In my research for Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, I came across a speech given by playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes to open a festival in her hometown of Philadelphia celebrating Latinx playwrights. I was particularly struck by the following,
So what exactly is a Latino playwright? Can you spot her in a crowded room? Is she a new phenomenon or an endangered species? Does she write with an accent? Is she a Latina by choice? A playwright by necessity? Does she require nontraditional casting or is she casting a new mold? If a Latina writes a play in an empty forest and no one is there to listen does she make a sound? Is she allowed to be ordinary not just extraordinary? Is she Mr. Miyagi or the Karate Kid? Is she a grateful guest at someone elseʼs table? Or is she a carpenter building a new damn table from scratch? And will you come to her table when she invites you? Are Latino playwrights a “they” or a “we”?
Link to full speech here.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my Latinidad intersects with my intended career as an assistant lighting designer and stage manager and asking myself similar questions, mainly what exactly is a Latina ALD/SM?
In class, we often discuss the way in which a person’s identity influences their plays – either in style or content or both – the role of advocacy in theatre, and the ways in which we as artists can be advocates for the issues that matter to us. We often focus on the way a director, producer, playwright, dramaturg and actor can do this. I struggle to extrapolate how I can advocate for diverse stories as a ALD and SM. Often, I feel as though its a part of the job description that I separate myself from my personal beliefs in the professional setting. My job is to be a neutral party, an outside set of eyes and ears. I can spend all of my free time marching, calling my reps, writing blog posts, etc., but once I arrive at the theatre or rehearsal hall I feel the need to leave that at the door.
I also don’t think I’ve ever heard of a racially-conscious hiring process for design and production teams. Doesn’t representation also matter on the other side of the tech table? As an industry, we’ve recognized we have an issue with representation on the design & production side when it comes to gender. There are numerous studies about who designs what, and a lot of graphics to accompany. I wrote a different blog post about that. I’d be interested to see studies looking at designers, production heads, and stage managers of color. I’m going to hazard a guess that the graphic wouldn’t paint a pretty picture. I’ve been fortunate to have met a lot of lighting designers through various talk-backs in lighting colloquium or set up through our assistant-ships with the Huntington. In my three years at BU, I’ve only met one lighting designer of color (and for that matter, only 2 women, both BU graduates). Every year in lighting colloquium, a few of us do presentations on a prominent/important lighting designer, past or present. We’ve had nearly a dozen of these, and not a single one has been on a person of color. We don’t have something similar in the stage management program, but all of the stage managers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and observing in tech have been white. I look out into the bubble that is my intended career field and I see very little, if anything at all, that looks like me.
But then again, how does being Latina impact my skills and abilities as an ALD/SM? I don’t call cues with an accent. I wouldn’t say that my paperwork or design ideas have a “Latin” anything to them. But I do approach stories differently. I approach the world in a different way because of my upbringing. I bring a different set of experiences to the table, a different viewpoint, and I think that’s important in a field who’s core purpose is story-telling.
So I guess I don’t have a good answer, I’m still working it out.