(by Línda Vanesa Perla)
From December 1st to December 3rd a group of approximately 175 Latinx artists, scholars, administrators, and advocates gather in New York City to converse, network, participate in panels, performances, and parties to discuss a range of topics. This year there was also a gathering of the Pacific Northwest region in Seattle and in 2017 there will be an International convening in Los Angeles. This is due to the amazing efforts of The Latina/o Theater Commons (LTC), in partnership with HowlRound.
A brief intro to The Latina/o Theater Commons (LTC):
- A national movement
- Uses a commons-based approach to transform the narrative of the American theater
- To amplify the visibility of Latinx performance making
- To champion equity through advocacy, art making, convening, and scholarship
- Radical Inclusion
- Legacy & Leadership Cultivation
- Advancement of the Art Form
- “We envision an American Theater that reflects the boundless spectrum of human experiences, that is accessible to all persons, and where the ideals of equity and cultural acumen are embraces, practiced, and woven into the fabric of our field.”
- The first convening was held in Boston in 2013 with 80 Latinx artists.
- All of this information was found and more can be found at http://howlround.com/2016-nyc-regional-convening-new-york-city
On the HowlRound TV network, online, many of the activities, panels, and talks were live streamed and remain up for anyone to watch. So, I began watching and what I found was riveting.
In Latinx Theater; Making a Difference there was a long—table discussion pertaining to questions such as: What is considered a Latinx play? Is it the artists? The narratives? The politics? The aesthetics?
Many of these questions I have been trying to unpack alone and so I clicked.
While watching I was amazing at the fact that before beginning they lit a sage and pasted it around as a cleansing and as an invitation to allow the participants into a space where the emotion, passions, and magical roots of our culture may spur motivation to wisdom.
Here is were I learned that the Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Drama is a Latina named Chantal Rodriguez. (MIND BLOWN)
Anyway, the first topic of conversation was: “Making a difference: What is Latinx theater? What does it mean in the sense of making a difference? How are we different?”
Instantly there was a open rejections of Latinx Theater: according to Alex Menda, you runs (with an ensemble of women) teatro luna, to address the theater that Latinx artists make as “Latinx theater” is to use the vocabulary of the oppressor. Rather we should be focusing of celebrating our differences as Latinx artists as well as our inherit similarities.
Afterword, the question of aesthetic was brought into the space.
From that questions arose that are iheret in the work that I know I and my fellow Latinx student artists are faced with consitnusly: How do we define aesthetic? Through what lenses? For who and why? If there are influenced by cultural shifts that are then seen through theater critiques, who are primarily white, then what in what ways do we challenge our OWN definition of aesthetic?
That was then approached with making theater in a capitalistic society different from many societies in Latin America.
Not letting the integrity of the work off the hook: how does capitalism affect our work? As it doesn’t coincide with “aesthetic adventures” or the deep politics that run through Latinx theater. As we are “too abundant. Too adventures. To political. Too imaginative. Too far.”
As I was beginning to become aware of the fact that I could not find an Afro-Latinx artist in the room the question about diversity without our own community can into play:
How do we look beyond our our history? Or should we? Should we explore the stories of other nationalists. What is the importance of the Latinx artist to find storied within one another and shed our nationalism to blend together? How can we find something about Latinx theater by doing an Adrienne Kennedy play or a Miller or a Henry Hwang?
By the end of the video I was at this bridge. On either side an ocean running fast and hard in front an emerging path behind sunshine and warmth. I’m reaching a point where I must choose to jump into the ocean and let subconsciously built way of doing things sweep me away or run back into what was comfortable or become part of the ones that are diligently stomping out a path for future generations through an unfriendly and hard jungle.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. And I cannot say that I’ve decided yet. I don’t think that I will know when I’ve decided though. It will just click in I think. I hope. I mean I’m hoping that I’ll being walking forward with my Machete and Magical Realism.
Maybe I’ve already been doing just that.