Xicana comedy show.
While her humor brought laughter and a healthy amount of seat-squirming, it was Anthony’s sharp political tongue and keen sense of activism that allowed her to connect with UC Santa Cruz students, drawing supportive organizations to table at the performance.
“Adelina is an amazing performer,” said Susy Zepeda, a graduate student involved in Marcha Lésbica, an annual transnational march in Mexico that fights for lesbian rights. “She is hilarious and really brilliant because she deals with intense political issues in a comical way. She allows us to laugh at something that’s normally so hard and dramatic.”
Along with Marcha Lésbica, campus organizations such as Politicalization of Queers of Color (PQOC), Rainbow Theater and the Chicano Latino Resource Center (El Centro), showed their support for Anthony’s performance by selling traditional Mexican pastries, memorabilia and providing general information about queer and Chicano communities.
Rosie Cabrera, director of El Centro, said that Anthony’s bold treatment of her own identity helped to empower associated communities.
“I think Adelina’s performance shows the complexity of our identities,” Cabrera said. “We are multifaceted — we’re not just one thing. Sexuality is a definite part of the [Chicana] community, a part that’s very constrained by religious values. Exposure and acknowledgement of the [queer] community is often not there. We do have GLBTI students, and its important to keep them safe, to normalize otherness.”
Written by Anthony, “La Angry Xicana?!” is a one-woman political and comedic performance inspired by issues facing queer women of color. Among “panocha” references and frequent breast-seizing, Anthony blurred the lines between political, funny and downright steamy. She covered topics such as same-sex marriage, lesbian gangs and immigration.
An award-winning performer with 17 years of experience in performance art, Anthony said she hoped to create an intimate relationship between politics and humor.
“Comedy can be an empowering tool for queer women of color because it allows us to critique and deconstruct oppressive forms while allowing us to enjoy the laughter,” Anthony told City on a Hill Press in an e-mail upon returning to Los Angeles for another performance.
Emmanuel Pavia, the current director of UCSC performing arts group Rainbow Theater, said the specificity and personal aspects of Anthony’s performance coupled with the troupe’s ideals.
“[The performance] was really great because it was different, but it also conveyed the whole idea of Rainbow,” Pavia said. “It’s our goal to promote diversity, share stories about our personal experiences and learn from each other’s histories. These are the stories you’re not going to hear very often, but they’re the important ones.”
Anthony certainly did not skirt around the more touchy aspects of her experience as a queer woman of color, comfortably throwing out “dyke,” “post-welfare” anecdotes and plenty of phrases like “pinche carbon” into her comedic mix. The frequent use of stereotypes was both intentional and constructive, Anthony said.
“By embodying a stereotype, you can destroy it,” Anthony said in the talkback session following her performance. “Stereotypes create intrigue, and it’s an artist’s job to explore within them. Comedy is a safe place to do that — it allows non-queer and non-color audiences to laugh with us and see how ridiculous [these stereotypes] are.”
Anthony’s personal experience with these stereotypes voiced the thoughts and feelings of many. Zepeda said the communal acknowledgement of these is essential to the empowerment of queer women of color.
“By presenting personal things on stage, Adelina’s exploring complex awareness,” Zepeda said. “We’re not alone in this way of thinking. This connection is important in any movement. We’re not the first to be thinking like this, and we won’t be the last. After a performance like this, it’s nice to leave with a feeling that you’re not alone.”
The title of Anthony’s show is an example of the connection between these progressive women. Anthony said she was branded with the “angry Xicana” label during her graduate studies at UCLA and Stanford.
Although the term applies to her personal experience, Anthony said that the title choice, and performance in general, is designed to represent the struggles and triumphs of an entire community.
“Ask any woman of color with a voice and conscious politics, if you point out institutional problems within a department or campus, you easily get labeled as ‘angry’ instead of constructive,” Anthony said by e-mail. “It’s easier for the establishment to use terms that undermine our critiques of their power or pedagogies of fear … and in the end, yeah, we’re angry. … Y qué?”
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