SF State student displays struggles of bi-cultural life

Each Women’s History Month brings to light a multitude of issues.

Now, in honor of the nationally renowned period of appreciation, a one-act play in San Francisco is taking a more specific cultural approach to the month.

Coser y Cantar is a play with an all-female cast directed by San Francisco State graduate student Tania Llambelis. Shown at the Mission Cultural Center March 17, 18 and 19, the production describes the struggles of a bi-cultural woman living in New York City.

“I chose a play that was relevant to the Latino community that speaks to the experiences of Latinos,” said Llambelis, who recreated Dolores Prida’s 1981 monologue, adding contemporary dialogue and an extra character to further describe and relate to the protagonist’s identity crisis.

The protagonist was portrayed by two characters: She, who believes in order to be all-American she must prescribe to certain American sentiments such as eating organic foods and enunciating her words as proper as possible; and Ella, the other half who fights to hang onto her Caribbean culture with Spanish music, food and cultural mannerisms.

Tiburon, the evil spirit that surrounds the protagonist, instigates and discourages the protagonist to find a balance between both cultures. Tia Tita, known as the ancestral aunt, is the spirit that pulls her to her native roots. Mama Agua, the mediator, brings the two together in hopes that the protagonist will accept both halves.

Llambelis believes that many people, including her, can identify with the play because of the constant struggle of conforming to American traditions and values while having an obligation to preserve cultural traditions.

“When I was 13, I wanted to be a white girl and my mother encouraged me,” said Llambelis, who is also a teacher for the Oakland Unified School District. “That was all good until I got older.”

Jason Wallach, events and media coordinator for the Mission Cultural Center said the play was selected at an appropriate venue because being bi-cultural in a predominantly immigrant community is a dailt struggle for many.

“These are issues in the neighborhood. These are issues discussed in the kitchen,” Wallach said. “We want to offer the opportunity for the community to engage in these conversations.”

The director hopes that the audience will learn that it’s acceptable to acknowledge both cultures and one shouldn’t feel obligated to pick one culture over the other.

“Identity is something that shifts,” said Llambelis “It’s not always 50-50, it’s 90-10 or some days 70-30. The true peace is coming to accept oneself.”