Introducing Ignited

Communiques from the LTC’s El Fuego initiative

In summer of 2015, the Latina/o Theatre CommonsCarnaval of New Latina/o Work presented new works by twelve Latinx playwrights from across the country. Selected by a panel of theatre professionals and scholars from nearly one hundred submissions, these new works represented a wide diversity of perspectives, genres, and dramaturgies that comprise twenty-first century Latinx playwriting. For Carnaval, over two hundred national theatremakers gathered at DePaul University to witness a remarkable ensemble of Chicago actors perform readings of the newest plays authored by LA-based Mando Alvarado and Diane Rodriguez, NYC’s Migdalia Cruz, Georgina Escobar, Virginia Grise, and Matthew Paul Olmos as well as works by Amparo Garcia­ Crow (Austin, TX), Magdalena Gomez (Springfield, MA), Milta Ortiz (Tucson, AZ), Emilio Rodriguez (Detroit, MI), and Octavio Solis and Marisela Treviño Orta of San Francisco.

Through the Ignited series, the Fuego initiative seeks to both chronicle and critically position new Latinx theatremaking in the scholarly and public discourses of US American theatre.

Carnaval was the third in a historic series of national events created by the LTC and HowlRound to provide opportunities for Latinx theatre artists, leaders, and scholars to forge new partnerships and update the narrative of American theatre through art, advocacy, convening, and scholarship. However, one little known detail about Carnaval’s preparations is that well before any of the playwrights had been selected, eighteen theatre companies (see them all here) agreed to produce these playwrights’ works, whoever they might be, over the course of the next four seasons. This unprecedented championship of new Latinx playwriting demonstrated a profound trust in the LTC Carnaval selection process.

The idea of partnering Carnaval playwrights with theatre companies inaugurated a new LTC initiative: El Fuego: Fueling the American Theatre with Latina/o Plays. With this initiative serving as matchmaker, each playwright from Carnaval found a partnering company. Playwrights reviewed their schedules and theatres reviewed their distinctive selection criteria. Teatro Luna, for example, is committed to producing works by Latinas; Borderlands focuses on works that examine the Southwestern frontera; Teatro Vivo illuminates the Tejano experience while Teatro Prometeo produces works in Spanish. Now, world premieres, commissions, and reprises of these Carnaval playwrights’ works are poised to fill stages around the country, beginning in fall 2016 in Chicago and Albuquerque.

two actors singing on stage
Teatro Vista’s 2016 production of Parachute Men by Mando Alvarado. Photo by Joel Maisonet Photography. From L to R: Tommy Rivera-Vega and Salomé Martinez.

Theatre is, however, an ephemeral event. Absent some form of meaningful documentation, as Latinx theatre history has shown, even the boldest of enterprises may be forgotten once the lights go dark. Therefore, in step with the LTC’s mission to champion equity through scholarship, the El Fuego initiative has not only sought to match new work with companies but also paired these productions with scholars of Latinx theatre and performance. These critical witnesses will not only document the projects and their impact but also generate reflections on the plays and playwrights as well as think on the material realities of each play’s production process. In this, the Ignited series will deliver to readers on-the-ground communiques from El Fuego’s network of scholars as the productions emerge nationwide, working to highlight not only plays and playwrights but also the theatre companies that stand at the forefront of fostering new Latinx theatre.

Through the Ignited series, the Fuego initiative seeks to both chronicle and critically position new Latinx theatremaking in the scholarly and public discourses of US American theatre.

two actors on a couch on stage
Camino Real Productions' 2016 production of Woman on Fire by Marisela Treviño Orta. Photo by Max Woltman. Pictured: Michael Ellis and Meggan Gomez.

Look for articles by Dr. Laura Lodewyck (North Central College) on Teatro Vista’s world premiere of Parachute Men by Mando Alvarado and by Dr. Rebecca Sanchez (University of New Mexico) on Camino Real Production’s world premiere of Women On Fire by Marisela Treviño Orta. In their “communiques,” scholars writing for this series will investigate questions such as:

  • Why did a theatre company commit to producing, sight unseen, a Carnaval 2015 playwright?
  • What concerns such as casting, budget, or language, have emerged for these productions? How have these factors marked the production?
  • How are the play’s themes reflected in the production’s aesthetics and staging on the whole?
  • How does this play relate to others in the playwright’s oeuvre?
  • How does this play relate to others by different playwrights addressing similar themes?
  • How would this production’s audience and its response be described?
  • What has the playwright learned from this production that may influence their play’s next iteration?

To be sure, the forthcoming “communiques” seek to shed light not only on the emerging playwrights and their work but also shine focus on the many theatre companies across the US who have committed to premiering the vibrant new works of the Latinx playwrights featured at the LTC’s Carnaval. With over a dozen new productions set to open over the next three years, we believe the Ignited series will make visible contemporary work by Latinx playwrights and companies for HowlRound’s national audience.

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Thoughts from the curators

Ignited is an occasional series that delivers on-the-ground communiques from the Latinx Theatre Commons’ (LTC) El Fuego initiative.

Ignited

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Fantastic, El Fuego Project and the documenting effort! Count me in for North Texas coverage! I can do English and Spanish works. Looking forward together...

Mil Gracias/ a thousand thanks, Irma Mayorga and Olga Sanchez for this informative and inspiring report. We are making progress. Adelante!/Forward!