Every summer for the last seven years, Alex Tey and Brisa Munoz have returned, with the goal of contributing to the theatrical climate of the Rio Grande Valley. Thirteen O’Clock Theatre, whose mission has expanded since 2007, was initially born to provide more creative opportunities for artists, a need precipitated by the lack of summer productions.
“Thirteen O’Clock has always pushed the boundaries on what art looks like,” said Munoz, company executive director and director of last summer’s Doublespeak, the company’s first full-length venture into original, devised theatre.
“As years went on we grew individually as artists, and I think it’s one of the strengths of Thirteen O’Clock,” said Tey, company creative director and co-director of The Food Project. “We’ve found time to develop ourselves and can back together to utilize our technique and skills.”
While acquiring these skills, their interests began to expand from simply producing high-quality theatre to “creating theatre that can really speak to and either tell the stories of our specific community or engage the community in dialogue about issues that are effecting them right now,” said Tey.
Their definition of innovation has evolved from doing locally underrepresented work, to where it is now: a commitment to original, community-driven collaborations. This summer is their first season of completely original work.
“Theatre for entertainment is wonderful,” said company development director and The Food Project co-facilitator, Sara Sawicki. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun and it’s flashy and sometimes it even touches deep emotional chords, but Thirteen O’Clock is interested in providing challenging and entertaining material that intimately reflects back to this community its own strengths and weaknesses, its past and where it is headed in the future.”
In November of 2013, Washington Post staff writer Eli Saslow wrote a now infamous piece pertaining to food stamps and nutrition in the RGV. The piece was shared countless times via social media sites, and served as the unofficial inspiration for the company’s next topic of discussion: food.
“There are outsiders that are talking about this issue,” said Munoz, in reference to things written about the Valley. “It is the community members that live it. We can not attempt to understand people’s personal situations and circumstances without hearing it from them first. These ideas aren’t new; they exist. Our goal is to explore how community-engaged theatre can serve the artistic climate in the RGV, as well as the community itself.”