On the Heels of an Encuentro, Part 2 – Contemporary Latina/o Theatre

by Jesus Reyes

in Artistry & Artistic Innovation,Diversity & Inclusion,National Conference

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(This post is a part of the Artistic Innovation blog salon curated by Caridad Svich for the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas).

Read “On the Heels of an Encuentro, Part 1 – Mentorship”

I’m a sucker for just hanging out. I believe in bringing people into a room, even if they’re kicking and screaming, add some chairs and some food and wait for the magic to happen. I know, it doesn’t always work, but when it does it really is like magic. The first day of the informal meeting of Latinos in theatre that was hosted at LATC was pretty close to magic. Over 50 Latinas and Latinos came together, many had never met and others knew one another socially, but had not engaged in any type of collaboration. All of them have the same thing in common, theatre/teatro. All of them understand the rewards and setbacks of producing, presenting and creating theatre. It doesn’t matter what town or city you live in, to choose theatre is not “just a hobby”, and here were over fifty people that had chosen theatre.

From the subsequent meetings rose many topics of discussion and sub-committees, and one of them was the cohort committee. The idea was to choose a couple of representatives from the various branches that existed in the initial group: the actors, directors, playwrights, producers, scholars, administrators and designers. The idea was that this cohort committee would set out to watch as many plays throughout the greater Los Angeles area. The task was to see the work through their specialized eye, then come together to discuss what they saw. Eventually, the cohort committee settled into a smaller number of participants – because life happens – and were able to dig a little deeper into the work and uncover a sampling of the state of Latino theatre.

The task of the cohort committee got me thinking about the contemporary Latina/o theatre, how pervasive it really is, but how we get stuck in history. The contemporary Latina/o theatre is living, breathing history and so necessary but we forget that it has a history of its own, that it is both connected to history but also current history and making history. The contemporary U.S. theatre is made up of very talented, smart, inventive, diverse, risk taking Latinas and Latinos but we don’t see that. What we see is the finished product or the process. The members of the cohort committee are themselves a sampling of Latinas and Latinos that make up the state of the U.S. theatre.

“It requires us to identify individuals who are confident enough of their expertise that they are willing to go beyond it.” – Tim Brown from Change By Design, page 27

It was so cool to meet Samuel Valdez, to become friends with Kinan Valdez, to re-connect with Emmanuel Loarca, to see Alejandra Cisneros and Denise Blasor blossom as directors, to behold Sara Guerrero leap into leadership, to see such good work from a little theatre company Off the Tracks. It was awesome to see the young scholar Chantal Rodriguez take her place, to see Armando Huipe take charge, and individual artists Raquel Sanchez and Sylvia Blush take a stand and hold their own. These are but a few people that in one city make up the contemporary Latina/o theatre. What about in your town or city? Is it you? I hope I get a chance to meet you.

The ever-shifting, always moving, prolific playwright, Caridad Svich asked me to write an essay for the TCG Artistic Innovation Salon she was curating, instead, I wrote a few words followed by a questionnaire – sorry Caridad. The questionnaire includes a short list of 27 – by coincidence, this is my favorite number – and I include it here for you. Enjoy.

U.S. Latino Theatre Questionnaire
by Jesus A. Reyes
Encuentro July 13, 2013

What is the significance of each one of the following in relation to the contemporary U.S. Latina/o theatre?

1. NoPassport
2. Adelina Anthony
3. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
4. Teatro Luna
5. Christopher Acebo
6. Se Llama Cristina
7. Kinan Valdez
8. Universes
9. Pinkolandia
10. La Pocha Nostra
11. Campo Santo/Intersection for the Arts
12. Quiara Alegria Hudes
13. Damaso Rodriguez
14. The Whipping Man
15. Matthew Paul Olmos
16. Intar
17. Lisa Portes
18. American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose
19. Clyde Valentin
20. Lydia G. Garcia
21. In the Heights
22. Jimmy A. Noriega, PhD
23. Chantal Rodriguez, PhD
24. The Tenth Muse
25. Mark Valdez
26. Patricia Garza
27. Jacob Padron

Jesus A. Reyes is the Creative Artistic Director of EAST LA REP and a cycle 7 TCG Future Leaders Mentorship Grant recipient, mentored by Diane Rodriguez. EAST LA REP is a creative center that puts the people, art, culture and history of East L.A., front and center.