GRE Reading Comprehension
In the fields of Delano. Califomia. In 1965. Luis Valdez started the Teatro Campesino (Farm worker's Theater), and with it initiated the renaissance of Mexican American theater. The Teatro Campesino had an avowedly political purpose: to rally campesinos (farmworkers) in support of the farm workers' strike then being organized by Cesar Chavez Valdez dramatic presentations, called actos,spoke to a campesino audience and addressed topics and themes directly related to the strike. Valdez early actos were composed of a series of scenes about the strike experience acted by campesino volun-teers. His later actos were presented by a newly constituted professional company, still called the Teatro Campesino, and addressed such themes as the impact of the Vietnam War on Mexican Americans and the dangers of assimilation, themes relevant to urban Mexican Americans as well as to campesinos. All Valdez' actos con-tained elements of song and dance, relied little on stage effects or props, and featured the use of masks. These dramatic elements, along with an intensely social or political purpose and the use of a mixture of Spanish, English, and Mexican American dialects in the dialogues. which realistically capture the flavor of Mexican American conver-sation, are still characteristic both of the acto and of most other forms of Mexican American theater today.
Innovative as it is, the acto owes much to the theater traditions or other periods and regions. Like early Spanish American religious dramas, secular folk dramas, and the Mexican carpas of a somewhat later period, actos are usually performed outdoors by traveling groups of players or by local theater groups. The improvised comic satire of the actos is often attributed to Valdez' study of the Italian commedia dell' arte of the sixteenth century, although some critics see it as a direct reflection of the comic and improvisational qualities of the more contemporary and local carpas of Mexican theater. The Italian influence is likely, whatever Valdez immediate source: the Mexican carpas themselves are said to have originated from the theater pieces of a sixteenth-century Spanish writer inspired by encounters with Italian commedia dell'arte troupes on tour in Spain. The English-language theater has provided elements as well: Valdez himself has acknowledged his debt to the agitprop socialist theater that appeared in the United States during the 1920's and 1930's. In particular, his actos contain the same assortment of semiallegorical characters and the same blend of music, chorus, and dialogue found in some of the agitprop pieces, as well as the same fierce spirit of social and political critique. Finally, many of Valdez' later theater pieces freely incorporate characters, plots and symbols drawn from the indigenous myths and rituals of the pre-Hispanic peoples of Latin America. In fact, no other art form illustrates more clearly the depth and complexity of the Mexican American heritage itself than does the acto of Luis Valdez and the Teatro Campesino.
According to the passage, the original impetus behind the establishment of the Teatro Campesino was which of the following?
- A To help urban Mexican Americans understand the problems confronting striking campesinos in California
- B To promote an attitude of pride in the depth and richness of the Mexican American heritage among striking campesinos
- C To provide striking campesinos an opportunity to use their creative talents to express their political opinions
- D To allow its founder to express his personal support of the campesinos' strike effort
- E To mobilize campesinos to support the farm workers' strike in California
Correct Answer: E