Bloodshed, stripping, narco culture — and Shakespeare?
“Marqués” unveils a one-of-a-kind experience by re-imagining “Macbeth,” an influential play that focuses on power, the supernatural, fate and time through the lens of narco culture — the phenomenon of a highly-organized identity within drug trafficking.
The production, which explores the implications of drug trafficking on both sides of the border, will come to life at the UC Santa Cruz Experimental Theater on Feb. 26.
The death toll in Mexico continues to rise from 165,000 at the hands of narco-cartels, according to the play’s website. The play aims to create dialogue amongst students by raising awareness of the everyday game of border operations.
“The idea for ‘Marqués’ was born out of a perfect storm of events,” said Mónica Andrade, an MFA candidate in the digital arts and new media program. “We had a great deal of experience [and] knew many people whose lives were affected by narco culture, and what has happened with the war on drugs between Mexico and the United States.”
Andrade co-wrote the play with literature Ph.D. candidate Stephen Richter after previously working together with Shakespeare Santa Cruz. The two lived in Mexico for many years, and heard firsthand accounts of the war on drugs in Mexico. The pair was working on an entirely different play for the academic year when the idea struck.
The two teamed up with Erik Pearson, who graduated in 2001 with a degree in film and digital media and a minor in theater, to direct and organize “Marqués.” At the same time, a flurry of political angst was developing in the newspapers around the world surrounding drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. When El Chapo escaped for the second time in July, the Mexican government declared they would recapture him. An epiphany occurred for the playwrights –– “Macbeth” in Mexico.
“Many issues between the U.S. and Mexico were happening — for example, Mexico as the cultural inferior or its ‘otherness’ in respect to the U.S. and narco feudalism happening in Mexico, we were like my god, ‘Macbeth’ in Mexico, this can really work,” Stephen Richter said.
Though the narco world has been widely glamorized by TV shows, movies and Mexican corridos, Andrade emphasized that druglord characters aren’t glorified in their play.
The bilingual play promotes the inclusion of different majors from UCSC, allowing for any student to participate in the journey of the production, which Pearson nicknamed “the company.” In honor of creating a company, Pearson talks about the “delightful” challenges.
“The world of the Mexican drug cartels is not one that the majority of the people working on this show are familiar with,” Pearson said. “So much of the process has just been about the company learning about the play, learning all the unique particularities of the world that Stephen and [Andrade] have created.”
While working through these challenges during the quarter, the company developed many layers of access between the performers and the audience. The traditional idea of a stage is broken down into runways through seatings, platforms between audiences and all types of levels sprinkled throughout the experimental theater.
With a cast of 23 actors, “Marqués” ranges from parties in the narco world to scenes with children. When asked what the playwrights and director hope to present to the audience, Richter’s response represented a multitude of conversations touched upon many times over the course of the quarter, from those of actors, to designers, to dramaturgies, to writers.
“All of these things that happen do not happen in a vacuum, they are the effect and the responsibility of all of us, this is not someone else’s problem and it’s not someone else’s issues, and [we] want the audience to feel implicated as well as moved,” Richter said.