The Oakland-based guerrilla performance group headRush is serious when it comes to taking their message to the streets. You can find them performing their brief but high-energy sketches not only in theaters, festivals and cafés, but also on sidewalks and in parking lots. The group brings its brand of urban poetry and satire to audiences wherever it finds them.
The brainchild of a trio of teacher-actors — Rosa González, Simón Hanukai and Xago (Luís Juarez) — headRush debuted at Oakland’s Jahva House in September 2003. Calling themselves a “psycho-politico spoken-word theater crew,” González, Hanukai and Juarez hoped to exhort and incite their viewers out of passivity using Chicano “teatro,” a satirical agitprop style made popular in the 1960s by Luís Valdez and the farmworkers’ El Teatro Campesino. Setting up wherever there is space to move, headRush’s off-the-cuff improvisations and audience involvement recall the immediacy of Campesino’s “actos,” or one-act plays, which might have been performed on the back of flatbed truck or on a picket line.
In fact, El Teatro Campesino was where Xago came to be so deeply involved in Chicano theater. Xago was also instrumental in founding community performance group Los Illegals Comedy Clica and the Salinas hip hop crew Baktun 12. González, an author as well as a performer, is a founding member of Las Man@s, and Hanukai serves as program director of the Destiny Arts Center. Education is a high priority for the three performers, who have all studied theater and taught at middle schools and high schools throughout the Bay Area.
With a focus that promotes making social issues and current events relevant and immediate to a new generation, the dynamic headRush has shown up at colleges, open mic nights, political events and comedy shows. In “Performance Ideas,” Spark follows headRush from a performance of their acto “Throwdown” to the workshops they conduct to help kids explore complex issues through theater and movement.