Latina/o Plays for Young Performers

A Resource for Teachers

The Texas Education Agency has reported that over 50 percent of students enrolled in Texas public schools are Hispanic (their term; I use Latina/o). There are great disparities in this data and the number of plays read and produced in school theatre programs that feature Latina/o characters. In my work as a high school theatre teacher in Texas and in my current position of teacher of theatre teachers at UT Austin, I recognize a consistent invisibility of Latina/o stories and bodies in our theatre curricula and on our school stages. Sometimes, non-Latina/o teachers express to me their feelings of inadequacy in representing plays outside of their identity markers, and their fears of misrepresenting Latina/o cultures. Other times, they state that they never studied Latina/o plays in their educational programs. Whatever the reason, theatre teachers rarely introduce nor produce Latina/o plays despite the numbers of Latina/os that fill their classes. Resources are necessary to help break the cycle of exclusion.

What are the plays you want to see in our schools? What have you produced already?

Several years ago, I began to compile a list of plays with Latina/o themes and characters appropriate (or worthy) to be performed by young performers; quality dramatic literature for teachers to produce with their students. More and more, I am asked to share this list with teachers all over the country—from Texas, California, Arizona, New York, and even Iowa and Michigan. I have only included published plays.

Texas has a large competitive festival of plays each year, part of the University Interscholastic League (UIL). Each year, a handful of plays compete at the State meet, presumably the most effective plays from all over the state. Last year, Virginia Grise’s blu was one of those plays and the year before Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez was finally at the State meet. I have been writing about the history of Latina/o representation in UIL for a while. More critical and scholarly works of mine are currently in press. For now, I offer this list as a resource to move toward more plays with Latina/o themes and characters on Texas school stages, and school stages throughout the country.

a group of young actors on stage in period costumes
Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez, Edinburg High School, Texas (2014) directed by Tommy Green, Lauro Hinojosa, and Hector Palacios.

Plays are in alphabetical order by playwright’s last name:

Quiara Alegría Hudes: Barrio Girl. Dramatic Publishing.

Luis Alfaro. Black Butterfly, Jaguar Girl, Piñata Woman and Other Superhero Girls, Like Me. Playscripts.

Lynn Alvarez: Esperanza Rising. Plays for Young Audiences.

José (CC) Casas: La Ofrenda. Somebody’s Children. The Bully Plays (anthology). Dramatic Publishing.

Gabriel Jason Dean. The Transition of Doodle Pequeño. Dramatic Publishing.

José Cruz González: Calabasas Street. Highest Heaven. Marisol’s Christmas. Tomás and the Library Lady. Two Donuts. The Sun Serpent. Dramatic Publishing.

Ramon Esquivel: Luna. Dramatic Publishing.

Meryl Friedman: Journey of the Sparrows. Dramatic Publishing.

Sylvia Gonzalez S.: Alicia in Wonder Tierra. Boxcar/El Vagon. Dramatic Publishing.

Coleman A. Jennings: Nine plays by José Cruz González (anthology). Dramatic Publishing.

Wendy Kesselman: Maggie Magalita. Samuel French.

Lisa Loomer: Bocón. Dramatic Publishing.

Josefina López: Simply Maria or the American Dream, Real Women Have Curves. Dramatic Publishing.

Andrea Moon: El Viaje de Beatriz. Dramatic Publishing.

Guillermo Reyes. Rowing to America: The Immigrant Project. Dramatic Publishing.

Alvaro Saar Rios: Luchadora! Dramatic Publishing.

José Rivera: Maricela de la Luz Lights the World. Dramatic Publishing.

Milcha Sanchez-Scott: Evening Star, Roosters (in a liberal high school) Dramatists Play Service.

Luis Santario: Our Lady of the Tortilla. Dramatists Play Service.

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce: Señora Tortuga. Sangre de un Angel. Mariachi Girl. Dramatic Publishing.

Karen Zacarías: Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans. How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent. Looking for Roberto Clemente. Magical Piñata. Frida Libre. Dramatic Publishing.

Please keep in mind that this list is in no way comprehensive; in fact, it’s just a start. I encourage you to respond in the comments section here—and add titles that you think need to be represented in our schools—plays to which teachers in the US, and, in turn, youth, need to be exposed. I listed several plays from some individual playwrights. This is based on what I feel is good material for K-12 students, and is not exhaustive by playwright. The list represents a range of plays that could be performed in high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools, and youth programs in communities. That is also purposeful.

Eventually, I plan to create a more comprehensive list including themes, character breakdowns, character and performer age range, etc.

What are the plays you want to see in our schools? What have you produced already? Let’s get these titles to the youth who most need to see representations of people who look like their family members and themselves.

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As a Latino male from Texas, I never got to play my ethnicity on stage in my public school career. It was not until I came to college that I was able and encouraged to play Latino characters. This is an awesome resource and I will share it with anyone who needs it!

Taken from my Facebook page:

Elaine Romero: Alicia (Playscripts), The Fat-Free Chicana and the Snow Cap Queen (UA Press). Xochi: Jaguar Princess and Something Rare and Wonderful (from Elaine)

Brown & Out has lots of shorts that would be great for a high school looking to include LGBTQ content https://www.facebook.com/Br...

Hi, great list Roxanne and I appreciate all the additional contributions, very cool. Just wanted to add (TYA) Ferdinand the Bull adapted by Karen Zacarias, and in Spanish (for HS), Jardín de Sueños by Sofia May Cuxim, about Dreamers...

At UCLA, we run a project to promote productions of Hispanic classical theater. We have been translating previously untranslated plays specifically for performance, and posting the complete translations, with introductions and annotations, on our site: http://diversifyingtheclass...

Obviously, these are not plays about the Latino experience in the US. But we think it's important to convey that the classics come in different flavors--even in Spanish! The plays have fabulous female roles, and offer sophisticated reflections on what it means to exist in an urban world of fashion and wit.

We've been working with our LA partners 24thSt. Theater and About... Productions to develop curricula based on these plays/translations for use in k-12 classrooms. The materials we're producing are on our site--everything is open-access.

We need to broaden the frame of reference as early as possible for kids, so that Latino/Hispanic theater becomes part of what they seek and expect as audiences.

For a strong high school (or college) program, I highly recommend the musical Perdida, which has just been published by Dramatic Publishing. It is an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale set in Colonial Mexico with a beautiful Mexican folk score. The composer for this show, Deborah Wicks La Puma, also wrote the music to four of the Karen Zacarías musicals that appear on Roxanne's list. More on the show here: http://www.dramaticpublishi... http://drama.cua.edu/photos...

Searching for Aztlan by Lakin Valdez, an original play produced at Milagro Theatre. Follows the story of Dolores Huelga on her journey to find the mythical land of Aztlan and along the way, she meets a militant Chicano, a Dreamer and a HighSpanic, all searching for truth, justice and the indigenous way.

I would also recommend Fronteras Vivientes: Eight Latino/a Canadian Plays (Playwrights Canada Press) featuring work by Guillermo Verdecchia, Rosa Laboured, Marilo Nunez, Beatriz Pizano, Carmen Aguirre, Lina De Guevara and Victor Gomez. Just to add a bit of a Canadian perspective to the mix. Thank you for compiling this great list!

The Refugee Hotel by Carmen Aguirre- Canadian-Chilean playwright. 12 actors, 8 of whom are Chilean refugees.

Lupe and the F Train Monster by Marco Ramirez is a great piece for 4th or so grade and up. It's a short, but lots of fun.

Hi all! I'm writing on behalf of Samuel French - and we love this list. Great idea to share these titles.

We have some other suggestions to offer up as well (please note that some of the below material has adult themes):

MY MANANA COMES by Elizabeth IrwinSE LLAMA CRISTINA by Octavio Solis LYDIA by Octavio Solis SO GO THE GHOSTS OF MEXICO by Matthew Paul OlmosLA GRINGA by Carmen RiveraA MEXICAN TRILOGY by Evelina FernandezBLOOD WEDDING by Federico García LorcaTHE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA by Federico García Lorca

Thanks!

Thank you Roxanne for compiling this list! I think this is a great idea. To add to the list I think PLACAS by Paul Flores and MAS by Milta Ortiz is great for High Schools.

Here are some other plays I saw that were recommended online.

I saw on Facebook: The Adventures of Sad Girl: The Superheroine by Margaret Elysia Garcia-Good for High School and Middle School.

I saw on Twitter that Dramatist Play Service suggests:

Tony Meneses - "Guadalupe in the Guest Room"Quiara Alegria Hudes - "Yemaya's Belly"

Samuel French Recommended:(For High School) Lydia by Octavio Solis (Some language/nudity)La Gringa by Carmen RiveraA Mexican Trilogy by Evelina Fernandez

Thank you, Roxanne, for jump starting this conversation and giving us a list of Latina/o plays that would work well in middle and high school classrooms/stages. This is an important conversation that we need to be having, about educational theatre, what/who gets staged, etc. Let's keep this going!

Here are some plays that come to mind.

TYA:Josefina Lopez - Piñata DreamsManuel Martín, Jr. – The Legend of the Golden Coffee BeanAlvan Colón – The Caravan***Georgina Escobar - Ash Tree (Kennedy Center Award for TYA in 2011 and traveled travel the ASSITEJ festival abroad representing the US)

Plays for High Schools:Tony García - Enrique's Journey Karen Zacarías - The Sins of Sor Juana (won state in Texas UIL a few years back) and Just Like UsLin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes – In the HeightsVirginia Grise – blu (made it to state in Texas UIL last year)