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April 01, 1993|ANNE KLARNER

History is never simple. People are complex and often distort things to suit their perceptions of themselves, sometimes to the point that the story takes on mythical proportions.

Theresa Chavez, a descendant of the Lugo family, which once owned 29,000 acres in the area that is now Southeast Los Angeles, was fascinated by these complexities and went in search of the truth behind her family's myths. What she found is expressed in a performance piece called "L.A. Real," which will be at the Pasadena Armory Center for the Arts today through Sunday.

"I wanted to deal with history in a personal, but also in a public way," Chavez said. "I had to break through the myths my own family has about it. To encompass the complexities of myself, rather than simplify it. I had to look at what is really there, and to look at the denial."

It's a denial that goes back to the Californios themselves, settlers from Spain and Mexico who in the late 18th and early 19th centuries received grants of large areas of land in Southern California from the king of Spain.

Chavez said that even though the grantees were often of mixed

European and Mexican Indian blood, "they really wanted people to believe that they were Spaniards, because there was a certain attitude to that. To say that you were Espanol , or Spanish, was more useful than to say that you might have some mixed blood."

Chavez uses elements of performance art and theater in her work. There are five actors--three who play modern characters and two who play Californios --music, and a set incorporating painting, photography and video.

"The process has been very collaborative in developing the piece," said Chavez, who consulted two historians when she put it together.

"L.A. Real" has been seen around Los Angeles over the past three years as a work in progress. This weekend's performances will be the first time the piece will be seen in its full-scale version.

The show starts at 8 p.m. today through Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday at the armory, 145 N. Raymond Ave. Tickets are $12. There will be a benefit reception after the performance Sunday for $25. The price includes admission to the show.

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