What is the Latinx theater? Not just anything, according to Noe Montez. Chairman of the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, as well as actor and director, Montez focuses his research on Latin American and Latin American theater and performance.
Growing up in Texas, Montez was primarily aware of his own Latinx and Tejano identities, he said. But when he entered the world of Latinx theatrical creation, he quickly discovered that there was a much wider range than he had imagined.
âThere is no such thing as a unique Latinx experience. California Chicanxes, for example, are very different from the Tejanxes on the Texas-Mexico border, âhe said. “Or Nuyoricans or Afro Latinxes from the Caribbean or Central America or Latinxes with native roots.”
As a result, there is also a great diversity of Latinx playwrights and the topics they cover, Montez said. While some tell stories about work organization, or sexism, Migdalia Cruz captures a particular experience of Nuyorican, while Octavio Solis shares experiences of the American Southwest.
âAnd some people just create these silly, funny pranks and satires, like the Culture Clash group,â Montez said. “There are a lot of complexities in Latinx identities, and all of these stories and perspectives need to be told on stage.”
In a conversation with Tufts now, Montez spoke about some of these stories and his own work, both on and off stage.
Tufts now: How did you get involved in the Latinx theater?
Noah Go up: I myself am a Latinx and had never been to the theater before being a freshman in college. The very first show I saw was an adaptation of a play by German playwright Bertolt Brecht, in which a wire fence separated the audience from the performers. There was a performance on stage. And if the public was so moved, they were invited to knock down the fence and intervene in this execution. It blew me away. It became clear that the theater had a political resonance and power that I hadn’t imagined. And that caught my interest in theater, and I started to take more classes, to specialize, to start my career.
Like many Latinx artists, I became frustrated and worried because I wanted to see stories about people like me and experiences of the kind that I and some of my friends grew up with.
The Latinx theater has been around in the United States for as long as there have been Latinxes. But in the 1990s and early 2000s there was a boom in plays, theater companies, directors, and actors, the work of which began to spread. Working with some of these artists has been the push towards this aspect of my career as an artist and scholar.
I started working as a director, acting, directing, working as a playwright on productions and trying to get Latinx stories portrayed on stage. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with several playwrights putting new works on stage for the first time, playing from time to time and mainly directing Latinx theater projects.
As a director, the challenge is always to figure out how to be true to world-building – to create communities that reflect the uniqueness of the geographies of the people whose stories are told, and to do so in a way that people get excited about. . walk into a theater, see and experience a world they might not otherwise have access to. I think there is something beautiful and political in this work. And that’s what fuels me the joy of leading.
Tell us about the works of Latinx with the kind of political resonance that drew you to the theater.
In the 1960s Luis Valdez, the grandfather of the Latinx theater, and his theater troupe, El Teatro Campesino, performed political plays in the backs of flatbed trucks on farms in California to defend workers’ rights. and draw attention to the plight of the Latinx farm. workers. Valdez has played for striking workers alongside activists like Cesar Chavez, trying to galvanize a labor movement and create safer farming practices.
Cherrie Moraga writes great queer and feminist Latinx stories about the effects of environmental abuse and the ways structural violence harms Latinxes.
Even works that don’t necessarily attempt to respond directly to a political crisis are charged or empowered to tell stories and humanize people. For example, Luis Alfaro, whose plays are produced in some of the country’s largest theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, draws on Greek myth as a source of inspiration that he can adapt to tell specific stories to Latinx. .
Sharing perspectives and worldviews that the public may not necessarily be familiar with is in itself a political act.
Can you name a few Latinx plays that you have really connected emotionally with?
Virginia Grise has a beautiful piece called Blue it’s a poetic and incredibly moving story about queer Latinx people and anti-war politics and childhood told in this dreamlike structure. It’s probably at the top of the list of plays I’m most interested in directing next.
There’s Kristopher Diaz, whose play The elaborate entry of the deity of Chad was a Pulitzer finalist ten years ago. I staged his play, Welcome to Arroyo, at Tufts in 2013 â it was the first Latinx play produced by the Department of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies.
Welcome to Arroyo really resonated with me. It is essentially a story about gaining a deeper understanding of one’s identity through scholarship and research and a deep dive into one’s generational past.
What are you working on off the stage?
I write about both Latin American theater and Latinx theater, but I am currently creating an edited collection with Routledge, a companion to Latinx theater and performance, who will trace how various manifestations of Latinx self-determination in contemporary American theater and performance work to affirm and celebrate the value of Latinx life.
It analyzes Latinx theater and performance throughout U.S. history, drawing on 40-50 academic and artist collaborations with a range of goals – from identities and how identities are built, to the stories of Latinx creation and theatrical performance, to thought about access and education, to imagine better and safer worlds and resistance against racism, sexism, homophobia and the colourism. He also goes behind the scenes to watch the work of designers, technicians, actors, directors, voice coaches, as well as administrators, funding sources, programming structures and networking projects.
The idea is that it will be as complete an exploration as possible of the Latinx theater as it exists today and how we got there. It’s an exciting collaboration, and it really allows us to stand up for some of the best Latinx theater directors in America.
Monica Jimenez can be reached at [email protected].