Campus: CSU Northridge -- March 15, 2004

Culture Clash Donates Personal Library Chronicling the Troupe's 20-Year History to Cal State Northridge

Members of the nationally acclaimed Chicano-Latino comedy/performance troupe Culture Clash have donated to Cal State Northridge the papers, art work and other items that chronicle the group’s 20-year history.

The collection from troupe members Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Sigüenza—which includes drafts of scripts (some never performed), notes, posters, playbills and art work—will become part of the Urban Archives in the university’s Oviatt Library. Highlights from the collection will be displayed in a small exhibition scheduled to open in the library on May 5.

“We are honored to become the archival home for a unique voice in theatre,” said Susan C. Curzon, dean of the university’s library. “Their powerful portrait of life will fascinate researchers for years to come. Culture Clash is a California treasure.”

Sigüenza said the trio chose Northridge to house their archives because of the university’s strong Chicano and Central American studies programs, and singled out Chicano studies professor Rodolfo Acuña in particular.

“We respect the university,” Sigüenza said. “We think a lot of Rudy Acuña and the Chicano Studies Department and CSUN was one of the first universities to have Central American studies. We have a good rapport there.”

Acuña, who has taught at the university for more than 30 years, helped found the Chicano Studies department at Cal State Northridge, which is believed to be the oldest such program of its kind in the nation. His first book, Occupied America, now in its fifth edition, is used by universities and colleges across the country. He dismissed any singling out by the troupe.

“We’re all honored, the whole community is honored by this wonderful gift,” Acuña said. ”I think they are one of the most noted groups in the area. I really respect them. They have tried to put our history into a popular context.”

Archivists Robert G. Marshall and Rebecca S. Graff, who are working on the collection, said that Sigüenza, Montoya and Salinas have promised to continue contributing to the archives as the troupe continues to perform and create new material.

“The past 20 years have been the building blocks. I think America has yet to see the best of Culture Clash,” Sigüenza said, pointing out that the trio is currently working on a television show. The group previously starred in one in the 1990s on the Fox Television Network, “Fox Television’s ‘Culture Clash.’”
The group, originally called Comedy Fiesta, was started 20 years ago in the Mission District of San Francisco by Montoya, a spoken-word poet; Salinas, a breakdancer and bilingual rapper; and Sigüenza, who had trained as a visual artist. Original members also included Marga Gómez, Monica Palacios and José Antonio Burciaga.

Culture Clash’s brand of Latino comedic theater, which combines humor with social critique, has drawn acclaim from across the country. It has performed at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and the Mark Taper Forum, where last year it performed the well-reviewed Chavez Ravine.

The troupe’s best known plays include The Mission (1998), A Bowl of Beings (1991), S.O.S.—Comedy for These Urgent Times (1992, written in response to the Los Angeles riots), Carpa Clash (1993), Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami (1994), and Bordertown (1998).

The trio is currently working on the manuscript for Frank Loesser’s “lost” musical, Señor Discretion Himself, at the Arena State in Washington D.C. It opens April 15.

The Culture Clash collection is being inventoried, processed and preserved under the auspices of a five-year $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to bolster student success by strengthening the Oviatt Library’s outreach to the Latino community.

The grant, which was awarded by the Department of Education’s Title V Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, will make the Culture Clash collection available to students, faculty and the community for research purposes. The collection, parts of which will be included in the library’s Latino Cultural Heritage Digital Archives, will be open to researchers next year.

The Oviatt Library is home to more than one million volumes, three million microfilms, 125,000 government publications, 7,798 periodical titles and an extensive historical collection of mixed media, rare books and archives. It serves as the main research facility in the San Fernando Valley.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130,

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