The shout of “CHICANNNAAA LEGEND! Press any button to begin,” paired with video game sound effects, signaled the start of The Fools Collaborative’s latest production, “Chicana Legend.”
The Fools Collaborative, a self-described group of artists in the Fresno area who produce creative events to bring awareness to and raise funds for causes, presented the play on Sept. 23 and 25 at LAByrinth Arts Collective.
The play was written by Fresno State alumna Alexis Elisa Macedo and directed by Fresno State professor Gina Sandí-Díaz. It took the audience through levels of a video game as characters battled community expectations, chisme and machismo.
The play also touched on the generational trauma of many Chicano/a individuals face, including having your self-worth determined by pleasing others. Macedo portrayed the main character, Lulu, and depicted her coming-of-age story through the style and levels of a video game. Macedo said she was inspired over the summer to write the play and share her personal outlook.
“I tried to explain what it’s like being a Chicana from my perspective,” Macedo said on her Instagram account. “The statement I kept coming back to and returning to was that it feels like I’m playing a game that wasn’t meant for me to win, but because of the sacrifices of my ancestors, it is essential that I survive and succeed. ”
As the character of Lulu prepares to move through her video game world, she is equipped with her backpack and advice from her Abuela, who was played by Dalicia Torrecillas. Her Abuela tells her to make good choices and beware mistakes to avoid being a ‘Chicana Myth’ rather than a ‘Chicana Legend.’
Lulu, not ready to begin the game, then encounters her first choice: pressing “A” to obey or pressing “B” to throw a tantrum.
The voice behind the game was Wade Pierson, who continued to present Lulu with important choices to determine if she made it to the next level.
One of the first challenges Lulu faced was how the negative reputation her family held could reflect on her. A poster board referred to as “The Eyes” was held by Carlos Olivera Sanchez during several scenes to symbolize the people looking down on Lulu.
The judgmental eyes attempt to weaken Lulu, who defeats them by gaining the skill of being a better person. Macedo said on Instagram that was part of her intentional effort to bring life to the struggles the character of Lulu would face.
“I was able to physicalize the obstacles and the battles that our main character has to endure in order to win this game when she has little to no guidance and little to no tools,” she said.
Lulu’s challenges continue to embody issues many Chicanas and Chicanos face. At one point, her teacher, who is also played by Torrecillas, makes it clear that in her classroom speaking Spanish is not allowed. When Lulu levels up she also grows up and receives her Latina curves, which her Abuela tells her to cover up.
A visit from someone Lulu considers a “Chicana Legend,” the late famous singer Selena Quintanilla Pérez, played by Alba Rubio, gives Lulu the confidence to be true to herself and leave behind her family’s expectations.
“You can’t stand up straight with the weight of the community on your shoulders,” Rubio’s character tells Lulu.
“Chicana Legend” concludes with Lulu’s final level, at which point she decides to tell Abuela she is playing the game her way and making her own rules.
“It’s my power. I deserve to live, not just survive. I’m going to be a Chicana legend my way,” she proclaims.
In the final scene Lulu is given the choice to press A to continue or to quit, Lulu declares “I’m ready” and chooses to keep moving forward.
Macedo said on Instagram she hopes the audience left her play with a message of encouragement and perseverance.
“In a game that was not designed for you, there is no winning or losing. There’s simply tenacity,” she said.
She left a message for other young women of color in particular.
“Here’s to all the Brown girls told to stay out of the sun, [to] Please your tongues and play the game. Let this piece give you permission to live unapologetically loud and proud.”