SPOTLIGHT ON: Actor, writer and activist Karen Anzoategui

By Fanny Garcia, Editor

pLAywriting in the city

Aren’t you from Argentina, che? What does it mean to be from the land of Maradona? Si bueno, Maradona is one icon people think about when I tell them I’m Argentine.  I grew up watching Diego Maradona, a hero that has been exalted and also destroyed.  He wasn’t educated but he turned out to be special.

When you are living in Los Angeles and tell people you are from Argentina, you get all kids of reactions.  It means whatever you make it to mean since those around you have their own expectations of who you are.  Sometimes its romantic.  “Wow, you are from Argentina, you must know how to tango.”  No, but I can pretend.  I can sing you a tango and the dance steps can be imagined.  How romantic to be able to grab you by the hand and lead you into la la land.  The reaction I most combat is that I must be arrogant. I say, “Don’t project your issues onto me!

I think being Argentine in Los Angeles is about representing other stories of Latin America that we don’t normally hear.  It’s an opportunity to learn about another culture without it demeaning your own.  Being able to embrace a sister without checking out the color of her skin and her facial structure on the way to having a heart to heart.  In the end we are all the same, we all have dictatorships/regimes labeled as “democracy” at times and a growing poverty level no matter what nationality you claim.

What college/university did you attend? I went to Rio Hondo College and then graduated from Loyola Marymount University.   I attended religious schools for a large part of my life.

Why did you choose to be an actress? It chose me, jaja! At first, I was writing and then I realized I liked acting.  I wrote my first one-woman show for a theatre 101 class for my final and I knew I had to do it again.  Being an actor is more than what it sounds.  It is being a transformative being that can have an audience relate to important matters of the heart.

Ser: L.A. vs. B.A by Karen Anzoategui

When did you start to write for the stage? I wrote for myself unless someone paid me to write their final for class.  It was just a thing I did.  I wrote short scenarios or monologues. The only time I finished a complete, larger work was with Ser: L.A. vs. B.A. my solo show.

I first met you when we worked together as HIV/AIDS activists here in Los Angeles, do you think artists have a responsibility to be activists as well? I think being an artist allows you to feel more than others that are not artists.  Sometimes, feeling all the things in the world, make you have a larger heart and as an artist, there is no other option than to do something about that which you sense and see and have the power to change.

I got into HIV to survive since I needed to pay my student loans and start making money and then I discovered that one of my missions in life is to heal.  That healing encompasses life and the stage, drama and comedy.  If I can help you in your path, you are healing me in mine. Life is art.  And it’s about what you make of it.  The HIV population taught me (and continues to teach me) that you must cherish what you have and make something great out of each moment, because you never know when it is your time to go.  Living in anguish and anger causes illness so why not love and be loved and not waste your time on death.  The option is in your hand, your feet, your mind and your impulse.

Writer/Performer Karen Anzoategui at a “Tea Party Cownter Protest.”

What has been your involvement in the Occupy LA movement? The occupy movement is a continuation of many movements throughout space and time.  Different governments and eras.  The 99% is always stating the same message as the 1% stands silent or on vacation at the Cayman Islands, hiding.  So, it is my job to wake up LA and tell them we are one of many movements. We need to stand up and take charge or we will be dead.  We will not have medical insurance, basic human rights, and we will have cancers while figuring how and why we have them to begin with. We are exploited.  We allowed that exploitation and no we are done with it.  We are done with being lab rats.  I write about it and I try to encourage others to take control of their rights.  I facebook. I tweet.  I feel like we have so much more community now with the Occupy movement.  I feel so much closer to my neighbors.

Were you able to attend the ARTIST RESPONSE TO OCCUPY LA march on Monday, Nov. 14th? What was your impression of it? No, I was in rehearsal!  I did attend some parts of the movement and I have to say that every time I go to a protest whether it is for unions, immigration reform or for the Dream Act, I get inspired. I allow the rhythm of the movement to inspire me.  I wear my Argentine jersey as a symbol of solidarity and I feel safe. It’s an inspiration for me to write.  I feel the love and it moves me.  I perform my solo Ser: L.A. vs. B.A. in hopes that people will see we are all the same 99% no matter what country you call home.

Do you think there has been enough of a response from artists about the country’s discontent with our government? I think there has been. We are still moving.  The movement itself sparks creativity in its expression.  I think rich artists as well as others are waiting to see what unfolds before they do anything.  Michael Moore has been a leader in this movement since before its inception.

Some artists are not able to set up a tent at City Hall and join the occupy movement, what are other ways in which we can “occupy” and participate in the demonstrations? Keep being informed and donate for supplies.  I think if you keep being informed, you are prepared for those that are not in favor of the movement when they attack and question your support for the Occupy Movement.  Being able to preserve and keep the movement going by keeping informed and reading about what’s going on. I think it’s a great time to generate more community. Just because you are not on the grounds, doesn’t mean you don’t give to the energy that fuels this movement.  Have a get-together, call your senator and express your opinion when you think something should be dealt with in regards to this occupy movement such as the police brutality and excess, unnecessary pepper spray.

Can you recommend any plays about protest or dissent that would inspire others to action?  Yes, I like the work of Eugene Ionesco and Bertol Brecht.  Federico Garcia Lorca-absolutamente. Griselda Gamboa-si! Anton Checkov is also very inspiring: a character’s inability to change or see the change can be inspiring. Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed is extremely important to know. And of course, the works of Manuel Puig, Virgilio Piñera, and Ana Simo.

Karen Anzoateghi received her B.A. in theatre from Loyola Marymount University.  You most recently saw Karen in Ser: L.A. vs. B.A. a Queer transnational tale at Macha Theatre.  Ser: L.A. vs. B.A  has been seen at the Hollywood Fringe Festival directed by Che’Rae Adams and dramaturgy by reg e gaines, REDCAT, Casa 0101, Nate Holden Center with Teada and L.A.C.E. directed by Dino Dinco.  Karen performs throughout Los Angeles including the One Minute Play Festival directed by Ann Giselle Spiegler, ProClitvities at Highways Theatre , Henry V & The Changeling with Independent Shakespeare Co, Sissy by CoA. Karen is a stand-up comedian on SiTv’s Latino 101. Karen is also involved in humanitarian efforts within the HIV field through the Serra Project./Aid for Aids/Alliance for Housing and Healing.

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