HowlRound's Latinx Theatre Commons 'El Fuego' Initiative Fuels Works by Latinx Playwrights

HowlRound's Latinx Theatre Commons 'El Fuego' Initiative Fuels Works by Latinx Playwrights

The Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC), an active initiative of HowlRound Theatre Commons, based at Emerson College, celebrates the completion of a successful first year of the El Fuego initiative during the 2016-17 season and has announced its continuation for two more seasons through 2018-2019.

Launched in 2016, El Fuego seeks to build a more equitable and inclusive system for theatre making and to help grow, support, and ignite the American theatre with new Latinx theatre works. El Fuego was sparked from LTC's 2015 Carnaval of New Latina/o Work, which brought together over 200 Latinx and allied theatre makers to celebrate and promote Latinx playwrights and encourage more productions of Latinx playwrights nationwide. In alignment with their action based values, the LTC secured the 12 featured Carnaval playwrights commitments of productions in 18 theaters across the nation over three theatre seasons, from 2016-2017 through 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

El Fuego has become a historic initiative that expands the model of playwright development and recalibrates the traditional, and often inequitable, theatrical pipeline in the United States by securing support for culturally specific theatres, who have been historically supporting these artists for years, but are often overlooked in favor of large theatres awarded money for "diversity." The first season of El Fuego was generously funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and has supported these productions by providing funding for the playwright's residencies at the partner theatres, support for a scholar to document the production and process, national marketing, and the eventual publication of an anthology of plays by El Fuego playwrights.

"There has never been a greater need to have a diversity of Latinx voices heard in our society," said Lisa Portes, Head of MFA Directing at The Theatre School at DePaul University and LTC Steering Committee Member. "El Fuego is leading the charge to bring different voices to the stage-which not only diversifies the theater audience's experience but also broadens the audience's perception of the Latinx experience today."

El Fuego kicked off in Fall 2016 with two productions; "Parachute Men" by Mando Alvarado at Teatro Vista (Chicago IL) and "Woman on Fire" by Marisela Treviño Orta presented by Camino Real Productions (Albuquerque, NM). In 2017, El Fuego showcased showcased four productions; "El Payaso" by Emilio Rodriguez at Milagro Theatre (Portland, OR), "Sweep" by Georgina Escobar at Aurora Theater (Lawrenceville, GA), "Más" by Milta Ortiz at Su Teatro (Denver, CO) and "The Sweetheart Deal" by Diane Rodriguez at Latino Theater Company in association with El Teatro Campesino (Los Angeles, CA). To date, El Fuego has supported four World Premieres with more expected during the initiative that runs through 2020.

For the upcoming 2017-2018 season, GALA Hispanic Theater in Washington D.C. is presenting Magdalena Gómez's bilingual musical "Dancing in my Cockroach Killers" June 7 to July 1, 2018. Gómez is a cultural organizer, playwright, performance poet, and author of "Shameless Woman". In October 2017, her performance poem America, You are a Disappointing Lover will be performed at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music by the sixteen-piece Eco-Music Big Band with actor Marina Celander and under the direction of Marie Incontrera. Magdalena is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Teatro V!da.

In 2018-2019, the final season supported by El Fuego, the LTC will support productions by Carnaval playwrights at theaters across the country including Borderlands Theater (Tucson, AZ), Cara Mía Theatre Co. (Dallas, TX), Duende CalArts (Valencia, CA), El Teatro Campesino (San Juan Bautista, CA), the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center & San Antonio Latino Theatre Alliance (San Antonio, TX), INTAR Theatre (New York, NY), Latino Producers Action Network-LPAN (San Diego, CA/Los Angeles, CA), Teatro Luna (Chicago, IL/Los Angeles, CA), Teatro Prometeo (Miami, FL) and Teatro Vivo (Austin, TX).

In alignment with the LTC's mission to champion equity through scholarship, El Fuego initiative has paired all of these productions with scholars of Latinx theater and performance to further document and raise awareness of these productions. Scholarly articles in academic journals are forthcoming and several have been published already in the IGNITED series on Café Onda, the online journal of the LTC.

"El Fuego has been an important catalyst for the Latinx Theatre Commons to support theaters across the country which have been producing Latinx works for years," said Dr. P. Carl, Director of HowlRound Theatre Commons, which serves as the fiscal and philosophical sponsor of the LTC. "It has been extremely gratifying to recognize and support theaters which have been presenting Latinx playwrights. El Fuego has allowed us to forge relationships to bring new voices to the stage."

Carnaval 2015 featured playwrights are:

Mando Alvarado (Los Angeles, CA)

Migdalia Cruz (New York, NY)

Georgina Escobar (New York, NY)

Amparo Garcia-Crow (Austin TX)

Magdalena Gomez (Springfield, MA)

Virginia Grise (New York, NY)

Matthew Paul Olmos (New York, NY)

Milta Ortiz (Tucson, AZ)

Diane Rodriguez (Los Angeles, CA)

Emilio Rodriguez (Detroit, MI)

Octavio Solis (Medford, OR)

Marisela Treviño Orta (Iowa City, IA)

The Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) operates as a collaborative initiative with HowlRound Theatre Commons, housed at Emerson College. HowlRound, through Emerson College, acts as fiscal sponsor for the LTC, and provides infrastructure and mentorship to support our growth. The LTC is a national movement that uses a commons-based approach to transform the narrative of the American theater, to amplify the visibility of Latina/o/x performance making, and to champion equity through advocacy, art making, convening, and scholarship.

In May 2012, HowlRound hosted eight Latinx theatre practitioners at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. to discuss the state of the not-for-profit theatre field for Latina/o theatermakers. Called together by playwright Karen Zacarías, this group of artists set about making a change, and their conversations sparked the inception of the LTC. In 2013, they partnered with Latinx theatre communities from around the US to create a steering committee and produced the first large scale gathering of Latinx theatre practitioners since 1986, the LTC National Convening, hosted by HowlRound, October 31-November 3, 2013. In Fall 2014, the LTC hosted the 2014 LTC National Convening at the 2014 Encuentro: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival. Since then, the LTC has produced the 2015 Carnaval of New Latina/o Work association with Teatro Vista and the Chicago Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists (ALTA), hosted by at The Theatre School at DePaul University, where El Fuego was born. They also produced three regional convenings: the 2015 Texas Regional Convening in Dallas, TX, the 2016 Pacific Northwest Regional Convening in Seattle, WA, and the 2016 New York Regional Convening in New York City, NY. The LTC is now gearing up for their first international gathering with the 2017 LTC International Convening at the 2017 Encuentro de las Américas International Theatre Festival in Los Angeles, CA. Find out more at their website or their online journal, Café Onda.

HowlRound, located in the Office of the Arts at Emerson College, designs and develops online communication platforms and in-person gatherings that promote access, participation, organizational collaboration, field-wide research, and new teaching practices to illuminate the breadth, diversity, and impact of a commons-based approach to theatre practice. Over 40,000 people visit HowlRound per month. For more information, visit

Pictured: "El Payaso" by Emilio Rodriguez at Milagro Theatre (Portland, OR). L to R - Emile Dultra, Marlon Jiménez Oviedo, Ajai Terrazas Tripathi, Danielle Pecoff - photo by Russell J. Young.

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