This week, artists, scholars and educators from across the Americas will gather in the Winship Building and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center for the 2019 Latinx Theatre Commons Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) Sin Fronteras Festival & Convening. Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) Convenings occur in different cities across the country each year. This event is special for the LTC as it is the first time in its history to focus on theatre for youth. In fact, this is the first festival of its kind in the United States—centering Latinx and Latin American TYA.
The festival portion of the program will feature five plays written for youth audiences from the United States and Latin America, and 1,300 students from local public and charter schools have the opportunity to attend these plays free of charge. The plays range from all in Spanish (with supertitles) to all in English, and one production includes Nahuatl, a language spoken by indigenous people in southern Mexico and Central America.
"This festival is necessary because in Latinx theaters in the U.S., theatre for young audiences is often an afterthought," said Emily Aguilar (M.F.A., Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities), a professor at Bowling Green State University and co-producer of the event. "TYA is something theaters do either in partnership with predominately white institutions or as a community engagement strategy, or as a way to qualify for certain kinds of funding. It's very much out-of-step with the way we engage in our real lives. In my family, and in many Latinx families, young people are a part of everything. They are at community meetings, family gatherings, weddings, marches and other events. They are not an afterthought in our everyday lives. Why are they an afterthought in our audiences? We can do it better. This festival will explore how, and why."
The convening portion of the festival brings together about 150 adult participants from across the Americas to experience these five shows and learn more about theatre for youth audiences through workshops, panels, discussions and art-making events. Several students in the Department of Theatre and Dance are participating in the festival and convening through a variety of roles, including acting in and directing staged readings of new Latinx TYA plays, developing educational materials around the productions and serving as lighting and sound crew.
Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Director of UTeach Fine Arts and a co-producer of the convening, said that while Latinx theatre created specifically for children and families is not new, it is underrepresented in many communities across the United States. She hopes that the festival brings more attention to the plays being written and performed and helps elevate them into the TYA canon.
“My scholarship has, for many years, focused on the absence of Latinx theatre for youth audiences,” said Schroeder-Arce. “I’m delighted that this festival gives us the opportunity to celebrate the great work that writers and artists are creating in this space, and I hope we can continue to inspire new works and future productions.”
The plays being presented include:
Niños Que Fueron Grandes
Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in B. Iden Payne Theatre
Presented by La Negra María Teatro of Santiago, Chile
Directed by Nicolás Valiente Blamey
We travel with four actors to recreate and imagine episodes of the childhoods of three Chilean teachers: Baldomero Lillo, Gabriela Mistral and Manuel Rojas. Puppets and found objects create the world of the play onstage before our eyes, making it easily accessible for English-speaking audiences. This production features original music (Spanish).
Recommended ages: 4 to 10
Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Brockett Theatre
Written by Caroline Reck and Rupert Reyes
Presented by Teatro Vivo and Glass Half Full Theatre of Austin
Directed by Caroline Reck
Created in collaboration with Glass Half Full Theatre, Teatro Vivo and ZACH Theatre, Cenicienta is an original bilingual stage adaptation of Cinderella. In this version, told through found-object puppetry, Cenicienta overcomes her stepfamily’s bullying on her own terms. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
Recommended age: 4 and up
Epic Tales from the Land of Melanin
Friday, Jan. 25 at 4:30 p.m. in Brockett Theatre
Presented by FEMelanin Collective, of Chicago
Directed by Alyssa Vera Ramos
Originally devised by Guadalís Del Carmen, Mariana Green, Brandi Lee, Maya Mackrandilal, Enid Muñoz, Alyssa Vera Ramos, Deanalís Resto, Ana Velazquez and Teresa Zorić with FEMelanin
Based on histories of real-life women of color and non-Eurocentric fairytales, Epic Tales from the Land of Melanin is an imaginative adventure tale of three young warrior-explorers taking on the world. Through audience participation, young audiences will help the heroes defeat evil forces while building community. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
Recommended age: 12 and up
Coatlicue 2.0: La diosa que vino del aire, Compañía TraZmallo Ixinti
Friday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in B. Iden Payne Theatre
Written by Daniel Loyola of México City, México
Directed by Leonardo Villa
Through dance, music, mask and clown technique, Coatlicue 2.0 is a solo creation story of how the Aztec world came to be. We learn about legendary Aztec figures, such as Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca and Coatlicue herself, the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the cosmos. Bilingual (Nahuatl/Spanish).
Recommended age: 8 and up
Tomás and the Library Lady
Saturday, Jan. 26 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center
Presented by Childsplay of Tempe, Arizona
Book, music and lyrics by José Cruz González
Music arranged and performed by Adam Jacobson
Directed by David Saar
Based on the true story of Tomás Rivera and the book by Pat Mora, this play takes us on a journey with Tomás, the son of migrant farm workers. When Tomás meets the “Library Lady,” she recognizes his love of stories and encourages him to become a reader. This play explores literacy, migration and self-esteem, all through music and storytelling. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
Recommended age: 5 and up
“Sin Fronteras: Latinx and Latin American Theatre for Young Audiences,” essay by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce
“Latinx Theatre for Young Audiences: Where We Are and Where We Must Go,” essay by Ramón Esquivel
“Bringing Latin American Theatre for Young Audiences to the World through Amazonas Network,” essay by Bebe de Soares
Image: Tomás and the Library Lady at Dallas Children's Theatre. Photo by Linda Blase.