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Sigüenza, Herbert | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Sigüenza, Herbert

Historical Note:

Herbert Sigüenza was born in San Francisco. His parents are from El Salvador, and the family returned there to live when Sigüenza was nine years old. During that time El Salvador fought the "Soccer War" with Honduras. A Civil War broke out in El Salvador one year after Sigüenza left the country at age seventeen.

Returning to California, Siguenza attended the California College of Art and Crafts and received a degree in art, printmaking, and silk-screening. From there he went to work at La Raza Graphics Center in San Francisco, where he was the art director, leaving after ten years. After working with graphic art to educate and organize people, Sigüenza spent the next six years working with Teatro Gusto. This association with theater led him to co-found Culture Clash.

Culture Clash was founded on Cinco de Mayo, 1984 at René Yañez's Galería de la Raza/ Studio 24 in San Francisco's Mission District by Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas, Herbert Sigüenza, and José Antonio Burciaga. Sigüenza had trained as a visual artist, Montoya's background was in spoken word poetry, and Salinas had performed as a break-dancer and bilingual rapper. The group was originally called Comedy Fiesta and conceived of as a troupe of six actors, comedians, and poets including Marga Gómez and Monica Palacios. This group worked with Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino. The group eventually fragmented, and Culture Clash was formed with four members Burciaga, Montoya, Salinas, and Sigüenza. Burciaga left the group in 1988 and died in 1996.

Some of their best-known plays include The Mission (1988), 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), Culture Clash Unplugged (1994), Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami (1994), Bordertown (1998), Nuyorican Stories (1999), and Mission Magic Mystery Tour (2001). Many of these pieces were site-specific commissioned works. Bowl of Beings is particularly well-know as it was filmed for PBS' Great Performances series in 1992. Culture Clash performed their adaptation of Aristophanes' The Birds for South Coast Repertory Theater in San Diego, California and the Berkeley Repertory Theater in Berkeley, California in 1998.

Culture Clash's first book, Culture Clash: Life, Death, and Revolutionary Comedy, appeared in 1998. This publication includes scripts for many of their plays. In 2001 they published Culture Clash in AmeriCCa, a book that explores what it means to be an American through a series of vignettes. The book was inspired by the show Culture Clash Coast to Coast, which premiered at the Japanese Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Through the efforts of comedian "Cheech" Marin, Culture Clash developed a show for Fox Television, entitled Fox Television's "Culture Clash." The show ran from 1993 to 1995 with a total of 30 episodes. The comedy sketch show featured guest appearances from Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Dolores Huerta.

Los Boys de CC have been featured together and separately in several feature films. All three appeared in the 1992 film, Encino Man as Loco, Enrique, and Chuly. Sigüenza's film credits include Star Maps (1997) and Hero (1992). In 1992, Culture Clash wrote and co-produced the award-winning short film, Columbus on Trial.

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