Tongue in Chic*ana by Tongue in Chic*ana

Tongue in Chíc*ana was founded in the drive-thru line of a Carl’s Jr. in 2005. As the two women–one of theater (Selene Santiago de Nasseri, MA) and one of film (Ramona Pilar Gonzales, MFA)–waited for their late night meal, they discussed the theatrical bill of fare they had just ingested (5 of 7 hours of Wagner’s Parsifal).  Between munching criss-cut fries and washing down laughter with soda pop, they decided that their shared love of music, aesthetics and absurdity should not go to artistic waste. Selene looped in her theatrical colleague, puppet mistress and fellow pocha, Michelle Zamora and the Tongue in Chíc*ana trio was born.

What do you do?
To the theater people and academia:  Tongue in Chíc*ana is an artistic triad fueled by theater, detailed with whimsical aesthetics, influenced by mythological histories and guided by a Nouveau Chic*ana voice.  To the non-inducted, less-needing-to-be-impressed, we have fun creating rad theater and do our best to squeeze every drop of juice out of our humanities degrees.

What makes a “Nouveau Chic*ana Voice?”
One simple word: Pochas.  All three of us are University educated, Second Generation, Mexican-American women who understand Spanish much better than we speak it.  We are comprised of two Californias and one Tejana, all three of us from states with very specific, unique cultures and histories within the Chicana/o pantheon.  And we like the word “nouveau.”

How do you three create your pieces?
Our process is inevitably collaborative and organic according to the needs of the piece. Our first production Carnivale of the Unassuming was the first time we worked together on a production. Individually, it was the first time we were working on a project with complete creative freedom.  Initially there was to be one writer but after a few rounds of story ideas, the need for all three of us to stamp the story with our own individual voices became apparent.  So all three of us developed and co-wrote the story of Viola, a young woman who, on a fateful trip to a carnival, meets Baron von Scabbington and his cadre of carnies.  They usher her into a tent-like maze where she confronts the darkest corners of her psyche.  Performed at CASA 0101 in the fall of 2007, the result was far beyond our expectations and we received inspiring praise from press and spectators.

Heart on a Wire, our second oeuvre, was developed from an idea by Selene Santiago de Nasseri.  Rather than start with a narrative, we approached the play as a visual artist might – beginning with colors (black, white and red) and a concept (Love).  We, Ramona, Selene and guest writer Colin Nasseri, each wrote a vignette inspired by one of the colors about the way that “love challenges [and] demands that you go out on a limb, wavering between settling and letting go.” Michelle developed and choreographed two puppet pieces that transitioned one vignette to the next.  Produced at CASA 0101, we once again transformed the very cozy theater space into a world of wonder.

Our next two productions will have the distinction of being written by one member of the group: La Santa Chata: Patron Saint of Fantastic Failures written by Ramona, which will open November 2011; and Midnight Mariachi, a puppet musical (!) written by Michelle, coming in 2012.  La Santa Chata harkens back to the golden age of both Mexican and American vaudeville circuits.  Along with the stars of her variety act and puppet sidekick, La Santa Chata airs her dirty laundry to present a rasquache showcase of failures made fantastic.  Midnight Mariachi looks at the transition of an urban neighborhood through the eyes of three long-time friends and puppet mariachi musicians, Manny, Gaspar and Paco (who also happen to be puppets).

How often does TIC take to the stage?
Midnight Mariachi
will mark the seventh year that the three of us have been creating together.  We produce every year and a half or so to allow ourselves time to breathe, pursue other artistic pursuits, and to live our lives.

One of the main reasons we started TIC was because we all had a desire to create and grow as artists.  We’ve given each other the trust and room to try just about anything.  We don’t always agree on everything and there have been slight kerfuffles from time to time, but what pushes us forward is our unconditional support of each other. We’re true fans of each other!

Is it better to have three heads on a project?
No.  It’s better to have six hands.

Las TICas
July 2011


Carnival of the Unassuming, 2007













Heart On A Wire, 2009













The women of Tongue in Chic*ana from left to right: Selene Santiago, Ramona Pilar Gonzales, and Michelle Zamora