Los Angeles Teatristas Working Hard for Improvement and Recognition

By Oscar Basulto
Staff Writer

Photo by Jesus Reyes

Encuentro 2013 organizers From L-R: Professor Cynthia DeCure, Professor Tiffany Ana Lopez, Breath of Fire Artistic Director Sara Guerrero, Sylvia Blush, and Professor Jorge Huerta. Photo by Jesus A. Reyes

It has been nearly a year since Los Angeles and Orange County based Latina/o theatre organizations and individual artists convened at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) with the intent to form an alliance.  In the time since that first meeting, members of the recently named Latino Theater Alliance/Los Angeles have been busy.  The culmination of their work, Encuentro 2013, will take place this Saturday at East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum.  According to noted theater scholar and Encuentro participant Jorge Huerta, the aim of this event is to make a “public assessment of the state of Latino Theater.”  This conference is one of several local organizing efforts by Latina/o theatre artists taking place in various regions throughout the country.  They are working to address local concerns and intend to build a national Latina/o Theater network.

Organizers have consciously chosen not to focus upon exclusion from mainstream theaters. They are instead taking a critical look and evaluating why connecting with those theaters remains a challenge to Latina/o artists. “We are at a creative crossroads.” says Tiffany Ana Lopez, Theatre Professor at UC Riverside.  “Will our creative community grow, and how do we get better?”

The encuentro will consist of what LTA/LA calls “non-traditional panels,”  which will examine a comprehensive review of theaters and productions where Latina/o artists figure prominently both on and off stage.  Specifically, they will address artistic and administrative topics such as acting, direction, writing, producing, marketing and design.  Members of these particular cohorts within LTA/LA have logged long hours attending plays, and, as participant Raquel Sanchez noted, they have observed “similar patterns” from show to show.   Additionally, the program will include a roundtable discussion with current artistic directors and a panel of scholars will address the state of Latino Theater within a historical context.

Encuentro 2013 is not the first time Latina/o theater artists have organized.  The earliest predecessor to this alliance, TENAZ (El Teatro Nacional de Aztlán) was formed in 1971 under the leadership of Luis Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino.  It was established for the purpose of addressing the artistic and political development of Chicano theatre groups and playwrights. TENAZ facilitated and formalized communication between the various teatros that sprouted all over the United States in the wake of  El Teatro Campesino’s establishment in 1965.  Some current members of LTA/LA, including Huerta, were involved with TENAZ from its earliest stages.  They witnessed the evolution of modern Chicano Theater from rasquache actos performed on picket lines in Delano, to the array of works produced by today’s dynamic and diverse community whose artists represent the multitude of Latin American nationalities, and migratory experiences.   Additionally, the community has slowly, but progressively, embraced the voice of Latinas and the Latina/o LGBQT communities.

Encuentro organizers have high expectations for this Saturday.   They anticipate an open and honest dialogue as well as the continuation of the efforts of the past year in order to track the field over time.  One such effort will be to match veteran and emerging artists with each other as mentors and mentees.  The intent is to better prepare artists for Bachelors and MFA programs.

In 1973, Jorge Huerta wrote, “I believe it is safe to say that Teatro Chicano is a living, viable weapon in the struggle against Gabacho oppression in Aztlan.” By elevating the artistic profile of Latina/o theater artists, LTA/LA anticipates this community will continue to become more and more integrated into the American Theater narrative.  This is surely giant steps away from the rhetoric prevalent during the early days of the Chicano Theater Movement.

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Encuentro 2013
Presented by Latino Theater Alliance/ Los Angeles
Saturday, July 13, 2013
9:30 AM to 5:30 PM

The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 91754

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