First Chicago International Latino Theater Fest highlights visiting, local companies
The new Chicago International Latino Theater Festival carries the theme "Destinos" ("Destinations"). It's apt since the monthlong festival is spread out among five different venues to showcase four visiting theater troupes from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Puerto Rico. Performances by national and local Latino theater artists are also prominently in the mix.
"This is scary, because it's the first one," said producer Myrna Salazar about planning the festival. Salazar is a co-founder and executive director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, which is the primary producer of the festival.
The Alliance was jointly formed in 2016 by the International Latino Cultural Center, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance. Its goals are to "foster and showcase thought-provoking works of Latino theater artists" and to "inspire a cross-cultural audience."
"Our main objective was to showcase the local companies at a different level and to bring them to a wider audience," said Salazar about Chicago-based storefront companies like Aguijón Theater, Urban Theater Company and Water People Theater. "With the Alliance, we want to have a stronger presence in the city so people are more aware."
And to make sure that both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences are made to feel welcome, Salazar said that projected translations will accompany each production.
Salazar was interviewed before the Central Mexican earthquake hit on Tuesday, Sept. 19, and before Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday, Sept. 20. At press time, Mexico's Teatro Linea de Sombra was still slated to bring its ensemble-created piece about immigration called "Amarillo" to The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, while Steppenwolf Theatre's 1700 Theatre is still set to host Marian Pabón's take on the ancient Greek myth of "Medea" by Puerto Rican-based Arte Boricua.
While Salazar asked not to specifically comment on the fraught political tone from the current presidential administration toward the host countries for some of the visiting productions, she does hope for meaningful cultural exchanges with artists and audiences.
For instance, Colombia-based Vueltas Bravas Producciones explores U.S. and Latin American relations in J.Ed Araiza's transplanted take on Strindberg's "Miss Julie." And "The Mirror" by Cuba's Ludi Teatro fuses indigenous musical genres like bolero and rumba to explore notions of machismo and gender violence within a classic 1950s play by the late gay playwright Abelardo Estorino.
Other U.S. Latino artists are also featured in the festival. Members of the formerly Chicago-based Teatro Luna are coming in from Los Angeles to perform "Lovesick," an ensemble-created piece about a spectrum of violence inflicted upon women's bodies. New York-based playwright and director Felix Rojas also presents the regional debut of his one-man show, "Growing Up Gonzales."
Chicago's major theaters performing Latino works are featured with sneak-peek performances of Tanya Saracho's "Fade," which is a co-production of Teatro Vista and already part of Victory Gardens Theater's regular 2017-18 season.
"We also hope to bring Latino audiences to these venues to support not only Latino productions, but the theaters' other productions as well," said Salazar, noting that flagship companies like the Goodman Theatre and Victory Gardens have made a point to be inclusive in their season programming.
Conversely in the future, Salazar hopes that the Alliance can help Chicago-based companies like Teatro Vista and Teatro Luna present their work at international theater festivals in South America. By bringing artists together via the Chicago fest, Salazar hopes those connections can happen.
Chicago International Latino Theater Festival: Destinos
Tickets: $25, with discounts for seniors and students; $25-$54 for "Amarillo"
Full schedule and times: clata.org/festival-schedule
Production: Chicago's Water People Theater -- Iraida Tapias' "I, the Worst of All" (Sept. 29-Oct. 8)
Location: National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, (312) 738-1503 or nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org
Productions: Puerto Rico's Arte Boricua -- Marian Pabón's adaptation of "Medea" (Oct. 5-8); Chicago's Aguijón Theater -- Ariel Dorman's "Death and the Maiden" ("La Merte y la Doncella") (Oct. 12-15); Cuba's Ludi Teatro -- Abelardo Estorino's "The Mirror" (Oct. 19-22); Colombia's Vueltas Bravas Producciones -- J.Ed Araiza's adaptation of "Miss Julie" (Oct. 26-28)
Location: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago, (312) 335-1650 or steppenwolf.org
Production: Los Angeles and Chicago's Teatro Luna -- "Lovesick" (Oct. 5-8); New York playwright Felix Rojas' "Growing Up Gonzales" (Oct. 12-15); Chicago's Urban Theater Company -- Marco Antonio Rodriguez's "Ashes of Light" (Oct. 19-22); Chicago's Teatro Vista and Victory Gardens Theater -- Tanya Saracho's "Fade" (Oct. 26-29 and Nov. 4-Dec. 23)
Location: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, (312) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org
Production: Mexico's Teatro Línea de Sombra -- "Amarillo" (Oct. 17-29)
Location: The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com
Production: Chicago's Free Street Theater and Back of the Yards Theater -- Ricardo Gamboa and Ana Velazquez's "Meet Juan(Ito) Doe" (Oct. 26-29)
Location: Back of The Yards Storefront, 4346 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, freestreet.org