In Seattle, an 'unprecedented' moment for Latino theater
A whole host of Latinx productions, helmed by Latinx actors, takes the stage.
“We’re at an unprecedented time for Latino theater,” says Rose Cano, artistic director of Ese Teatro, an organization she helped establish in 2010 to empower Latino artists.
Once rare to have Latinx productions take the spotlight in Seattle, this year's fall season features several Latino plays that are currently running or soon to be on stage.
For years, Cano, who is originally from Peru, has been working to put Seattle on the Latino theater map, on par with, say, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Her latest production is The Journey of the Saint (which ends its run on Saturday), a comedic play that raises questions about religion and faith.
Whether written or directed by Latino artists, or starring Latino actors, the current crop of plays explore themes relevant to Spanish-speaking communities and beyond.
This isn’t to say Latino artists necessarily face an easy road ahead. “I think there’s still definitely more work to do for sure,” says Arlene Martínez-Vázquez, education director at Seattle Repertory Theatre and director of Native Gardens, a play by Mexican-American writer Karen Zacarías.
Martínez-Vázquez, who is Puerto Rican, says too many Latino-directed plays are still relegated to the small budget, hole-in-the-wall type of production and that the big theater companies have yet to catch on. “I don’t think it should be either or, I think it should be both,” she says.
Ana Maria Campoy, a Mexican-American actress who is starring in the first bilingual version of David Auburn’s Proof (on Sept. 29 at Tacoma's Annie Wright Schools), says she still runs into typecasting, often limited to playing a servant or a migrant. “We are more than just these two stories,” Campoy says. “For me, it’s always about the fact that I want this table to get longer and more diverse and louder and just full of unique voices.”
“This year feels really magical,” Campoy adds. “It used to be like we got one show.” The turn for the better, Campoy says, could not have come at a more opportune time.
“I know there’s a lot of awful things happening in the world right now, but I think art is giving us solace and hope, and I think it helps us reach people’s hearts and push their minds,” she says. “Change can really happen through the arts.” In addition to Proof, Campoy is also in the midst of rehearsing for her next play, Fade, which is authored by Mexican-American playwright Tanya Saracho.