The one man performance of “The Stories of Cesar Chavez” traveled to the University of Wisconsin- Parkside on Wednesday, the 19th of April to deliver a performance that was raw and inspiring. Writer and actor Fred Blanco paid homage to the custom of El Teatro Campesino, to create a traveling play about the plights of the migrant farm workers through their leader, Cesar Chavez’s, eyes.
Professor Peggy James introduced and thanked Blanco for giving the university the opportunity to see history and politics come alive in art. “It’s not easy getting the Political Science and Theater Arts department to cooperate,” Peggy James joked, “but it is beautiful to see what was pulled together to make this performance happen.”
Written and performed by Fred Blanco, this is a story of one man’s fight for the equality and dignity of all people. Cesar Chavez became a leader among Mexican-Americans when he and Dolores Huerta formed the United Farm Workers (UFW) Movement that was founded in the 1960’s. Chavez fought for the rights of migrant farm laborers in the United States but his message was heard by all subjugated people regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
Opening with the scene of Chavez talking with “la madre” or, the Mother Mary, while performing a spiritual fast, Fred Blanco captures the spirit of the historical movement from the get-go. Fueled by non-violence and morality it was important that spirituality was a component in Cesar’s story. By many he is considered a martyr of his time. “Cesar’s story needs to be told,” said Blanco. “The few times his life has been written about and dramatized will never be enough. What could be more worthwhile than telling the story of a man who is so highly respected by Latinos and so worthy of being understood and respected by everyone? His legacy isn’t just for Chicanos or Latinos. It is for all people.”
Emulating multiple characters with only a minor costume change on stage and an altered tone of voice, Fred Blanco was able to enthrall the audience and guide them through the inspiring moments of the UFW movement. And while grappling with such weighted subjects, Blanco was still able to have light dialogue, often exclaiming “Orale” to get a joke across or creating characters that could laugh at themselves as well as make the audience chuckle. But most importantly was the inspirational messages given for equality and progress. As Chavez has notably said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and our own.”
After the performance a question and answer session followed which proved to be insightful. Student Christie Flesshert stated, “I haven’t really studied this part of history much and it was good to know the background of [Cesar Chavez’s] life that was made reference to.” Keeping the Chicano movement’s spirit alive, Fred Blanco travels across the United States, to perform for schools, theaters, state penitentiaries, churches, and festivals. Fred Blanco welcomes students to “like” his performance on Facebook under “The Stories of Cesar Chavez” to get updates on future tours and news clips.