The Texas Chili Queens | Pollyanna Theatre Company | Long Center

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Take a Tasty Journey into the Past with Pollyanna's "Texas Chili Queens"

Posted on October 31, 2019 by LONG CENTER STAFF

Pollyanna Theatre Company is back in the Rollins Studio Theatre with a flavorful story of female entrepreneurship and empowerment. Check out THE TEXAS CHILI QUEENS, November 9 – 17.

If you enter the words “female entrepreneurs Austin” into a google search, you will find countless groups, networks, organizations, and industries that are just a click away. It is indeed gratifying to see the great number of women in business in Central Texas and all of the vast resources that are just a click away. But the business landscape for Texas women has not always looked so promising. Pollyanna’s newest production, THE TEXAS CHILI QUEENS, by Kathleen Fletcher, takes a look at some of our state’s first business women and their struggles to provide for their families and their attempts to build businesses that they could pass down to their daughters. The play, which will be presented in the Rollins Studio Theatre at The Long Center November 9 – 17, 2019, is a tasty journey into the past that has many implications for our present.

Actors rehearse during The Texas Chili Queens from left: Viviana Garcia, Nathalie De La Cruz, Sofia Rosso

The play follows a group of 5th graders who are studying family heritage for an assignment at school. Allie, our young protagonist, doesn’t know much about her family and is frustrated by the way her family has pushed aside their heritage, customs, and language in an effort to fit into American society. But a taste of extra spicy chili made from an ancient family recipe magically transports her to 1860’s Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio. There she finds her ancestors, a group of very hard working female entrepreneurs, The Chili Queens. These woman cooked tamales, chili, beans, rice, and coffee in their homes and carried them into the plazas of San Antonio every evening and worked from dusk to dawn, bringing music, laughter, and amazing food to the people of San Antonio. In time, these women became just as much a fixture of downtown San Antonio as the Alamo itself. For well over 75 years, hundreds of Chili Queens worked through the night, building businesses and feeding thousands of tourists and locals alike. Allie is amazed by their beauty and success. But that success is fleeting.

As the city of San Antonio grew and became more anglo, the concept of the purpose of public spaces began to change. Streets were no longer places for people to gather and dine. Streets became places for transportation and dining moved indoors into largely male-owned cafes and diners. These establishments found the Chili Queens to be stiff competition for customer attention and dollars. Over time, the women were removed from the streets and lost the ability to direct their financial futures. Their story of success and legendary cuisine was lost and their history has gone largely untold.

Abuela explains family history to Allie during a rehearsal of Pollyanna Theatre Company’s The Texas Chili Queens.

Pollyanna Theatre Company, a Resident Company of the Rollins Studio Theatre, is dedicated to creating original plays that speak to the needs, dreams, and imaginations of young people and the child that lives inside each of us. With the firm belief that children are our future leaders, the company seeks out stories such as this one with its power to inspire young audiences to learn from our collective past and move forward to create a society where the stories of all people are preserved and respected. As Allie, THE TEXAS CHILI QUEEN’s main character says, “Life doesn’t have a delete key. You should tell all the stories.”

Pollyanna also encourages you to share your family heritage and your family’s connection with food. The production is proud to be a part of The Tenement Museum of New York’s special project YOUR STORY, OUR STORY. Add your family’s story to the mix! As part of the Texas Chili Queens performance, we’re inviting you all to share a story about a recipe or dish that’s part of your family’s cultural heritage. What do you eat on holidays? Do particular foods connect you to your family’s past? Do you have a special chili recipe in the family? In partnership with the Tenement Museum in New York, we’re collecting your stories of food and culture, preserving stories for future generations. All you need is a short story about family food and a photo!

Simply follow these instructions to upload your story.

“Your Story, Our Story” is a national digital exhibit initiative of the Tenement Museum in New York City and its partners across the United States. This special online exhibit holds stories from 27 states and counting–join us in preserving stories for the future and exploring how we all shape American history through the objects and traditions in our lives!

Get your tickets now at the Long Center Box Office for Pollyanna Theatre Company’s THE TEXAS CHILI QUEENS, a new play filled with life, laughter, love, and very flavorful characters you will not soon forget.