click on to enlarge Su Teatro has paid off its mortgage on the previous Denver Civic Theatre. Artwork by Phil Luna, courtesy of Su Teatro
click on to enlarge Su Teatro casted eighteen actors in its re-creation of the Kitayama Carnation strike in 1969. Jake Holschuh
As Tony Garcia — the center, soul, spark plug and engine of Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Middle — tells it, the Denver Chicano theater was born on the road in 1972. A gaggle of Chicano college students, impressed by California teams like Luis Valdez’s Teatro Campesino , started performing actos — impromptu sketches, music and guerrilla works — on Denver’s west facet and round Auraria, the close-knit Latino neighborhood that was razed to make method for the Auraria higher-education campus.It was a coda to the instances when Brown Energy, grape boycotts, La Raza Unida and Denver’s Campaign for Justice , led by Corky Gonzales, rocked the barrios of the American West. Garcia and his broadly theatrical compañeros entered the humanities world as activists and have been with out a bodily residence for seventeen years. However Su Teatro is now celebrating fifty years of serving the group and making unique performs come to life.And the theater has handed one other milestone: The mortgage has left the constructing. After shifting into the previous Denver Civic Theatre at 721 Santa Fe Drive in 2010, Garcia and his board have lastly signed over the past fee on the constructing. To commemorate this momentous event, Su Teatro is inviting the general public to a mortgage-burning celebration on Friday, January 27.“It represents the journeys of a few generations,” Garcia explains, “so it’s auspicious for our group, too. We’ve had so many roadblocks alongside the way in which.”Su Teatro’s first indoor stage was mounted as El Centro Su Teatro in 1989 within the outdated Elyria Faculty constructing at 4725 Excessive Road, although Garcia admits that the troupe was squatting there earlier than the deal was even completed. Twenty years later, the corporate outgrew the ability and the neighborhood, longing to return to its roots.The members settled on a constructing a number of blocks south of the Denver Civic to carve out as their very own, however encountered monetary issues throughout a interval of compromised economic system. “It was all the time our aim to be self-sufficient,” Garcia says. “Even in Elyria, we all the time did issues on our personal. Self-determination is one thing we gathered from the Chicano motion; we weren’t depending on the group. In 2010, we picked up the Civic Theatre for $785,000, however the previous homeowners have been a catastrophe.”The Civic, established by theater impresario Henry Lowenstein in 1985, had gone downhill after steadily altering arms. The final group left the theater in foreclosures — not an ideal ending, by any means — however the metropolis and then-Mayor John Hickenlooper helped organize a mortgage. “Hickenlooper made it occur and negotiated a variety of stuff for us. We moved in on our personal, additionally utilizing funds from the Elyria constructing after we offered that in 2013,” Garcia recollects.Whereas slowly paying off the mortgage over the previous twelve years, Su Teatro grew in leaps and bounds. Past its common stage fare, the corporate launched the XicanIndie Movie Competition, the annual Chicano Music Competition, and WordFest, a conglomeration of theatrical and literary readings. It additionally has a wholesome rotation of community-oriented vacation exhibits that stay in style with audiences.“It’s a good time for us to proceed experimenting. Folks don’t understand that we’ve a robust nationwide repute,” Garcia says. “We’ve produced greater than forty unique items, together with collaborations with nationwide folks. We’ve additionally introduced tons of Latino artists, just like the playwright Octavio Solis . Many guys in regional theater from different cities produced right here earlier than their work was seen again the place they got here from.”Su Teatro was not too long ago invited by the Denver Middle for the Performing Arts Theatre Firm to provide Solis’s well-received 2022 present Quixote Nuevo , however turned it down due to a scarcity of individuals and correct sources. “They needed us to provide it financially and artistically, however we at present schedule our seasons out two years prematurely,” Garcia notes. “When these alternatives come, it may be higher for us to simply hold.”He additionally has religion in artists he’s found in Su Teatro’s personal yard: “The individuals who have come by right here not too long ago — like Bobby LeFebre, who created the hit play, and Marialuisa Meza-Burgos , who runs an all-woman mariachi group — are what obtained us to circle again to paying off the mortgage.”Su Teatro’s remaining drive towards possession of the constructing formally started with’s premiere in 2019 and a easy ploy: “We offered seats. I started to promote nameplates for seats over the previous three years, and the funds have been made,” Garcia explains.“Our group did this. We considered it, and everybody mentioned, ‘Let’s simply write a test and be accomplished with it.’ However folks stepped up. It does communicate to the truth that this place can be right here for generations to return,” he continues, including, “Westill have ten seats left to purchase, if anybody else desires to be part of this.”In Garcia’s estimation, Su Teatro has so much going for it within the current. Whereas he’s properly often called the corporate’s inventive director, it’s largely a secret that he additionally handles all of the funds. “I turned seventy this yr,” he says. “I’d love to do much less within the coming years. We do not have an instantaneous transition plan, however there can be extra gradual coaching for individuals who have historical past right here. There’s nonetheless a variety of work to be accomplished.”Is retirement within the stars? “As an artist, I do not know the way I cease creating,” he remarks. However he’s additionally taking his time, and continues to look to the way forward for Su Teatro: “Lorenzo Gonzalez, who teaches performing at Naropa College, is engaged on a Day of the Lifeless work. A ton of artists can be coming by after we maintain our April readings. There are some folks evolving good work; we assist get them on their ft.”And Garcia’s daughter, Mica Garcia de Benavidez, is ready within the wings to take over funds. “I all the time thought I’d be an awesome upkeep individual,” Garcia quips. “We’ll proceed our dedication to supporting artists and coaching artists. We need to do extra attention-grabbing items with attention-grabbing administrators, extra work by Latinas, and extra of the sort of stuff we’ve been doing since.”Up to date points within the Chicano group are of specific curiosity to the troupe, as are tales from different cultures with connections to Latinos. For example, Garcia not too long ago produced Promise on the Hill: A West Colfax Reminiscence, a collaboration with OxiClean founder Max Appel about Denver’s Jewish Westside . “We’re instructing folks easy methods to write these tales which have parallels to our group,” he says.Su Teatro’s guiding goal is as a folks’s theater, Garcia says — a spot “the place your world, tales and tradition can come collectively.” It’s all the time been true for the theater, however now it absolutely owns a constructing to settle into, with a greater footing within the face of gentrification within the surrounding La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood.With the top of its fiftieth-anniversary season in sight, Su Teatro is now constructing as much as a brand new one. “We can be saying our subsequent season quickly,” Garcia says. “You will see some actually attention-grabbing native folks.”The subsequent present,, written by Garcia with music by Su Teatro stalwart Danny Valdez, begins on March 9. “It’s a household piece concerning the mythology of nature,” Garcia explains. “Everybody will get sucked right into a vortex pressure known as ‘the absence,’ which is a lack of generational reminiscence in a spot sooner or later coping with monoculturalism. The type is vaudevillian, broad, however the jokes show a sort of sophistication. In a single scene, an immigrant comes throughout the border, slipping underneath a fence in gradual movement to thetheme music.” Tickets , $20, are on sale now.In the meantime, come have a good time Su Teatro on Friday, January 27, at 4 p.m. at 721 Santa Fe Drive, with a free ceremonial burning of the mortgage within the car parking zone (Garcia guarantees the actual papers received’t truly be burned), adopted indoors by refreshments, music and a “brindis,” or toast, to the group.