“Dolores: Our Lady of the 7 Sorrows” (image courtesy Franc Fernandez)

In Catholic cosmology, the figure of the Virgin Mary with seven swords piercing her heart is known as Our Lady of Sorrows, Nuestra Señora de Dolores in Spanish. This potent image forms the basis for Dolores: Our Lady of the 7 Sorrows, a new experimental theater piece created by performance artist Ron Athey and nightlife operator Nacho Nava. The pair conceived the work as a way to deal with the recent death of their longtime friend, memorializing them through performance.

MisSa Blue (photo by Nick Tucker)

Athey and Nava’s immediate inspiration came from the Black Madonna performance by sword swallower MisSa Blue, who developed the piece originally, workshopped in Tijuana with La Pocha Nostra. Around this central conceit, Athey and Nava have recruited an international group of performers to address the concept of the Sorrows, including San Cha, a queer Chicanx Angeleno vocalist whose name references both the Spanish word for mistress as well as the Spanish title given to male saints. They will be joined by Little Annie, who has collaborated with everyone from seminal punk band Crass to reggae impresario Lee “Scratch” Perry; Arshia Fatima Haq, a filmmaker and musicologist whose work incorporates field recordings and songs of devotion and mourning from the Middle East and South Asia; and Los Angeles-based dancer and choreographer, Austyn Rich. Featuring five very distinct performers, the production aims to give a contemporary and wide-ranging interpretation to a millennia-old phenomenon.

When: Sunday, June 24, 7–11pm
Where: The Vortex (2341 E. Olympic Blvd., Downtown, Los Angeles)

More info and tickets at Restless Nights.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.