(Published by Zocalo Magazine on March 2, 2017.)
For over three decades, Borderlands Theater has survived on a shoestring budget with vitality and resilience. This pertinent production company, comprised of a four-person staff, is committed to creative innovation by presenting plays from both emerging and established playwrights. It keeps pushing the boundaries of theater by showcasing cutting-edge work in venues that range from the Temple of Music and Art’s intimate 80-seat Cabaret Theatre, to outdoor, site-specific productions that easily draw a thousand people over a weekend.
Bolstered by a team of collaborators and community partners, Borderlands illuminates often over-looked Tucson populations and brings to life diverse histories frequently swept under the rug of collective municipal memory. And because it is a local nonprofit that believes theater is for all, Borderlands regularly offers donation-based and free events.
As political action on the national scale threatens to eliminate arts funding, it is exceedingly imperative for local communities to band together and support the organizations that strive and succeed in embracing, projecting and amplifying the diverse voices comprising this unique landscape. Borderlands, as it states on the GoFundMe.com/keep-borderlands-theater-open website, relies “too heavily on national grants with no major donors to help if a grant falls through. That’s exactly what happened last November when we weren’t awarded a major National Endowment for the Arts grant (though, we won two other NEA grants this year, so not too shabby).” Accordingly, Borderlands is seeking donations to both bridge its current $20,000 deficit and plan for the future. The deadline for the company to raise the $20K is March 27, as stated on the GoFundMe.com page.
Even amid these fiscally challenging times, there is good news and recent developments! A press release from Borderlands, sent in mid-February, stated that the company had just relocated to Arizona Historical Society’s downtown Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House museum – “the last remaining dwelling of Tucson’s original Mexican-American enclave sometimes referred to as Barrio Libre or El Hoyo.” Built in the mid-1850s by Jose Maria Sosa, the house was subsequently owned by Territorial Governor of Arizona John C. Fremont and entrepreneur Leopoldo Carrillo.
The move is fitting, in light of Borderlands’ presentation of “Barrio Stories” in March 2016, which featured theatrical vignettes of the late 1960’s Barrio Libre/El Hoyo diaspora caused by the planning and construction of the Tucson Convention Center that demolished the 80-acre neighborhood.
The press release says “the win-win partnership provides Borderlands with expanded and much needed rehearsal, storage and office space while allowing the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House to remain open as a museum. Several rooms in the house will remain as exhibition spaces maintained and curated by the Arizona Historical Society. The museum is open to the public during Borderlands’ office hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
On March 23, Borderlands kicks off a music series at its new space, 151 S. Granada Ave., with a live band and poets. To learn more, visit BorderlandsTheater.org or call 520-882-8607. Donate at GoFundMe.com/keep-borderlands-theater-open.