Radical Theater

Based on Chapter 11 in East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte and South El Monte Arts Posse’s “East of East” archive.

Text and archival material curated by Allison Koehler

Sometimes the most enduring art is as much an act of love as it is one of resistance against injustice.”

-Carribean Fragoza

Central to the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s was its arts and cultural renaissance. Muralism and theater movements were born of social and political awakenings, and thus became primary avenues for expression, education, and protest among groups confronted with deep-seeded systemic racism and injustice. Teatro Campesino, founded in 1965, was the epicenter of both the United Farmworkers Union and the Chicano theater movement. With Luis Valdez, founder and artistic director, at the helm, the teatro produced actos on the trucks along the grape picket lines and in the union halls. Teatro Campesino’s influence soon spread beyond the Central Valley, and inspired the establishment of countless teatros in urban and suburban spaces across the Southwest, including Teatro Urbano.

In 1970, Rosemary and Rene Rodriguez founded Teatro Urbano in their hometown of South El Monte. The pair have tended to the teatro over the following four decades, facing internal and external challenges with a dear familiar love. As Carribean Fragoza writes in East of East, “it was in El Monte’s and South El Monte’s art desert that Teatro Urbano began to sow its seeds. And despite the inhospitable environment—including a lack of municipal support, if not oppression—they insisted on preparing new generations of Chicanos to become artists and activists” (116).


1978 poster by Leo Limon

Teatro Urbano is now located in Montclair, CA, but the theater’s influence is untethered to a single location. Their longest running play, “The Silver Dollar,” was staged at the former site of the so-named bar and café on Whittier Boulevard in Los Angeles. Our tour will visit Legg Lake in Whittier Narrows Park, one of many public spaces in which Teatro Urbano held their earliest workshops, rehearsals, and impromptu performances. Join us to learn more about Teatro Urbano’s continued work, and be sure to like their Facebook page here.

Radical Theater