After reading Victor Maog’s post on HowlRound elaborating on his own Asian American experiences and the “2014 National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival”, I couldn’t help but think about my own experience with Latino theater and our movements to organize together. Specifically I was comparing what I’ve seen and witness so far in the U.S. in cultivating Latino theatre artists, which I think is at the heart of these endeavors to have conventions, conferences, groups, guilds, etc. that focus on culture/ ethnicity specific theater.
Growing the network is important. In what I’ve experienced with working with a theater company like INTAR Theatre in New York, there are decades of collaborations and support of latino theatre artists, most notably playwrights, that really helped them start off and get to work and create. In this way, I feel as though the Latino theater collaborative movement perhaps started earlier or configured its artists together quicker. For example, HowlRound has a “Latino Theater Commons” Page but not a “Asian American Theater Commons” one.
Adding African American theater into the mix offers a different group who got together perhaps as one of the first “other-ed” groups in theater an example in the African Grove theater.
There are these categories now that are created for artists that identify with these ethnicity’s can adhere to. Personally I feel more entitled to attend, write, talk about Latino theater and the experience of being a Latino theater artists than being Asian American or African American/Black. Frankly, I do like having that knowledge of a group of artists that I can feel connected to when I’m dealing with issues in the theater that are related to being Latino. Whether it’s the content of the play, the casting of characters, the audiences, representation in the theater community or whatever else can happen. I see the importance of the Latino support.
At the same time I don’t want to feel confined to just doing, talking, thinking about that part of me.
I think there is a thin line between wanting to stop being other-ed by creating work that benefits the ethnicity that is being misrepresented and between hindering cross overs with other artists who may not fully understand the experience of being a certain ethnicity or grouping.
For example, placing a select group of Latino theater artists from across the country in one room trying to talk about what they are doing and want to do personally is not always going to go smoothly– just because you are the same race/ethnicity doesn’t mean you have the same artistic values and viewpoints.
I’m excited to see what the Asian American artists do with their conference. I remember in Lydia Diamond’s Smart People a line about grouping the Asian American’s with Latinos and this goes even more so with all the other immigrant races and ethnicity’s. This sense of being connected to another part of the world can ultimately bring us together perhaps not in the sense of all grouped into one category but rather being able to collaborate to make something amazing. But maybe coming apart and understanding specifically not where we came from but rather what we come from can help bring us back together to create more specificity to not feel grouped into one “other” category.