Latino Theater in Spotlight as Encuentro 2014 Opens in Los Angeles

By Jon Sobel on Oct 15, 2014 09:02 PM EDT

This Thursday, October 16, the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) begins presenting the theater program of Encuentro 2014, a more-than-monthlong Latino festival presenting over 150 artists representing 19 theater companies performing at least 15 stage works exploring the Latina/Latino experience.

Presented by the LATC in association with the Latina/o Theatre Commons, the Encuentro festival itself opened October 10 with a variety of events, some free. Most of the shows on the theater schedule beginning tomorrow are in English, while a few are in Spanish or bilingual.

Organizer Jose Luis Valenzuela, founder and artistic director of Latino Theater Company, helped select the works. "We [Latinos] are still somehow the invisible people," he told the Los Angeles Times. "In the entertainment mainstream, we do not exist." But despite having organized cultural events at LATC since 2006, he added that he had "had no idea there were more than 70 full-fledged, travel-ready Latino theater companies in the country until 75 applied to be a part of Encuentro."

The picks include more than one reflecting the realities of immigration. Medardo Treviño's Maria's Circular Dance from Tucson, AZ's Borderlands Theater is about violence on the U.S.-Mexico border, while Enrique's Journey is based on Sonia Nazario's Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Los Angeles Times about a Honduran boy's journey to join his mother in the U.S. Evelina Fernandez, whose play Premeditation is also part of Encuentro, noted that at least half the shows in the festival are written by, directed by or about women.

From New York's INTAR Theatre comes Mariana Carreño King's Patience, Fortitude and Other Anti-Depressants ("an urban riff on Federico García Lorca's play Yerma"), about a woman driven to crime by her desperation to have a child. And from Teatro Luna, Chicago's pan-Latina theater company, comes Emilio Williams's relationship satire Your Problem with Men. Last year Nina Metz in the Chicago Tribune called that show "winningly delirious" and wrote that "[a]s with Teatro Luna's best efforts in the past, the show wears its Latina cultural specificity with an ease that is both rich and fully American."

That sounds rather like what audiences should expect from Encuentro 2014.

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TagsEncuentro 2014, Los Angeles, Latino theater, Enrique's Journey

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