Gastón A. Alzate is Associate Professor of Theater and Literature at California State University, Los Angeles. He previously acted as Founding Director of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies (LALACS) at Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota (1997-2006). Before coming to the United States, he worked as an art critic for the Sunday magazine of the Colombian daily El Espectador, and for the Revista Arte Internacional of the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art, Colombia. His publications include a study of Colombian poet Álvaro Mutis, which won the National Essay Prize in his native country, and a study of contemporary Mexican cabaret. He is co-editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Theatricalities and Visual Culture KARPA (http://www.calstatela.edu/misc/karpa). Since 2005, he has been a member of the Editorial Board of Latin American Theatre Review. Since 2007, he has been part of the Irvine Hispanic Theater Research Group directed by Juan Villegas (editor of Gestos). He has published in the fields of Latin American theatre, film, popular culture, and literature in Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and the US.
Contemporary Mexican political cabaret is re-contextualizing a genre that reached its peak in Mexico City in the 1930s and had practically disappeared by the 1960s. Since the 1980s, Mexican cabaret artists have been interested in creating a contemporary theatrical aesthetic form that is rooted in Mexican tradition and is quite critical of the social construction of bodies and hegemonic models of national, sexual, and cultural identities. Many of these artists deviate from the sexual norm and openly challenge predominant conceptions of gender and sexuality. They are also explicitly working against a widespread phenomenon in Latin America, which is the uncritical internationalization (or homogenization) of theatrical and cultural productions. My aim is to study the theatrical strategies through which these artists have turned cabaret into a distinctive theatrical genre in constant dialogue with Mexican history and based upon a dialectical relationship with the audience. The turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century is crucial in my investigation. The genre of carpa (tent theatre; similar to street theatre), on which contemporary Mexican cabaret is based, was the marginal counterpart of the musical revista of the 1930s. It was the crucible in which many artists who later went on to work in Mexican revue theatre and in Mexican movies of the 1930s perfected their craft. Contemporary cabaret artists have explicitly explored tent theatre, along with American stand-up comedy, post-war German cabaret, clown technique, and contemporary performance art. Mexican cabaret theatre is also used as a political tool in demonstrations and political gatherings. These are some of the processes of interweaving that my research shall explore.