This summer Free Street Theater is presenting Ricardo Gamboa’s The Real Life Adventures of Jimmy De Las Rosas. While the plot, setting, and characters are pure Chicago, this isn’t the Chicago of sitcoms and rom-coms; it’s the Chicago of immigrants and their children, their communities and their superpowers.
In The Real Life Adventures of Jimmy De Las Rosas, a 13-year old Mexican-American boy living in Pilsen and Little Village spends his days playing baseball, helping his abuela with her elote cart, and hiding the fact that he has telekinetic powers. When his mother, an undocumented factory worker, mysteriously disappears, Jimmy is determined to find her. With the help of two “pirates,” he finds himself facing a pack of mutant Chihuahuas and a ruthless sweatshop owner in a high-stakes battle to reclaim the streets of his neighborhood.
“For many immigrants, the first thing that’s taken away is their right to be political, but what’s also taken away is their ability to dream, to imagine their identity in creative ways.” — Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, (interviewed in the New York Times)
“When I read Brugera’s comments in a recent interview,” wrote Coya Paz, Free Street Artistic Director, “I couldn’t help but think about the recent Trump brouhaha, how many of us celebrated the quick backlash against his anti-Mexican statements.” Paz continued, “I found myself wondering, as I do again and again, what it would mean to publicly articulate Latino/a identity in a way that isn’t reactive or oppositional, isn’t a pushback against hate or ignorance but simply takes Latinos as the center without ignoring any of the real structural issues facing our communities. That’s what I love about Ricardo’s play –it doesn’t gloss any of the problems facing poor or undocumented people in Little Village, but it is an imaginative self-articulation that celebrates the potential all of us have to be the center of our own stories.”
The site-specific play uses city parks as the backdrop for action-packed scenes and special effects. Drawing on a range of influences, including comic books, telenovelas, sci-fi, chisme, and samurai stories, Real Life Adventures is about extraordinary happenings in an everyday environment. Gamboa uses the historical fact of toxic spills in a working class Mexican neighborhood of Chicago as the departure point for a fast-paced adventure about super-heroes and supervillains. Under the direction of Coya Paz, the cast and crew have invented new ways to produce a spectacular production in Chicago’s city parks.
“Real Life Adventures is a project Ricky and I have wanted to do for years. It is ambitious, to say the least, and it shows a complexity of issues that I think a lot of people aren’t sure children can handle,” said Paz. “But lots of children in Chicago have undocumented parents, face racism, grow up with environmental toxins–nothing about that is new to them. What is new is the idea that they can be the heroes and the center of the story.”
While this play isn’t the kind of ensemble-created work FST usually makes, Real Life Adventures does fit the company’s mission of doing performance in non-traditional spaces, of presenting work outdoors, for free, and in the neighborhoods where the people presented in the story live.
All shows are free and begin at 6:30 p.m. Dates and venues are as follows:
Friday, July 31 Piotrowski Park 4247 W 31st St.
Tuesday, August 4 Calumet Park 9801 S. Avenue G
Wednesday, August 5 La Vallita Park 2800 S. Sacramento
Wednesday, August 12 Davis Square 4430 S Marshfield Ave.
Thursday, August 13 Avondale Park 3516 W. School St.
About Free Street Theater
Founded in 1969, Free Street Theater was the first racially integrated theater company in Chicago. FST has long been dedicated to the idea that theater should be accessible to diverse audiences in diverse spaces. Today, Free Street Theater’s work includes a Youth Conservatory, a Multi-Generational Collective, an Incubator Program for artists developing new performances, Free Workshops, and Community Residencies. For more information, visit www.freestreet.org.
About Night Out in the Parks
The Real Life Adventures of Jimmy de Las Rosas is presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series, supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Arts programming in neighborhoods across the city advances the goals of the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Cultural Plan. Now in its third year, the 2015 Night Out in the Parks series will host over 1,000 events and programs at more than 250 neighborhood parks throughout the city, making community parks a safe haven and hubs of activity. Projects will vary from traditional performances and concerts, to movies, peace rallies, community workshops, nature based programs, dance pieces and more. The Chicago Park District has partnered with more than 80 arts and community organizations to expand and produce this successful initiative.