Carpa

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In Mexico and the Southwestern United States, the carpa (Spanish: "tent", from the Quechua karpa) theater flourished during the 1920s and 30s. Like its American counterpart vaudeville, performances were varied, including comedic sketches, puppet shows, political satire, acrobatics, and dance.

Some well-known carpas include Carpa Valentina and Carpa Azcapotzalco. In the United States, Carpa Cubana, Carpa Monsavias, and La Carpa García were the best-known.

The carpa has origins in the seasonal theaters of the 1870s that began performing Don Juan Tenorio for the Day of the Dead (November 1) and finished with religious plays for Christmas. This practice continued during the regime of Porfirio Díaz and the Mexican Revolution.

Following the Revolution, companies set up large tents in Tacuba, Tacubaya, and Azcapotzalco, and some, like Nacho Pérez carpa, toured the country. These temporary theatres allowed Mexico's urban underclass to forget their daily troubles and were encouraged by the government as an alternative to the pulque hall and the brothel.

Shows usually consisted of three tandas, or acts. In order to be successful on the carpa stage, an actor had to establish an immediate rapport with the audience and get laughs quickly or risk being booed off stage. This limited the portrayals to stock characters. However, many who allowed their personalities to shine through the characters and who developed a knack for improvisation later found success in the cinema of Mexico, helping to create its Golden Age.

Stock characters[edit]