Spotlight on the Regional Alliances
This is the first post in a series of profiles of Latina/o regional alliances from around the country. Responses for this interview were provided by Beto O’Byrne, Daniela Thome, and Tiffany Vega on behalf of La Co-Op.
La Cooperativa of NYC Latino/a Theatre Artists (La Co-Op) was founded in Fall 2014 and serves the Greater New York City region.
What’s your mission?
La Co-Op promotes and connects the careers of Latino/a Theatre Artists living in the greater NYC community, supports the activism of their work and representations, and celebrates the greater culture of our community.
How did your alliance form?
In the weeks leading up to the 2014 Encuentro in LA, several pockets of artists began to talk about how we can create more equity in our community. As one of the largest theatre communities in the country, and with the professional, Broadway theatre system here, we began to recognize that it was important for the individual artists of our community to begin to take a more active role in the national conversation. These groups began coming together after the Encuentro, and meeting informally on a monthly basis, and after a few successful events, we are now preparing for several exciting new projects and directions based on the feedback from our community.
How is your alliance structured?
La Co-Op is structured much like the Latino/a Theatre Commons. We have a core steering committee that plans events. No one is a leader in this steering committee. We work to equally share duties. The list and artistic identities of the steering committee is as follows:
Claudia Acosta, Actor
Raquel Almazan, Playwright, Performer, Artistic Director: La Lucha Arts Group
Christin Eve Cato, Creator/Actress, INTAR Theatre and Producer, TRU
Sol Crespo, Theatre Artist
Yadira De La Riva, Actor, Poet and Playwright
Rebecca Martinez, Theatre Artist—INTAR Theatre and Sojourn Theatre
David Mendizabal, Director/Designer and Producing Artistic Leader of The Movement Theatre Company
Beto O'Byrne, Playwright and Co-Founder of Radical Evolution
Daniela Thome, Actor, Storyteller
Tiffany Vega, Producer/GM, Hi-ARTS
We also want to acknowledge that following people who have been instrumental in the formation of this group and have provided significant time and resources so far:
Alejandra Duque Cifuentes, Founder and Director of Theatre That Transcends
Annabel Guevara, Actor
Elena Hurst Mendoza
Kyoung Park, Playwright and Founder, Pacific Beat Collective
Rosalba Rolón, Artistic Director, Pregones Theatre
How does someone become a member? What membership requirements do you have, and where can people go to get more information?
We just ask that you attend our events and sign up. We are not yet at a point in our formation to have member requirements. We do have requirements for steering committee members. If any NYC-based Latino/a Theatre Artist is interested in being a member of our steering committee, feel free to contact Beto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How big is your current membership:
We don’t have an identified membership as we view ourselves as serving the community at large. One of the first things we did was attempt to make an invitation list of how many Latino/a theatre artists live in our community and would be interested in attending. As of now, that list is 300 artists strong and growing...we know we have barely scratched the surface!
Who makes up your current membership?
Our goal is to provide support and networking opportunities for all people who identify as Latino/a theatre artists residing in the Greater NYC Area. As such, there are all kinds of artists and theatre makers involved in our programming.
Who are the most well-represented groups in your membership from the list above?
I feel like we are all artists who wear different hats, and, other than self-identifying as a Latino/a theatre artist, we do not focus on any one particular profession, aesthetic, experience, etc. It is a very common occurrence in NYC for artists to claim more than one identity, and La Co-Op not only wants to support this, but celebrate it as part of our community’s uniqueness.
This being said, we have heard from our community that there are several unique groups that we need to promote more active participation in the Latino/a Theatre Arts Community: directors, designers, and critics. We are working to build some specific events for these members of our community. For example, we recently held a cocktail hour for the Latino/as participating in this year’s Director’s Lab at Lincoln Center, to offer NYC-based artists a chance to meet these directors.
Describe your core programs/activities:
Currently, we don’t have identified core programming. Our activities so far have largely focused on networking and community building. At those events, we ask the community what they need and are interested in and have being using those responses to shape our vision and future projects.
Since your alliance’s inception, what project have you completed that are you most proud of?
We had a holiday party/mixer, ¡Celébrate!, in December, 2014 at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. We had over 75 people RSVP to this event, the overwhelming majority of whom came and participated. It was a great way to connect with each other, acknowledge our accomplishments, and look towards the future of our art form and our community.
We had a room-sized timeline where anyone could post an event of NYC Latino/a Theatre from the year 2014. It could be something they did, went to, or knew about.
We also posted a “Wish Tree,” where anyone could write a wish for Latino/a theatre community for 2015 and beyond. The wishes, a wide variety of responses, have been documented, and have been used to help us plan out our activities and goals for La Co-Op. Those of us in the steering committee introduced ourselves, speaking briefly about our goals. In addition, this was one of the first events taking place at PRTT since the merging with Pregones Theater. Rosalba presented Miriam Colón with her award from the LATC Encuentro in October, while we skyped with the LATC leaders. Rosalba also donated 50 discounted tickets for attendees to attend a performance of Baile Cangrejero.
What plans does your alliance have for the future that might be of interest for the world to know?
At our May meeting, we had a great report out of our Spring event, ¡Pa’lante, Teatro!, that took place at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre in April and the conversations that took place there. After reviewing the feedback we received, we able to better define our areas of focus for the immediate future. These areas are as follows:
We are beginning to explore the possibilities of developing a pool of critics that will work with us to provide quality critiques and journalism for Latino/a works—particularly to those that are underrepresented/misrepresented by larger entities—and greater access to our work both in NYC and across the country.
2. Community Engagement
We are developing a plan that will utilize our collective knowledge and abilities to engage with our artistic family here in NYC to ensure greater participation and representation for future programming. We are exploring a variety of tools, beyond social media and traditional marketing tools, and are thinking expansively about how we connect with one another.
We will continue to host events that will be in the spirit of our ¡Celébrate! event—social gatherings with community building components. These events serve as a critical component to one of the most pressing needs: to interact, network, and come together as one unified, Latino/a Theatre Community.
What makes the needs of artists in your region different from other regions?
We have a large amount of artists who are involved in commercial Broadway productions, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and Not-For-Profit Theatre. We all flow pretty easily through all of these worlds.
In addition, it's easy to think of NYC as one of the cities where a critical mass of performing artists call home. There are specific challenges and stressors because of this, from a feeling of intense competition to managing more difficult than normal financial situations.
What makes Latina/o theatre in your area special?
With theatres such as INTAR, Pregones and PRTT, Repertorio Español, IATI and many other organizations, the NYC has a strong history of Latino/a theatre companies, representing cultures and history from many diverse groups.
Even so, as Latino/a artists, we struggle not only to survive, but to be accepted and acknowledged in a city where money and a selling product is the bottom line. We have seen a few more of our playwrights produced, but yet still don’t see enough of our people as directors, designers, producers, and even actors.
As a collective, La Co-Op feels that in order to turn this cycle around, we have to become stronger as a community, get to know each other better, and build foundations and support from within. With so much talent, experience, and wisdom to offer each other and the theater community at large, it is time we start to really fortify and support each other.