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PLAYBILL: 7 Ways to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at a Theatre Near You

by Dan Meyer

Hispanic Heritage Month is already underway (it begins September 15 to commemorate the start of the Mexican War of Independence and ends October 15) with plenty of theatres around America honoring the work of Latine playwrights, performers, directors, and creative artists working in the industry.

Below, Playbill has compiled some of the virtual and in-person events happening around America for audiences to explore and celebrate the contributions of Latine theatre makers.

Crossing Borders (Two River Theatre, September 13–October 10)
The 10th anniversary edition of the popular festival goes virtual this year with a slate of programming curated by José Zayas. Among the artists participating are playwrights Paz Pardo, Francisco Mendoza, juliany f. taveras, and Nick Malakhow. “I love these plays and am so honored to present them and to work with the remarkable group of artists who have brought their joy and their restless intellects to telling these stories that speak so eloquently to this very difficult moment,” says Zayas. “These plays matter because they want change, they demand to be heard, they show us moments of crisis that transcend boundaries, and they suggest possible ways forward into uncertain but thrilling futures.”

Latinx New Play Festival (San Diego Rep, September 3-5)
The fifth annual edition of this hybrid in-person and virtual event, executive produced by Dr. Maria Patrice Amon, featured a slew of works exploring Latin identity, from a satirical take on the first contact with Columbus to interrogating gender identity. Among the artists participating were Rachel Lynett, lily gonzales, Daniella De Jesús, Nicolas R. Valdez, and Rosa Fernandez. While the festival has already concluded, theatre fans can watch several panels that were recorded, including ones on dramaturgy, directing, playwriting, and historical context.

A Crossing (Barrington Stage Company, September 23–October 16)
With a story by BSC Associate Artist Mark St. Germain, this new dance musical features original songs and vocal arrangements by Zoe Sarnak, alongside traditional Mexican folk song arrangements and additional score by George Sáenz. Directed by Joshua Bergasse and choreographed by Bergasse and Alberto Lopez, the story follows a group of migrants crossing the southern border as they face many dangers, including the coyote (a human smuggler). A Crossing was created in association with Calpulli Mexican Dance Company.

Premeditation (Latino Theater Company, October 1)
This six-part audio theatre podcast from resident playwright Evelina Fernández follows two disgruntled housewives—sophisticated and calculating Esmerelda and the foul-mouthed and pragmatic Lydia—as they try to regain their husbands’ attention. Directed by José Luis Valenzuela (who also helmed the 2014 in-person staging at LTC) and starring Fernandez alongside company members Sal Lopez, Geoffrey Rivas and Lucy Rodriguez, Premeditation takes audiences on a noir-inspired journey through the intricacies of marriage.

Ballet Hispánico (October 5)
While the dance troupe celebrates Latin culture year-round, the company is putting on several events in honor of HHM. Among the highlights areDiálogos: Colorism in the Arts and Anti-blackness within Latinx Communities (October 5), an outdoor performance series at the New York Botanical Garden (October 9-10), a virtual recital and class October 12, and Diálogos: Ballet Hispánico’s 50 Year Legacy (October 15), the latter led by Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro as the group examines the past, present, and future of the company.

72 Miles to Go… (Alley Theatre, October 15–November 14)
72 miles is the distance between Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico—and the distance between a recently deported mother and her American-born husband and children. Written by Hilary Bettis, the play (a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize) follows one family over a decade as they struggle with the realities of immigration. In addition, the Alley is participating in the NEA Big Read Project surrounding Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. Several bilingual, virtual events are planned throughout Hispanic Heritage Month to explore the book, including a live stream conversation with the author.

Greater Good Commission Spotlight (Latinx Playwrights Circle and Pregones/PRTT, October 22 at 7:30 PM ET)
This showcase presents works by those selected for the mini-grants awarded to Latinx playwrights who write short plays, innovative in form, that reflect contemporary times. Dominic Colón, lily gonzales, Tavi Juárez, Phanésia Pharel, and Andrew Rincón are this year’s participants. “This second round keeps us in line with our mission to foster work from the most marginalized within the Latinx community. This commission is not only a step forward for these five commissioned playwrights, but one for the Latinx, American, and LGBTQTIA+ theater community nationwide,” says founder Darrel Alejandro Holnes.

Want even more? An October 14 reading will feature Nelson Diaz-Marcano’s When the Earth Moves, We Dance at Clubbed Thumb. Later on this year, Latino Theater Company will host Re:Encuentro (November 12-21), a national theatre festival celebrating contemporary Latine theatremakers. Plus, watch 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award winner Francisco Mendoza lead a Latine playwrights roundtable with Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Eliana Pipes, and Ren Dara Santiago.