San Diego Theater: “Juanita Hits the Jackpot!”

Teresa Gunn Presents Trailer Park Queen
Juanita Hits the Jackpot!
Friday, Sept. 28th 7 p.m.
San Diego City College Saville Theatre
1450 C Street San Diego
Donations at the door.  All proceeds benefit Street of Dreams 

wild things leave skin behind
they leave tooth and bone and a wild sign
so they can be followed by their own kind
so they can meet up in a secret place
give the secret sign make the secret face  from song Trailer Park Queen, Teresa Gunn

Twenty three years ago Teresa Gunn was performing on stage in DC with her rock and roll band when a song came into her head “just like that.”  The band had no idea what Teresa was doing when she launched into a spontaneous a capella rendition of “Trailer Park Money.”  Teresa didn’t know much more about that moment than the band did.  The song/message entered her head, she delivered it and the show went on.

Teresa never forgot that particular message. In the intervening years, that song became more fully realized as “Trailer Park Queen” and then continued to evolve as a series of one woman performances about Juanita, a mysterious unseen presence who cannot be abandoned, only temporarily ignored. Teresa will perform Juanita Hits the Jackpot as the final piece of a cycle which includes Juanita Joins the Pep Squad, Juanita Goes to Rehab, Juanita Gets a Boyfriend, Juanita Gets a Job, Juanita Goes to College and Juanita Goes to Prison.  All of the pieces include original music.

Just the names of those pieces conjure up certain images and none of those pieces takes the narrative path that we may quickly and dismissively assume. Teresa takes the stereotypes about society’s fringe dwellers and turns them inside out. She presents compelling human beings who are given an opportunity to tell their own story with equal amounts of dignity, honesty and a biting sense of humor.

cause trailer park people are just like us
they count their days from one to seven
find em out yonder parkin  ol cars
just a parkin ol cars down in trailer park heaven

Juanita LaRue is presented in these pieces as an unseen source of creative chaos.  Part guardian angel, part wise ass bad girl, Juanita forces Teresa to come to terms with her hopes and her greatest challenges. In one memorable segment of a past performance, Teresa talks about the juvenile thrill of spray painting “Fuck You” on garage doors at night in such a straightforward funny way that the audience is given a space to be both participant in the act while being able to honestly question the personal merit of it.  Teresa is adept at finding that essential thread of shared humanity at its best, worst and in-between.

Juanita LaRue is a force which cannot be confined within the walls of a theater. In 1998 Teresa founded the Street of Dreams. She started working with the court system here to develop a college prep arts and music education program that would enable teen mothers age 12 to 18 who were wards of the court or trapped in the juvenile justice system to graduate from high school and enroll in college.  She has had an astounding 100% success rate.  It is worth repeating– 100% of her students have graduated from high school.  100% of her students have enrolled in college.  And they are all young mothers.

She had no doubt that if her students were given the chance to make art, to tell their own stories, they could find an escape from being one more statistic of the generational poverty, addiction and incarceration that threatened their lives.  Teresa’s greatest hope has been to provide a stable, ongoing source of funding for the program.

Juanita LaRue, guardian angel and wise ass bad girl has been an unseen benefactor who helps underwrite Street of Dreams.  The donations received at the door are applied to that program.  Art, meet Life.

More about City Heights resident and San Diego artist Teresa Gunn and Street of Dreams here.

Editor’s note:  I will publish an indepth review of Juanita Hits the Jackpot in my column City Heights Up Close and Personal on Wednesday, October 3rd.


Anna Daniels

I left a moribund Western Pennsylvania mill town the year that Richard M. Nixon was not impeached for crimes against the American people, and set off in search of truth, beauty, justice and a beat I could dance to. Here I am.