1427 Dauphine Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
Since 1995, Jose Torres Tama has been touring across the country with solo shows that thrive on a fusion of spoken word prose, bilingual poetry, rituals of fire, symbolic movement, and exaggerated personae, creating spectacles that are visually dynamic and politically charged. Add to this cauldron a heady dose of hilariously absurd observations on consumer culture and you have a unique vision coming from a New Jersey/New York bred Ecuadorian-born brujo performance artist based in New Orleans.
The recipient of a Louisiana Theater Fellowship, he has also received a “Regional Artist Project” Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop $CASINOAMERICA$, his acclaimed piece examining a culture that glorifies greed. His performances have been presented in Mexico, Eastern Europe and extensively across the USA at venues such as Performance Space 122 in New York; El Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego, CA; DiverseWorks in Houston, TX; Tigertail Productions in Miami, FL; The Arts Exchange in Atlanta, GA; Cornell, Duke, Louisiana State, Dillard, Spelman, and Rutgers Universities. As an arts educator, he is dedicated to working in minority communities with Latino and African American teens through his Youth Performance Projects that introduce performance art and poetry as a means of self-empowerment.
These projects have been profiled on National Public Radio and supported through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Performance Network, and the Philip Morris Foundation. Youth Performance Projects have been realized at centers such as MECA in Houston, TX; The Walker’s Point Center for the Arts in Milwaukee, WI; and the Center for Cultural Exchange in Portland, ME. In addition, he is a contributing editor to ART PAPERS, a national arts magazine published in Atlanta for which he writes a column on performance art and politics, and he has written for the Chicago New Art Examiner, The Mexico City Times, and Urban Latino Magazine published in New York. His poetry has been published in From A Bend in The River, an anthology of 100 New Orleans poets and in the Mesechabe Surregional Press.
Tama is a solid performance artist who brings not Ireland but Latin America to the stage. He told us he was a devoted follower of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the magical realism found in so much Latino literature. Tama performed a couple of works, including a poem by Pablo Neruda which he recited first in Spanish, then in English while playing a hand-percussion instrument like a shaker in perfect time to the poem’s rhythms. His first piece was sharply political and delivered with satirical fire.
In a top hat and garments adorned with emblems, kerchief and other items that are riffs on the Stars and Stripes, Tama carries the energy and form of a Latino street clown-poet, the wise fool cutting through the chaff. But he’s also something of a fire-eating chaperone to the spirit world.
(From: Anchorage Daily News, March 27, 2009)
We were privileged to see a work-in-progress performance by artist, Jose Torres-Tama, at Ashe Cultural Arts Center. The work-in-progress productions and the following “talk backs” were completed in preparation for the finished performance which will be held at Ashe later this year. Except for a few moments of technical work throughs, a yet to be completed Who Wants to be a Day Laborer “game show,” some improvisation about the recent gulf oil spill catastrophe and a few very minor script derivations/stumbles, the production is close to completion. This version of the performance, a nearly an hour and a half combination of scenes or skits, was extremely powerful and even during quieter moments, filled with energy. Torres-Tama is truly a force on stage commanding the attention and respect of the audience. All but a few of his characters in this production (the Nicaraguan girl and the Confederate flag carrying conservative) are well rehearsed and spot-on. The subject matter addressed in this production, and some of his others (found on his website), can sometimes be cliche/over-the-top, or (least effectively) bluntly addressed. However, when Torres-Tama nails it, he nails it, bringing sensitive issues that we have neatly, comfortably tucked away to the forefront of our thoughts.