Written by Mono Riojas Aguilar and directed by Georgette Maria Lockwood, Chato’s Bridge will be held at the historic Guadalupe Theater from March 23 to March 26. It is presented by the Guadalupe Cultural Art Center’s Theater Arts program. Set in San Antonio’s Westside in 1979, the story is about Chale and Simon. These life-long camaradas are bound by a tragedy that happened 30 years before. Chato’s Bridge”addresses issues of love, loyalty, and vengeance.
San Antonio playwright Aguilar’s first production of Chato’s Bridge premiered in 2014 at San Antonio College’s McAllister Auditorium as a part of the English Department’s Hispanic Heritage Month Series. Aguilar, a Professor of English at the college, received a very positive response from the faculty and audience in attendance. The play opened for an audience of over 300, the second largest audience for a Hispanic Heritage Month event in the college’s history.
Chato’s Bridge is a gritty but not gratuitous look at the harsher aspects of barrio life portrayed by these two lifelong friends, Chale and Simon, whose loyalty to each other and their lost friends is absolute, as is their drive for vengeance. They must carry out their retribution before the undercover cop who has infiltrated their gang shuts them down. Unknown to them, a long-lost figure from their past is serving as their guardian angel.
The production’s summary states: “In 1979, four boys tried to save a little girl from a monstrously evil act. Two of the five died, and the survivors never lost their sorrow and rage. It’s time for revenge — West Side style. “Chale and Simon have been tormented by survivor’s guilt for three decades, and the memory of their murdered friends never leaves them. Dolores and Doña Sandoval have done a better job getting on with their lives. but they, too, are haunted,” said Aguilar. “The love these survivors have for their dead friends mixes with loyalty, rage, and a need for revenge, regardless of the costs.”
“This is a story of what happens when we are unable to break the cycle of trauma that came before. Chale and Simon are like Pancho and Lefty, or Butch and Sundance. They walk hand in hand through their hometown barrio knowing that their short-fused tempers will get the best of them. Simon seems to be hold the truth of the story when he tells his camarada, ‘I’m sorry, see, but that was a long time ago. You have to let it drop,’ but both are fated to hold onto their rage until the end,” added Lockwood.
On directing the piece, Lockwood told ArtScene SA: I came to know of Mono Aguilar and the Chato’s Bridge trilogy when I was cast as Cheeto — the transgender son of Simón in the third play, Hope and Camaradas. As a classically trained actor, I fell in love with the plays and the complexity of the characters.
When Mono approached me with the opportunity to direct this rendition of the first play, I knew I could offer a valuable perspective on portraying the emotional range of these very raw characters. The characters have you laughing hysterically in one moment and crying in the next. Anyone in the audience with past or generational trauma will recognize the emotional roller coaster the characters are on. It has been a welcome challenge to translate my skills from an actor’s perspective to a directorial one.
“To produce and perform this Westside barrio story in the heart of the Westside is a no brainer for us at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center,” said Jorge Piña, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Theater Arts Program Director. “We are proud to present this production at a theater founded by Chicano artists who have shaped the cultural experiences of San Antonio’s residents. We expect people will show up not just from the Westside, but also from across San Antonio.”
Piña lived in the neighborhood with his young family for many years while events, similar to those depicted in the play occurred. Not only does he relate firsthand to the realities of those times in the Westside, but he also brings a straight lineage to the original Theater Program created at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in the early eighties by Piña and others under the leadership of former Guadalupe Executive Director Pedro Rodriguez.
Chato’s Bridge did not have much of a budget when it first opened in 2014. Aguilar worked with limited resources, doing much of the work involved in the staging himself, and working “al golpe.” While the play adheres to aspects of Chicano theater tradition, this new staging offers the higher production value that the script deserves, along with a talented cast, designers, and Lockwood in her directorial debut following a successful career as a stage actress.
This latest version of Chato’s Bridge also gives a more prominent place to strong female characters, having changed the gender of one of the main characters from the original male SAPD detective to a tough female detective.
This event is sponsored by the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture, National Performance Network, and Texas Commission on the Arts.
March 23, 2023 — 7:00 PM
March 24 and 25, 2023 — 8:00 PM
March 26, 2023 — 3:00 PM
General Admission — $15
Students with IDs — $10
Senior Citizens — $10
Tickets available at www.guadalupeculturalarts.org<http://www.guadalupeculturalarts.org> or by calling 210-271-3151. People can also visit Guadalupe Latino Bookstore, 1300 Guadalupe St., Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to purchase tickets.
Disclaimer: This performance is intended for a mature audience due to its strong language and adult themes.
Photography by Guadalupe Acuña.