Building a Future on Our Terms
The Latinx Theatre Commons Announces Four Years of Programming
From 2013 to 2019, the Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC), co-led by a volunteer steering committee of forty to sixty theatre practitioners, produced twelve regional, national, and international convenings and new play festivals that aimed to amplify the visibility of Latinx performance-making and champion equity in the field. We endeavored to use a commons-based approach to connect knowledge and resources among Latinx theatremakers and their allies, increasing the cultural capital of theatres, artists, and scholars. We have been an incubator of independent projects and initiatives, a convener of artists and ideas, and a leading knowledge trust in American theatre.
The LTC’s power is manifest in the daily actions of the over 4500 folks who have identified with our movement to transform the narrative of our field while championing our values of service, radical inclusion, transparency, legacy and leadership cultivation, and advancement of the artform. In the last six years across the United States, the number of mainstage Latinx productions have increased, Latinx folks have taken on a greater number of administrative and faculty positions at leading training institutions, a touring circuit of Latinx and other theatres of color has begun to emerge, and more artistic directorships are occupied by Latinx folks at regional theatres. So, where do we go from here?
The LTC’s commitment to subverting the culture of white supremacy that permeates our society makes it a leader in the anti-racist work underway in the American theatre. However, we do face the challenge that the Latinx sphere is constituted by a multitude of diasporic and Indigenous cultures. We have and do manifest dynamics in line with anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity on our committees, in our convenings, and in our programs. In part, it is because we actively choose to participate in a system built to oppress Black and brown bodies by engaging with predominantly white institutions in order to make change. We believe we do this work from a position of self-actualized power.
The culture of abundance embedded in the founding impulses of the LTC reframes this challenge into an opportunity to embark on a process in which we can demonstrate to the field what a commitment to combating oppression looks like. We can begin by recognizing that we have been the source of injury to some through either exclusion or through inviting folks into inhospitable spaces. It continues to be our responsibility to educate ourselves to manifest the diversity of Latinx experience that our founding convening articulated and to cultivate our anti-oppression philosophy intergenerationally.
The past few years, we partnered with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) to unify a framework for our conversations on anti-racism. Every steering committee member has committed to participating in the Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop, and we maintain a policy that every new committee member must take it. But the PISAB workshop is not a panacea for ending the culture of white supremacy within the LTC or the country. White supremacy persists beyond a singular workshop and so must our commitment to anti-racism.
We seek to share, learn, teach, and grow while aligning in collective next steps towards creating an environment where all can thrive in the American theatre.
Our Programming Decision-Making Process
In April 2018, a small group of LTC Steering Committee members gathered and were tasked with assessing the state of the LTC and making strategic recommendations to guide our work moving into our third cycle of programming. Among other things, this group recommended that we bring our attention to gaps in our inclusion of racial and gender diversity on our steering and advisory committees, and that we plan seven- to nine-month gaps between major programming as a strategy to prevent burnout and maintain the capacity of the Steering Committee.
With these recommendations in mind, the LTC Steering Committee made an open call for proposals to the field in September 2018. From October 2018 to January 2019, the Steering Committee evaluated a total of sixteen proposals against values-based criteria and the aforementioned recommendations. Choosing to maintain our commitment to seven- to nine-month gaps between major programming means that the five initiatives the Steering Committee chose to move forward will take us through the LTC’s ten-year anniversary in 2023.
First, the Creative Renewal Retreat in Spring 2020 will tend to the creative renewal of current and former LTC steering and advisory committee members in service of the LTC movement. Our goal is to realign intergenerational understanding of the goals of our movement and take stock of the current realities in society, culture, politics, and the field. By gathering organizers in our network, we are intending that the ideas and spirit of the group will reenergize and focus conversations across the country. It will be the first time we have gathered folks for this purpose at this scale since our founding convening on the state of the Latinx theatre field in 2013. The 2013 national convening set out to equip participants to advocate for an updated narrative of the American theatre that was not only more inclusive of the Latinx experience, but that also held promise for the longevity and variety of Latinx experiences throughout the country. With the expansion of folks in our circle, the current generation of the LTC steering committee is calling for a re-convening of our perspectives on the change we’ve made thus far. The Creative Renewal Retreat is being championed by Kevin Becerra, associate producer at ArtsEmerson.
2. Comedy Carnaval (Spring 2021)
A Comedy Carnaval will gather Latinx and allied theatremakers, decision-makers, and scholars from across the country for four days at SuTeatro Cultural Center in Denver, Colorado, in the spring of 2021. Conveners will explore a broad range of Latinx comedy content and conversation, which will center joy as a means of cultural healing. Prioritizing voices marginalized even in Latinx circles will be important to us as we develop this reimagining of the LTC Carnaval of New Latinx Work (2015, 2018) with a comedy genre focus. Amelia Acosta-Powell, associate artistic director at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, who will be championing the 2021 Comedy Carnaval, believes that “with the disproportionate prevalence of Latinx trauma on the news and on the American stage it is time we legitimize Latinx joy, celebration, and humor.”
White supremacy persists beyond a singular workshop and so must our commitment to anti-racism.
3. Anti-Oppression, Coalition-Building, and Combating Colorism
The LTC has chosen projects for the next four years, the longest programmatic cycle we have planned to date. We look forward to allowing ourselves time to delve deeper into different facets of the LTC’s collaborative ethos across disciplines, affinities, and Latinx cultures.
The LTC Steering Committee has decided to develop a program to investigate an anti-oppression approach to rehearsal processes by convening a lab of directors and designers. Producer Roy Arauz will champion the initiative intended to foster new techniques and modes for directors and design teams, challenging the director-driven model, set to culminate in 2022.
The LTC has been engaging with networks formed around racial, ethnic, and other culturally specific identities in order to build a coalition that works together to decenter predominantly white institutions and funders that support them to the detriment of theatres and artists of color. Alexandra Meda, artistic director of Teatro Luna, will continue championing intercultural coalition-building with the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists and the Black Theatre Commons on behalf of the LTC.
Viviana Vargas, founder of Advancing Arts Forward, and Miranda Gonzalez, artistic director of UrbanTheater Company, will be championing a summit on combating colorism in 2023, which will center Black and Indigenous Latinx community members. They will also be working on and with the Steering Committee to continue deepening our work in anti-racism and anti-oppression. By further developing these cultural competencies and addressing anti-Blackness and colorism, the LTC hopes to host this convening generously and authentically on the occasion of its ten-year anniversary.
Moving Forward in Solidarity
We seek to share, learn, teach, and grow while aligning in collective next steps towards creating an environment where all can thrive in the American theatre. By working across affinities, we will seek to make space for intersectionality, which honors the multitudes that exist within the individuals in our networks. We will endeavor to exist in our own paradigm, on our own terms, building infrastructure for generations to come.
If you are interested in supporting the planning of an LTC initiative, please email Latinx Theatre Commons producer Armando Huipe at [email protected].