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Stateside Podcast: La Carpa Theatre finds a home in Detroit

Children pose for photo in their theater costumes for La Carpa.
Karilú Alarcón Forshee
Children from Detroit's Latinx community are participating in shows that embrace Mexican theater culture. The shows are directed by Karilú Alarcón Forshee.

La Carpa Theatre brings the Mexican Revolution-era theater tradition of traveling tent shows to Detroit. This new project stars children from Detroit’s Latinx community and travels around the city in pop-up performances.

The original Las Carpas that toured during the Mexican Revolution were seen as entertainment for everyday people, and a relief from the political stress of the times. As traveling troops, Las Carpas took place outdoors under large canvas tents. Karilú Alarcón Forshee, creator of La Carpa Theatre, said this environment meant that performers had to improvise.

“They adapted to whatever the circumstances were,” Forshee said. “You have to adapt. Outdoor performances are difficult. In nature, sound-wise, different types of audiences, and weather."

Gabriel Rodriguez, 17, is a performer with La Carpa Theatre. In the group's current production “¡Mucho Gusto, Nice to Meet You!” Rodriguez plays a character based off of the iconic Mexican singer Jorge Negrete. In real life Negrete was perhaps arrogant, yet good-humored. So true to the satirical tradition of carpa, Rodriguez plays Negrete as comical.

“I played him up as…blissful ignorance,” Rodriguez said. “He recognizes that people don’t exactly like him, but he still keeps going because he is Jorge Negrete.”

Forshee has been teaching artists in southwest Detroit for many years, working for various organizations. The idea for the show came from Forshee’s wish to see children do theater that not only included Mexican characters, but was also a style of theater that originated in Mexico.

“I thought it was a good idea for them to explore and learn about characters they need to know and embrace all of these amazing celebrities from the Latin American culture that came before and were trailblazers,” Forshee said.

GUESTS:

Karilú Alarcón Forshee, creator of La Carpa Theatre

Gabriel Rodriguez, performer

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Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.
Mercedes Mejia is a producer and the Director of Stateside.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Radio in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the Summer of 2020.