Towards a National Latina/o Festival, Planning an Encuentro in Los Angeles

This series on the Latina/o Theatre Commons explores the origins, journey, challenges and the future of Latina/o theater in America. We invite you to contribute to the conversation.

 

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As a continuation of the Latina/o Theatre Commons National Convening in Boston, a National Latina/o Encuentro will be held at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) in the fall of 2014. Hosted and organized by The Latina/o Theater Company, operators of The LATC, the Encuentro will be part theater festival and part working forum for Latina/o artists from the United States to continue the dialogue from the convening, translating its questions, themes and images to the stage.

What are the unique needs of U.S. Latina/o theater companies and artists? How do our works reflect the changing landscape of the American theater? What works make up the Latina/o theater canon? Does Latina/o theater follow traditional models of theater creation? Do we commission playwrights to write new works, or do we engage in national searches for scripts? Or do we gravitate towards ensemble created work? Do we work with dramaturgs? Production managers? Do we collaborate with directors and writers from outside our own companies and cultural communities? How are Latina/o designers influencing our aesthetics? These are only a few of the questions we seek to explore through the Encuentro.  

We embrace the idea of encuentro as a word that translates to encounter, but can also mean a meeting, a coming together or even a confrontation. Ultimately, this fluid concept embodies the environment we hope the festival will create. Over 100 Latina/o artists from across the country will come together to experience one another’s work, discuss artistic strategies, recognize differences and celebrate the strands of the artistic process that bind us together as a theater community. In order for the continued growth of our artists, administrators, and scholars, we must embrace the collaborative nature of our field especially as we reflect on its impact at the national level.

 

We embrace the idea of encuentro as a word that translates to encounter, but can also mean a meeting, a coming together or even a confrontation.

 

During the Encuentro, participants will gather for six-eight weeks to present their work, share their methodology of creation, examine their history, create new pieces, workshop their skills, and discuss their inspirations. The Encuentro will highlight productions from eight to ten Latina/o Theater companies and/or playwrights from across the country that reflect the wide range of languages, cultures, themes, issues, styles and structures that make up the work in our field. From September through October 2014, these works will be presented in a festival format, running for four weeks with four performances per week in the multiple theaters spaces at The LATC.

Scheduling the productions will be a challenge; however we are committed to staggering the productions in such a way that all Encuentro participants will be able to view each other’s work. The guidelines for selection will be developed with the input of the Latina/o Theater Commons Steering Committee to continue our mission of inclusion and transparency.

Part of what prompted the development of the National Convening was the recognition that the last national gathering of this nature and scale was the TENAZ festival of 1986. The field of Latina/o Theater has changed and evolved drastically since then and it is time for us to celebrate and reflect how these changes are translated onto our stages. We believe one of the biggest challenges the field faces is the absence of a national network connecting these companies that reflect the changing face of the American theater.

While Latina/o companies across the country develop and produce new works each season, they are often one-time world premieres. In order to update the national narrative, these works need momentum and exposure to join the repertoire of frequently produced American works. In this vein we seek works that have been previously produced in each company’s home base, or will go on to be produced there after the festival, and ideally continue to tour to other locations.

This project is deeply rooted in a belief in the artistic potential of collaborations. Another major component of the Encuentro is the creative working sessions and panels that will be held over the course of the festival. Each presented company/playwright will be asked to bring an idea or draft of a piece of theater in development that they would be willing to share with the other artists in the Encuentro.

These ideas and drafts would be divided up amongst the participants so that company members and artists will not be working on their own drafts, but rather will apply their methodology and artistic process to the works of their colleagues. Therefore, companies and artists must be prepared to share their methods with other theater companies in a workshop environment, culminating in public readings or performances of these newly developed works at the end of Encuentro.

Together with the upcoming National Convening, and the conference of new Latina/o work at the Theatre School at DePaul University in 2015, the Encuentro will be an important undertaking as part of the Latina/o Commons’ work to recognize our ever diversifying national and theatrical reality. We believe that by dedicating an extended period of time to one another as artists and audience members, we can have a more in depth dialogue, work through our questions, express our desires, and determine our needs, as a field.

It is our hope that the reverberations of this multi-pronged and multi-year commitment to the assessment and development of Latina/o theater will reach people across the country and illuminate the continued breadth, diversity, and impact of Latina/o theater.

 

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Beautiful statement, clear and eloquent. Thank you Chantal and JL.This will be a very important encounter and as it should, it happens in LA and at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, run by Jose Luis Valenzuela and the Latino Theatre Company.

I would live to talk to someone about the role a Djerassi residency could play in advancing your efforts. Www.djerassi.org. Would love to see more applications from Latino playwrights and or a formal relationship to provide/share residencies.