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Puro Arte

Puro Arte: Filipinos on the Stages of Empire

Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 205
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  • Book Info
    Puro Arte
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2012 Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies, Association for Asian American Studies

    Puro Arte�explores the emergence of Filipino American theater and performance from the early 20th century to the present. It stresses the Filipino performing body's location as it conjoins colonial histories of the Philippines with U.S. race relations and discourses of globalization.

    Puro arte, translated from Spanish into English, simply means "pure art." In Filipino, puro arte however performs a much more ironic function, gesturing rather to the labor of over-acting, histrionics, playfulness, and purely over-the-top dramatics. In this book, puro arte functions as an episteme, a way of approaching the Filipino/a performing body at key moments in U.S.-Philippine imperial relations, from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, early American plays about the Philippines, Filipino patrons in U.S. taxi dance halls to the phenomenon of Filipino/a actors inMiss Saigon. Using this varied archive, Puro Arte turns to performance as an object of study and as a way of understanding complex historical processes of racialization in relation to empire and colonialism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0813-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Putting on a Show
    (pp. 1-20)

    Puro arte lang iyan” (“She’s just putting on a show”). This is a phrase I heard often as a child growing up in Olongapo City. I can still hear my aunt’s dismissive tone as she brushes aside my complaint as mere exaggeration. My protestation—she has cut my hair too short—is read as theatrical, superficial, and hyperbolic. To be called out for beingpuro arteis to be questioned about one’s veracity and authenticity. Another variation is “O tingnan mo, puro arte talaga” (“Just look at her put on a show”). This version highlights the attention-seeking element ofpuro...

  5. 1 “Which Way to the Philippines?” United Stages of Empire
    (pp. 21-48)

    In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Filipino/a performing body appears in piecemeal form on diverse U.S. stages, including the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, and touring assemblies called “chautauquas” that featured music, lectures, speeches, and other acts combining education and entertainment. Some choice (and well-known) representations included Filipinos as buxom “Visayan girls, noted for their beauty” or as savage “dog-eating and headhunting Igorots” (“Which Way to the Phillipines?”). Filipinos were also objects of mimicry in theater productions, by both white and black Americans, in venues across major American cities such...

  6. 2 “Splendid Dancing” Of Filipinos and Texi Dance Halls
    (pp. 49-74)

    A 1904 photograph shows Mrs. Wilkins, a white patron at the St. Louis World’s Exposition, gleefully holding hands with a muscular, scantily dressed brown man identified as an “exhibit” from the popular Philippine Village. The caption to the photograph reads, “Mrs. Wilkins teaching an Igorot the cakewalk” (de la Cruz, Baluyut, and Reyes 44). A little less than three decades later, the instruction continues, albeit with some subtle differences. A second photograph, this time of a well-dressed Filipino man, his arm around a white taxi dance hall dancer, carries the caption, “An American Taxi Dancer and Her Filipino Escort Outside...

  7. 3 Coup de théâtre: The Drama of Martial Law
    (pp. 75-106)

    This chapter turns to the variegated drama(s) of Philippine Martial Law under the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. In it, I consider how the Filipino performing body enacts the drama of Martial Law in two seemingly disparate sites: the protest performances of Sining Bayan, a cultural arm of the radical Filipino American political group Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP), and the multiple productions ofDogeaters:A Playby Jessica Hagedorn. Both cultural sites, I suggest, dexterously mobilize the logic ofpuro artethrough their use of spectacle to undercut discourses of exceptionality surrounding the Martial Law regime and its...

  8. 4 “How in the Light of One Night Did We Come So Far”: Working Miss Saigon
    (pp. 107-138)

    “How in the light of one night did we come so far?” is a line from a duet titled “Sun and Moon,” sung by the star-crossed lovers ofMiss Saigon, Kim and Chris. Kim sings these last words of the musical as she takes her final breath in the arms of Chris, her lover and the father of her child. “How in the light of one night did we come so far?” captures the telos (one night becoming a much longer story) and geography (the routes between the United States and Vietnam) of their love story, a plot line painfully...

  9. Coda: Culture Shack
    (pp. 139-146)

    It seems only fitting that I close my discussion ofpuro artewith a focus on the world premiere staging ofRolling the Rs, R. Zamora Linmark’s highly acclaimed novel, produced by Honolulu’s Kumu Kahua Theater in November 2008. The play and its consequent production in Hawaii deftly weave together questions of race, performance, imperial relations, and Filipino subjectivity, providing continuities and interruptions to the sites on which I have discussed the Filipino performing body. The Hawaii setting ofRolling the Rsbegs an overdetermined invocation of U.S. offshore imperial beginnings and continuing colonial practices. LikeDogeaters, the novel and...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 147-166)
    (pp. 167-184)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 185-191)
    (pp. 192-192)