A man who has been making a constant difference in Reno’s budding multicultural art scene is Mariano Lemus. He has been performing in the Reno-Tahoe area for more than a decade promoting Latino culture and current issues through performing arts.
He is the director of Teatro Sangre-Latina, Danza Aztec Aztlan and Ballet Flokorico Internacional. These are three different Latino performing arts organizations that he started since 2002 in the Reno area. He tells us why it was important to start these groups.
They had the intention of creating the essence of theater with the ending purpose to bring plays to the community of social interest, political interest or the interest of anything of importance happening in the world at that time.
“As director and Errol Ramos as a producer we have knocked on many doors since the beginning and many were never opened,” said Lemus.
At the beginning of constructing these different groups Lemus did not have a place to practice theater and dance. The members of his groups that ranged from ten to twenty five people would rotate practice between their homes, many times crowded with limited space. Group producer, Errol Ramos, tells us about the struggles of gaining committed members at the beginning.
“We tried to continue the group when no one else seemed interested. It’s like volunteering; no one really gets paid for it” said Ramos. “So you really have to want to do it. People came and went and Mariano and I were the ones who consistently showed up so we took on the roles of: he’s the director I’m the producer.”
After knocking on many doors and despite having many never open they gained the support of UNR’s Latino Research Center. With their support they now had a place to practice consistently at the Laxalt Auditorium downtown, where many of their performances also take place. From then the group took off with its first two major productions. They promoted their plays on local Spanish news outlets and radio like the airing of this promo clip.
The theater group started with what were their two major plays “El Vagon” and “Las Mujeres De Juarez” which were the first plays to attract the Latino community says Lemus.
Ramos tells us why these two-theater productions caught the attention of the local Latino community and what they were about.
“We did a play called “Las Mujeres de Juarez” which shows how women are effected in Mexico and how they are abducted, killed and nobody really cares and then also the immigration one” said Ramos. “We really focus on things that effect the community, that being said, we also try to every once in awhile bring something that will give people a good laugh just make them happy and hopefully they come back again.”
A presentation of a comical play that also addressed social issues was their play “Dos Al Precio De Uno.” What surprised Ramos the most was that most of their audience were initially first time theater goers. Aside from having the theater group they saw the need to promote Aztec culture in the area. So they started the Danza Azteca Aztlan dance group as well.
With the Aztec dance group they have had the privilege of being invited to the Governor’s Mansion for a Hispanic Celebration Event that’s held every year. It’s been three years that they’ve been invited.
Ballet Flokorico Internacional which promotes folklore dancing from different areas of Latin America is Lemus’s newest art group. One of the active members in all three performing-arts groups is Miriam Rodriguez. By joining the groups she says she finally found a place where she could put to work her love for the stage. Her involvement has now led her to multiple job opportunities as well.
(Video: Ballet Flokorico Internacional practice at the Laxalt Auditorium)
Ballet Flokorico Internacional which promotes folklore dancing from different areas of Latin America is Lemus’s newest art group. One of the active members in all three performing-arts groups is Miriam Rodriguez who says by joining the groups she finally found a place where she could put to work her love for the stage. Her involvement has now led her to multiple job opportunities as well.
“Some of my hobbies have now become jobs and that’s really exciting. I don’t think I would have been in the place that I am without joining the group. On July we did a fashion show for Reno Vanity, I have also done photo shoots with different photographers and I also do promo jobs” says Rodriguez.
For Lemus bringing a positive light to Latinos has always been crucial. He wanted to provide the local Reno community something besides what they hear on the news of Latinos doing negative things and instead give them performing arts to bring a positive light to the community.
For the last 15 years Mariano Lnative of Morelia Michoacan, Mexico has recited in Reno. His dream continues to be to give growth to these groups and expand awareness of Latino cultures and issues.
“Plasmar eso y usar una obra de teatro para levantar la voz de justicia es el hecho que nos mueve como grupo. De tratar de poner voz a la gente que no la tiene y ese es uno de lo objetivos que como grupo tenemos, hablar por nuestra comunidad” said Lemus.
Lemus says capturing and using theater to elevate the voice of justice is what moves his group. He says he wants to try and give a voice to those who don’t have one.
For UNR Radio, I’m J. Diego Zarazua.
The following are additional theater presentations Lemus has performed in the Reno-Tahoe area.