More than 40 Chicago actors will participate in the Latinx Theatre Commons’ Carnaval of New Latinx Work from July 19 to 21 to highlight Latinx stories and talent.
The festival will feature live readings of six new plays performed and produced by Latinx actors, directors, designers and playwrights at DePaul University’s Theatre School.
Director Lisa Portes and playwright Guadalís Del Carmen join the Morning Shift to talk about the need for Latinx representation in theater, especially during the Trump administration.
“The function of the Carnaval is to seed the American theater with Latinx stories and Latinx artists,” Portes said. “We want the plays produced and folks hired.”
On Latinx theater in the U.S.
Lisa Portes: Latinx covers Latino, Latina and non-binary folks in the Latinx community. In 2012, when we formed the Latinx Theatre Commons… it’s the time technology hit. So what we were [sic] able to do is really network all of the local and regional Latinx theater associations and organizations so they began to network and talk with one another.
On changing the landscape of theater
Guadalís Del Carmen: I think we’re becoming a lot better at creating advocacy around our own work but also creating advocacy around each other, which I think is really important.
We talk about inclusion…and it’s like oh yes, let’s go see this Latinx play… and yes, there are [sic] Latinx faces on stage but a lot of time, the director isn’t Latinx. The sound designer isn’t Latinx. The people creating the world behind the stage or on the stage are not Latinx so I’m really excited about the fact that we’ve got more voices outside of just what we see on stage.
On redefining stereotypes
Del Carmen: There are still a lot stereotypes that we’re trying to fight against. There are still a lot of things that people are holding onto that aren’t accurate when it comes to Latinx stories, Latinx lives. I think we’re still very much holding onto this portrayal that was given of us — not by us — but given of us from like 50 or 60 years ago.
There is no one way to define our story.
On presenting Latinx stories in the era of Trump
Portes: This administration has communicated its hatred and contempt for Latinx people and Latin american people pretty clearly. There is no more important time to amplify and uplift Latinx stories and the people who make them… not simply for a Latinx audience, but for a US audience both to build bridges of empathy and understanding and also really to resist the very ugly narratives spun by this administration.
On writing ‘My Father’s Keeper’
Del Carmen: I was in a play where I played the wife of a closeted gay man and it inspired the idea of what a child growing up in this kind of environment, what that would do.
I wanted to talk about the themes of machismo and toxic masculinity within our community but also the themes of anti-blackness within our community. I identify as a Black Latina, Afro-Latina and that’s something that’s very important to me that I think is also a huge part of our conversation as Latinos in this society.
Tony Sarabia: There are universal themes there.
Del Carmen: Exactly. Just hearing and listening to the other playwrights as well, I think LTC was very good at picking a very diverse group of stories to say and show that there’s a lot more to us than just the awful stuff that’s being talked about now.
On advocating for Latinx representation in theater
Portes: When populations have been traditionally marginalized, you need to advocate to push those populations to the center. It’s not that we want to have a separate world, it’s that actually in order to push the stories to the center, we have to advocate as a body.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
GUESTS: Lisa Portes, head of directing at DePaul University’s Theatre School and Champion of the LTC Carnaval of new Latinx Work
Guadalís Del Carmen, playwright