Tag Archives: Latina/o Theater

Demanding Action and Attention to Latina/o Theatre in Dallas: Deferred Action by David Lozano and Lee Trull

“Why hasn’t Congress passed an immigration reform bill that would protect the DREAMers and their families?” This is the central premise of Deferred Action, a new play co-written by David Lozano (Artistic Director of Cara Mía Theatre Company) and Lee Trull (Director of New Play Development at the Dallas Theater Center). Deferred Action played at the Dallas Theater Center’s Wyly Theater from April 20-May 14 under the direction of David Lozano. Deferred Action is the second piece in a trilogy on immigration that Cara Mía began with The Dreamers: A Bloodline (2013), which tells the story of a mother fleeing El Salvador for the United States with her baby—a key part of Deferred Action’s plot.

Democrats. Republicans. Politicians. Activists. No one is left unscathed.

The collaboration between Dallas Theater Center (DTC) and Cara Mía began in 2009 when newly-minted DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty attended Cara Mía’s production of Crystal City 1969, a company-devised play that dramatizes the Chicana/o civil rights movement in South Texas. Moriarty approached Lozano about both companies working on a new play that would continue Cara Mía’s work of staging Latina/o political history. This is the first collaboration between Dallas’s leading regional theatre and one of its leading Latina/o theatres, a unique collaboration that has involved Lozano and Trull co-writing the piece and a production that features actors from both theatre companies. Indeed, one of the most powerful parts of Deferred Action is seeing several Cara Mía company members make their DTC and major regional theatre debuts.

Continue Reading at Café Onda/HowlRound

Houston, We Have a Problem! Excluding Latina/o Stories in Tejas

In 2013, Smithsonian Magazine heralded Houston as the “Next Great American City,” citing its ethnic and cultural transformation over the last few decades as well as its reputation as a city where people can achieve the so-called “American Dream.” The Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University released a study that showed how Houston holds the nation’s most equitable distribution of the country’s major racial and ethnic groups: Asian, Latina/o, black, and white people. In Harris County, the demographics reveal that white people comprise only 33 percent of the population whereas Latina/os are 41 percent and African Americans 18.4 percent. In fact, of the population under 30-years-old, only 22 percent are white. The same year, an NPR feature celebrated this rich diversity. Still, in 2012 Pew Research Center ranks Houston as the most economically segregated city in the nation.

Houston is growing at an astronomical pace and there is no evidence that this is slowing down. Luckily, the arts are along for this ride. In 2015 and 2016 alone, the city has seen an unprecedented boom in the arts. The Alley Theatre just completed a $46.5 million makeover. The $25 million MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) opened with four theatres, an art gallery, rehearsal space, and office space. Main Street Theatre unveiled a $2 million overhaul of their space. AD Players Theater broke ground on a $49 million facility in the Galleria area that will house three theatres, a scenic shop, classrooms, and offices. Queensbury Theatre (formerly the Country Playhouse) opened its new $6.5 million theatre. And the Museum of Fine Arts Houston broke ground on its $450 million expansion (including a theatre).

Despite what the demographics and influx of cultural arts activity reveals, Latina/o representation on stage in Houston is few and far between. In the 2015–2016 theatre season, out of all the full productions at the city’s leading professional theatres such as the Alley, Stages Repertory Theatre, and Main Street Theatre, only two were by a Latina/o author: The Danube by Maríe Irene Fornés at Catastrophic Theatre and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz at Stages. To repeat, in a city with over 2.1 million people (over 5 million in the metro area) at least 40 percent of which are Latina/o, there were only two Latina/o plays produced during the entire professional theatre season. To me, these numbers are startling and reveal that Houston is wildly behind other places with similar demographic diversity across the country such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago where Latina/o stories are frequently seen on a variety of stages: big, small, Latina/o, LORT, university, high school—you name it.

Continue reading at Café Onda/HowlRound

“The Stories of Us” by Jelisa Jay Robinson

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Somewhere around the middle of Jelisa Jay Robinson’s The Stories of Us at Teatro Vivo in Austin, it hit me. I couldn’t recall seeing a play that so boldly tackled Blackness, Latinidad, and Afro-Latinidad. Sure, I’ve seen plays with Afro-Latin@ characters and lots of Latin@ plays, but nothing quite like The Stories of Us. Black. Brown. Neither. Both. The Stories of Us offers a rich and nuanced view of life in the contemporary United States. These are stories that need to be told all across the nation, from Los Angeles to New York and everywhere in between. Produce this play!

The Stories of Us began as The Untold Stories while Robinson was still an undergrad Theatre and Latin American Studies major at the University of Texas at Austin. The play was later selected for Teatro Vivo’s Austin New Latino Play Festival in 2015 and received a full production this April-May under the direction of Florinda Bryant. The play is a series of vignettes that explores the intersections between Blackness and Latinidad and how this complex relationship continues to influence these (sometimes) overlapping communities today.

Besides “The Wobble” and knockout performances from Stacye Markey and Krysta Gonzales (who I finally got to meet!), what struck me the most about the play was Robinson’s writing. This girl has got it! She is doing important work to update the narrative on multicultural identity in 2016. As The Stories of Us demonstrates, we need to be having conversations about Afro-Latinidad. We need to understand the nuances of being Black in America, being “black enough,” having that “good hair,” being Latin@, speaking Spanish, having light skin, being racialized, passing, and using certain language (the play includes a poignant vignette about using the “n” word). Yet, why in 2016 are these conversations so few and far between in theatre, especially  in Latin@ theatre? Why isn’t there more Afro-Latinidad on stage?

Aside from the play itself, perhaps my favorite part of seeing The Stories of Us was witnessing a young artist find success by telling her stories, her truths. Robinson is living her dream and it’s beautiful to witness! I first met Robinson earlier this year and, through a combination of happenings, she has quickly become an important part of my writing community in Houston. My tribe—Jasminne Mendez, Icess Fernandez Rojas, Lupe Méndez, Josh Inocéncio, and, now thankfully, Jelisa Jay Robinson.

Stories of Us

Que Onda? with Alex Lacamoire, music director of HAMILTON

Here, Trevor Boffone interviews Hamilton’s music director, orchestrator, and co-arranger Alex Lacamoire about his journey as an artist, his Cuban heritage, and collaborating with Lin-Manuel Miranda on In the Heights and Hamilton.

Alex Lacamoire Grammy

Alex Lacamoire with the 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album. Photo courtesy of Laura Heywood Media.

Trevor Boffone: Growing up, who had the greatest influence on your decision to become a musician?
Alex Lacamoire:
Probably my cousin Linda, who bought me my first piano when I was four. One of my earliest memories is of walking out my front door to find Linda on the street, standing behind a moving truck that was unloading an upright piano and bringing it into my house. Linda was young, still in college, and not wealthy by any stretch, yet she still shelled out her own money to buy that instrument as a gift. Years later, just after Heights had become a hit, I asked what compelled her to do that for me. She said: “Primo…When you were two years old, you would sit in front of your home-stereo speaker and just stare into it, hypnotized by the sounds coming out of it. You were born to be a musician. Your parents couldn’t afford a piano, and I couldn’t let the opportunity for you to learn be denied.” Naturally, I cried when she told me that story.

Continue reading at Café Onda/HowlRound.

Should Latina/o Roles Be Cast with Non-Latina/o Actors?

While issues of casting and diversity in theater have likely always been around, several recent controversies in 2015 have led to a new crop of discussions about casting white actors in ethnically-specific roles.

This year alone, issues arose  after the New York Gilbert & Sullivan  Players released promotional materials for The Mikado that used yellow face, Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop was cast with a white actor playing Martin Luther King, Jr., and Llyod Suh’s Jesus in India was cast with two white actors and one mixed-raced actor playing roles specifically written for South Asian characters.

In light of these controversies, playwright Marisela Treviño Orta and I began brainstorming one night on Facebook about how Café Onda and the Latina/o Theatre Commons could intervene in this discussion. We asked the following questions to 5 Latina/o playwrights: Magdalena Gómez, Irma Mayorga, Marisela Treviño Orta, Elaine Romero, and Martín Zimmerman.

Should Latina/o roles be cast with non-Latina/o actors? How do you approach productions at colleges and universities when your play calls for characters of color but the acting pool at the university may or may not have the actors? How are you thinking about casting?

The responses that we received are rich in their content, diversity, and style. It’s worth checking out the essay for Magdalena Gómez’s poem, “Casting Call,” alone. Here are a few teasers:

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see university faculty lead efforts to diversify departments by programming work they needed to go outside their known actor pool to cast. These faculties just firmly believed they would find good actors of color to fill those roles if they worked hard enough. And 100 percent of the time they found those actors of color.” — Martín Zimmerman

“Can my work be done at a university level without causing harm? And by harm I mean perpetuating brown face?” —Marisela Treviño Orta

 

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Sleeping Weazel’s Badass Festival at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, featuring Robbie MCauley, Magdalena Gomez, and Kate Snodgrass. Photo by David Marshall. 

 

Please visit Café Onda for the entire essay and to add your voice to the discussion!

Interview with Josefina López

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chicana playwright Josefina López about her work as a playwright, mentor, and community leader at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights.

López founded CASA 0101Boyle Heights Her@s Josefina Lopez - JC De Luna, August 2010 Theater in Boyle Heights in 2000 to nurture the future storytellers of Los Angeles and to provide a space for Latin@ art-making on Los Angeles’s Eastside. This year marks the company’s fifteenth year—its quinceañera—of producing community-engaged theatre and cultural arts production. Here, López reflects on the past, present, and future of CASA 0101 as well as on her own position as a playwright, mentor, and community leader.

“One way we heal ourselves is by giving to others that which we wish was given to us. When our heart can expand to be big enough to be of service to others, our problems tend to disappear, because most of our problems come from being and seeing ourselves as small and insignificant.” – Josefina López

Please see Café Onda to read the entire interview.