Las Hembras focus on culture, identity on a personal level

This story first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It can be viewed here.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — At a time when identity, culture and the interweaving of the two permeate the American landscape, Las Hembras de Pluma want to tell their stories on a more personal than political level.

“That’s the focus, we’re talking about identity,” Las Hembras member Maria Teresa Herrera said. “That’s the great part of theater; you can express that. That’s how you identify with the audience – we’re present, they’re present, and they want to hear our story.”

Las Hembras de Pluma is a coalition of local women, many of them indigenous, who use performing arts as a medium for storytelling. The group is rehearsing its third show in collaboration with the National Hispanic Cultural Center since the group’s formation in 2013.

Although past shows have consisted of Las Hembras more or less performing their own, individual pieces, its 2017 show, “Rise: An Offering,” will involve more collaboration.

“I didn’t want it to be so isolated; I wanted to find some kind of unifying thread, theme or style to bring it all together,” director Monica Sanchez said. Sanchez has worked as a theater actor, writer and director for about 30 years.

Las Hembras consists of women from all walks of life and life experiences – mothers, sisters, activists, some local, some from Peru, others from Puerto Rico – with an age range of nearly 30 years between members.

They all have some background in the arts and a desire to put it to use.

“There’s been some exercises where we are in a circle and it’s literally palpable, the energy that’s coming out of there,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s always been urgent and important to express ourselves.”

The show includes spoken-word creations, sketch comedy, movement and other generally minimalistic storytelling forms.

While most productions begin with a script, Las Hembras rely so much on drawing from personal experiences that creating a script was one of the final steps in the production process.

The only stage props are crates, hula hoops and a paper curtain.

“It’s been great to kind of blow out those possibilities with a very finite set of materials,” Sanchez said, adding that the show takes risks.

Although “Rise: An Offering” won’t have a political sense of urgency as a whole, Las Hembras felt compelled to create a piece in response to President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban, a component that made it into the show.

“I think it’s always been urgent and important to express ourselves,” Sanchez said. “I think the political statement more is just us getting together and working together.”


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