Welcome to Café Onda!

 

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Bienvenidos! We would like to welcome you to Café Onda, an online gathering space in partnership with HowlRound that will feature regular content of the Latino/a Theatre Commons.

Why a Latina/o Theatre Commons?
The idea of “commons” refers to “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” Long before New England got its name, we can trace and connect this philosophy to our indigenous ancestors, from Native Americans to the Mayans, up to the present day— from the Zapatistas in Mexico to the Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil to the “Idle No More” protests in Canada. Latinidad has roots in the philosophy of the commons, and we can be proud of it.

Using a commons-based approach, we are creating a mechanism for community sourced contributions and feedback through Café Onda. One of our goals is to end the separation (and sometime self-segregation) of Latina/o theater artists from across the US—and to improve our relationship and standing within the greater theater community.

Café Onda seeks to:

  • Connect geographically and artistically isolated Latina/o artists, producers, and presenters;
  • Promote deeper dialogue with non-Latina/os and increased cultural understanding;
  • Address misrepresentation of our cultures onstage (both intentional and unintentional);
  • Inspire powerful, diverse Latina/o voices in the polis of the American theater including greater access to productions and leadership positions;
  • And broaden the recognition of a canon of Latina/o drama.

We recognize we are not the only marginalized group. Other artists of color, women, and those who identify on the queer spectrum have each built their own foundations for art making instead of waiting to see their stories reflected in accurate proportions on our American stages.

For Café Onda, we think we should be less interested in the “either/or” questions that create binary and divided conversations, and more interested in the complex questions with multi-dimensional answers that we must address, engage, and share with one another if we are to move forward to most fully tap our potential.

 

The heart of Café Onda will be to invigorate, nurture, and elevate the work of Latina/o theater-makers.

 

The heart of Café Onda will be to invigorate, nurture, and elevate the work of Latina/o theater-makers. We will work hard to disseminate and illuminate questions of “Latinidad,” such as:

  • What is Latinidad exactly, and what does it mean?
  • Is there an aesthetic that we can define and share that isn’t tied to or defined by a dominant culture’s dramaturgy?
  • How can we promote and share that work with the next generation of Latina/o artists?
  • Where are the supporting structures to develop new work?
  • How can senior Latina/o theater-makers be encouraged to mentor emerging artists?

The truth is that this moment of movement was inevitable due to the political climate, and the declining number of opportunities available to Latina/os in the American theater. In the mid nineties we all witnessed the closing of the Latino Theatre Initiative, INTAR’s Playwriting Lab, the Hispanic Playwrights Project, among others. It is deeply troubling that it seems Latina/o writers, directors, actors, and dramaturgs have fewer and fewer opportunities to expand their craft.

As Latina/o Americans, not only are we the inheritors and benefactors of the United States experience, but we are also carriers and guardians of our indigenous and native past. Our life experience runs through our veins ethnically, socially, politically, sexually and aesthetically—and the unique complexity of our whole community is poised to handle the dynamic changes of the 21st century storytelling.

We feel that Latina/os as whole are emboldened by the current socio-political climate. Our voice is getting stronger and our demographics continue to affect the national landscape. And we're proud to see that a small sector of theater-makers are speaking out against the oversight and injustice of inaccurate portrayals of Latina/os and advocating for more avenues of opportunity and inclusion.

Our hope is that through Café Onda, we will take a snapshot of our field, and find new ways to coalesce, communicate, and advocate for one another’s work. We're passionate about the work of the Latina/o Theatre Commons contributing to a strong and enduring movement—one that will nurture, support and eventually sponsor the development of new Latina/o plays and artists in all disciplines.

We’ve waited far too long for the mainstream arts and media to recognize and acknowledge our contribution and importance to the world. Through the Latina/o Theatre Commons and Café Onda, we are empowering ourselves to make this change.

Will this make a difference? ¿Quién sabe?  As Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.”

Our initial Café Onda content will be inspired by the current initiatives underway through the Latina/o Theatre Commons—the first being a national gathering happening in Boston October 31-November 2 of this year.

We welcome all Latina/o theater-makers to contribute to this dialogue through submitting journal articles, blog posts, or newcrit reviews. Our penultimate goal is that Café Onda will eventually be a stand alone sister site to HowlRound, but to get there we first need to build our community’s online presence and engagement. Conversation is already happening on Twitter via the hashtag #cafeonda. If you wish to write for Café Onda, review the parameters here, and email your ideas to cafeonda@howlround.com.

 

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Estimado Tlaloc,

Beautifully put! You've set a very high bar for the rest of us with your impassioned yet reasoned essay. You remind me of Neruda's reference to Rimbaud's term, "Burning patience." I look forward to exciting, provocative interaction in Cafe Ondaatje.

Sinceramente