Tag Archives: Latina/o Theatre Commons

Learning How to Leverage Leadership at #LTCNewYorkCity

On the second day of the Latina/o Theatre Commons New York City Regional Convening (#LTCNewYorkCity), attendees chose between three tracks: aesthetics, identity, and leadership. While I recognized the value in each track, I chose leadership. I wanted to learn more about how to become a stronger leader and hear more about other arts leaders’ experiences in their respective communities. In recent years, I’ve come into more leadership roles, but, as expected, I’m not always sure how to best position myself and negotiate my privileges in different spaces. So what did I learn on the leadership track at #LTCNewYorkCity?

The leadership track took place in Teatro SEA’s intimate theatre space at The Clemente in the Lower East Side. The panel consisted of Jacob Padrón (Artistic Director of The Sol Project), Stephanie Ybarra (Director of Special Artistic Projects at The Public Theater), Nikko Kimzin (NYC-based actor and arts entrepreneur), and Sharifa Johka (FAIR Experience Manager at Oregon Shakespeare Festival).

After everyone in the theatre introduced themselves, Padrón led us in a popcorn brainstorming session centered on the word “leadership.”

Inspirational, visionary, authenticity, risk taker, driven, political, listener, innovator, strategist, accountable, colleague, conviction, impact, empathy, shared, ingenuity, learner, fearless, courageous, inclusive, not crazy, wholesome/whole, communicator, flexible, all-embracing, curiosity, charismatic, aware, reflective, honest, respectful, passionate.

While our group popcorn session certainly tested Padrón and Kimzin’s quick spelling (and we learned that Noe Montez placed 19th in the National Spelling Bee), it was generative to hear what other theatre artists associate with leadership.

Next, Padrón asked panelists Ybarra and Johka what being an agent of change means to them. How do they use leadership to tell the types of stories they want to tell? How do they leverage leadership to affect change?

Ybarra encouraged us to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What kind of leader do you want to be?
  • What kind of producer do you want to be?
  • Which decision most aligns with my values?

Essentially, each leader needs their own personal mission, vision, and values that drive forward their work. In addition, Ybarra prioritizes hiring people who share her values and can take care of the people in the room.

Johka doesn’t think about the word “leadership.” In the beginning, she thought that everyone wanted to be a leader and then realized that it is a politic. As a person of color in a primarily White institution, her leadership style is to hold the door open and help situate people in the organization who can become allies later on.

Both Ybarra and Johka stressed the importance of cultivating relationships with allies, finding peer groups, and identifying collaborators within and outside of your institution.

The next portion of the leadership track was spent in small groups discussing what leadership means to us. Each group was tasked with creating a mission statement, finishing the following prompt: “An agent of change in the American theatre is _____________.”

  • Group 1: An agent of change in the American theatre understands their power and privilege and uses that purpose to build resources, opportunity, and equity to dismantle white supremacy, isolation, and ignorance by actively organizing and building alliances that come together around core values.
  • Group 2: As agents of change, our mission is to identify the strengths and areas of growth needed in myself in order to actively inspire and challenge the American Theatre to grow and take active responsibility in changing the landscape. Let’s make sure there’s room at the table for those need to be heard and bandwidth to support it.
  • Group 3: An agent of change in the Theatre of the Americas mindfully creates a home with the community where everyone is welcome and able to define their own agency and to make art that reflects, challenges, and helps shape the values and narratives of their community.
  • Group 4: Being an agent of change in the American theatre means localizing, sharing leadership (past, present and future), and being the resource.

The conversation then shifted to mentorship. While it was beneficial to hear others comment on their relationships as mentees and mentors, perhaps the most productive portion of the session was the one-on-one mentorship speed-dating. In pairs, we discussed our specific mentorship style. Since my partner was also a professor, we discussed the balance between teaching and mentoring and how those lines can become blurred based on the types of courses we teach.

While the leadership track certainly offered its fair share of constructive takeaways, I find that LTC events are best understood by looking at the whole. Leadership was on display throughout the weekend. In addition to Jacob Padrón, Rebecca Martínez and David Mendizábal flexed their leadership muscles time and time again, leading by example and showing attendees what dynamic leadership looks like in real time. The artistic collective of The Sol Project was launching their ambitious initiative the same weekend (congrats to Hilary Bettis and the creative team of Alligator!). LTC Producer Abigail Vega continues to amaze and inspire me to become a better leader.

To conclude, there is no conclusion. Becoming a stronger leader is a never-ending process. I still have much to learn and am thankful for events such as #LTCNewYorkCity that give me a crash-course into different ways to become a more effective arts leader.

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Scholars: Up for Multiple Roles in the Movement

Though the United States is quickly approaching a Latinx majority (2044 is the projected year), Latinx theatre remains largely invisible despite the presence of some high-profile artists—Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Karen Zacarías, Melinda Lopez—and a robust national movement spearheaded by the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC). One place it’s increasingly visible, though, is among scholars, who have been welcomed and woven into the fabric of the LTC. Why are scholars suddenly being so thoroughly taken into the fold now? Where have they been all these years? And might they have a role in increasing the wider visibility of a movement that’s gained increased coherence and purpose in recent years?

Scholarship around Latino theatre—or teatro, as it’s commonly known in the movement—traces its origins to Jorge Huerta, who received his doctorate in 1974, becoming not only the first Chicano with a Ph.D in theatre but also the first person to formally study Latino theatre. By the turn of the 21st century, enough scholars had done graduate work in Latino theatre and performance that Irma Mayorga, assistant professor of theatre at Dartmouth College, and Ramón Rivera-Servera, associate professor of performance studies at Northwestern University, were able to found the Latina/o Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Still, there haven’t been many scholars studying teatro. That began to change in 2013, when the LTC emerged with a national convening at Emerson College in Boston. The newly formed LTC steering committee met with Latino theatremakers from a diverse array of artistic disciplines, regions, career stages, genders, and sexual orientations. In partnership with HowlRound, the LTC formed to create, in its official words, a “national movement that uses a commons-based approach to transform the narrative of the American theatre, to amplify the visibility of Latina/o performance making, and to champion equity through advocacy, art making, convening, and scholarship.”

Continue reading at American Theatre Magazine.

#LTCdallas: Challenges, Opportunities, and Reflections of the Texas Latina/o Theatre Community

On Friday, October 30, 2015, I woke up early, showered, packed, and hit the road for Dallas. In between a pit stop at Buc-ee’s (a Texas institution) and nearly shredding my voice to the (then just released) Hamilton cast recording, I couldn’t stop thinking about the weekend ahead. I was en route to the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC) Dallas Regional Convening (#LTCdallas) where Latina/o theatre in Texas would take center stage.

One of the principal goals of the Dallas Regional Convening was to connect Latina/o theatre artists and allies and their organizations in Texas to the growing National Latina/o Theatre Movement that has been in high gear since the initial LTC Convening in Boston in 2013. This was an important opportunity to dialogue, network, and deepen relationships across Texas and beyond. Among the LTC’s goals was to create a space to document, archive, and discuss the history of Latina/o Theatre in Texas for national dissemination as well as to investigate the varying challenges in and between regions.

Continue reading at Café Onda/HowlRound.

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Texas-based artists and scholars at #LTCdallas

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.