Obie Award–Winning Theater Artists Carmelita Tropicana and Ain Gordon tell “History Herstory” Marlboro College and Vermont Performance Lab Collaborate in Innovative Artist Residency

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Marlboro, VT— This spring, Marlboro College joins forces with Vermont Performance Lab (VPL) to bring writer and performance art icon Alina Troyano (a.k.a. Carmelita Tropicana) to southern Vermont for an in-depth research and development residency. On Wednesday, February 26, the broader community will have a chance to meet Tropicana through a performative talk (part interview–part performance) with fellow Obie-award winning theater artist Ain Gordon, titled "History Herstory."

"It will be a talk between two artists, including some clips, some live performance," said Tropicana, a Cuban-born performance artist, playwright, and actor who first burst on New York's performing arts scene in the 1980s. "I call it Introduction to Carmelita 101." The pair will discuss Tropicana's use and abuse of personal history in a 30-year career that spans Cuba, revolution, coming to America, coming out, the rise of performance art in New York, its possible demise, and the multi-decade overlaps of their creative lives.

As an artist, Tropicana straddles the world of performance art and theater, using humor and fantasy as subversive tools to re-write history from the point of view of woman, man, child and assorted animals and insects. A bicultural artist, she uses spoken language to examine concepts through foreign words. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally both Spanish and English, and in 1999 she won an Obie award for Sustained Excellence of Performance.

She created the persona of Carmelita Tropicana, and developed a body of work that incorporates her life as an artist, building a kind of "meta biography" for the character. Her plays and performance art pieces follow Carmelita's exploits in serial form, addressing world events to encourage a dialogue around issues of ethnic, racial, class, and gender politics.

In addition to presenting "History Herstory," Tropicana's VPL residency includes teaching, research, and a development workshop with Marlboro students in a theater class titled Borders, Boundaries, and Crossings. The class explores the ways in which we construct and perform narratives of identity, using perspectives from performance, gender, and global studies, and combining theory and practice through workshop projects.

"Carmelita has been a terrific artist to have as a collaborator and mentor for the students in the Borders, Boundaries, and Crossings class, because the breadth of her work matches the interdisciplinary study of theirs," said Brenda Foley, theater professor at Marlboro College. "Her writing encompasses issues of identity politics, race, gender, sexuality, and, of course, performance, which makes her a perfect addition. One student remarked after the first day in class with Carmelita, 'It already feels as if we've been working together for a really long time.'"

"The students are brilliant," said Tropicana. "It's so wonderful to be in a classroom that is geared to the specific interests of students, that lets them take ownership of their education." On Tuesday, April 1, she will return to Vermont with her long-time collaborator and filmmaker Ela Toryano, to share her newest work-in-progress "Schwanze Beast." And at the end of the semester, Marlboro students will perform a public workshop of the pieces they constructed with Tropicana throughout the course, bringing the process full circle.

"Marlboro and VPL share an ideology of expanding the parameters of collaboration between artists, students, and faculty," said Foley. "Embedding artists in the curriculum, in ways that support the artistic and research processes of all three constituencies, is a pedagogical model about which we are all very excited."

The residency with Carmelita Tropicana is produced by Vermont Performance Lab in association with Marlboro College, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and VPL's Creation Fund donors.

For more information on the artist and the residency, visit -


CARMELITA TROPICANA (a.k.a. Alina Troyano) is a performance artist, playwright, and actor. Troyano burst on New York's downtown performing arts scene in the eighties with her alter ego, the spitfire Carmelita Tropicana and her counterpart, the irresistible archetypal Latin macho Pingalito Betancourt, followed by performances as Hernando Cortez's horse and la Cucaracha Martina from her childhood fairytales in Cuba.

In Tropicana's work, humor and fantasy become subversive tools to rewrite history. Tropicana's performances plays and videos have been presented at venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, Centre de Cultura Contemporanea in Barcelona, the Berlin International Film Festival, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Dance Theater Workshop, the Mark Taper Forum's Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Studio Museum of Harlem. Her work has received funding support from the Independent Television Service, the Jerome Foundation, and the Rockefeller Suitcase Fund. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships including the Anonymous Was a Woman Award, The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, the Teddy Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and an Obie for sustained excellence in performance.

AIN GORDON is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting. Current projects: a Painted Bride Arts Center commission supported by the Pew Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, a play developed with Vermont Performance Lab/Marlboro College premiering at the BAM Next Wave Festival, and a collaboration with Sō Percussion premiering at the Walker Art Center (MN) and BAM. Previously commissioned/developed/presented by New York Theater Workshop, Soho Rep., The Public Theatre, 651 ARTS, Dance Theater Workshop, Performance Space 122, Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Kitchen Theatre, and HERE (all NY); the Mark Taper Forum (CA), George Street Playhouse (NJ), the Krannert Center (IL), MASS MoCA (MA), Baltimore Museum of Art (MD), DiverseWorks (TX), Spirit Square (NC), Jacob's Pillow (MA), LexArts (KY), and Dance Space (DC), etc. Gordon twice collaborated with choreographer Bebe Miller on works presented at the Wexner (OH), Helena Presents (MT), and the Bates (ME), etc. Collaborations with David Gordon were commissioned/produced by American Repertory Theatre (MA), American Conservatory Theater (CA) and American Music Theatre Festival (PA). Gordon was in the original Off-Broadway cast of Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell which toured to UCLA Live, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (OR),ICA Boston (Elliot Norton Award nom), the Walker (MN), and New Territories (UK), etc. Gordon is a Visiting Artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (PA), a Resident Artist at The Hermitage (FL), and has been Co-Director of the Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1992.

With locations in the foothills of Vermont's Green Mountains and downtown Brattleboro, Marlboro College provides independent thinkers with exceptional opportunities to broaden their intellectual horizons, benefit from a small and close-knit learning community, create a strong framework for personal and career fulfillment, and make a positive difference in the world. At our undergraduate campus in the town of Marlboro and our Center for Graduate and Professional Studies in Brattleboro, students engage in deep exploration of their interests—and discover new avenues for using their skills to benefit themselves and others—in an atmosphere that emphasizes critical and creative thinking, independence, social justice, sustainability, and community.

Working with the notion that the rural communities of Southern Vermont can be a fertile laboratory for incubating new contemporary performance works, Vermont Performance Lab founded its Lab Program in 2006. Each year VPL selects three to five to eight artists to participate in the Lab Program – a creative residency where artists have access to various kinds of creative space in a small rural Vermont community. In this retreat-like setting, artists can concentrate on research and experimentation and test performance ideas with small audiences and engage with local artists, scholars and experts. VPL often partners with local organizations to host such residencies and create meaningful connections between artists and communities.