Interview: Cesar Jaquez of SIN MUROS LATIN X FESTIVAL at STAGES HOUSTON

A festival celebrating plays, arts, and dancing in Latin style!

By: May. 14, 2024
Interview: Cesar Jaquez of SIN MUROS LATIN X FESTIVAL at STAGES HOUSTON
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SIN MUROS is A LATINX THEATER FESTIVAL that Stages has been hosting for seven years now. It includes many different activities and is coming up from Thursday, May 23rd, until Sunday, May 26th. Broadway World writer Brett Cullum got a chance to sit down and talk with Cesar Jaquez, who runs the festival with a committee behind him. 


Brett Cullum: Tell me what the SIN MUROS festival actually is. Just if I'm coming in, and I don't know, what is it?

Cesar Jaquez: This year marks our seventh year, and SIN MUROS originally was just to have play readings from local and Texan playwrights. But then, now it's emerged into a big festival where we have performances by the LatinX community. We have an art market. And we have a salsa congress on Sunday. This is all in between the play readings. It's just become a big LatinX festival that we are curating, making it a better yearly experience.

Brett Cullum: What is a Salsa Congress?

Cesar Jaquez: So the Salsa Congress is led by one of our committee members, and after the show on Sunday or the play reading, everybody comes out into the lobby, and they teach us how to salsa. They pair you up with people you've never met before and teach you how to salsa. And then, in the end, we all dance together, and it's a great community-building moment. It's nerve-wracking at first. When I first did it the first year, I was like, I don't wanna dance in front of everybody, but it's such a lovely way to end everything. It's so joyful. And we just love ending the festival like that. We've done it for about three years now. So it's been really cool.

Brett Cullum: And you guys only run three days and nights, right? It's May 23rd to the 26th. 

Cesar Jaquez: Yes, three nights. So it's a short festival, but it takes months and months ahead of time to prepare. So it's wild to see how fast it goes. 

We believe this festival is truly for the playwrights and the artists so that they can grow, improve their work, and work on their craft. 

Brett Cullum: Okay, and how do you get the people for the readings? 

Cesar Jaquez: We put out an audition notice. So we, the committee, come up with directors. We choose the plays first, then the directors, and once we have the directors in place, we send out a casting call to all of Houston and get local artists. We get a lot of artists from Texas and all over around the area. But we usually try to focus on Houston-based artists.

 

We put them all in a spreadsheet. So this year, we have 88 actors, and we tell the directors, okay, go like you get two choices. If you can't get your first choice, you'll most likely get your second, or you may have to share with another play reading. So all the directors go. And on that Google Drive. And they watch all the auditions, and they pick, and then we do our best to ensure they get their first choice, or as close as to get those two. And then we usually use all artists that audition we usually try to find them. We either use them as understudies or ask them, “Hey, we didn't need you as an actor this year, but we would love for you to come in. So, would you like to be a production assistant? Would you want to be a stage manager?” We try to allow anybody who wants to participate in this festival.

Brett Cullum: What is the schedule like? Is there anywhere I can go to see that?

Cesar Jaquez: Yeah, so you can go online. And you can see the schedule. It's all there. It tells you what's happening, at what time, what meetings are happening, and what time when the performances happen.

https://stageshouston.com/sin-muros-a-latinx-theater-festival/

On the opening night, we invite the community to celebrate with us. So, we have an opening night for the community. We have food and drinks for them. 

Brett Cullum: Are the plays in Spanish? Or are some of them in English, maybe a mix of English and Spanish? 

Cesar Jaquez: Yeah, so most of our plays are bilingual. And so we have a play this year with a little Portuguese in it because we believe in that. To truly tell a Latinx story or to have the diaspora of a Latina actor. We have to not focus only on Spanish speaking in a singular place. So we look at plays that have different languages, like Portuguese, for example.

We just have a good time. So we just truly believe that the work resonates with you, and the art resonates with you, and you'll understand.

SIN MUROS came to Stages by a local artist who lives in Los Angeles now, but he was from Houston. I love the festival so much. I love the community and the way that it built a community.

There've been many reoccurring people, you know, they've been coming for years. Many patrons say, “I've been coming since the first SIN MUROS, and I love this festival so much.” So they start bringing people. It's been a slow build-up. But we're seeing it slowly but surely. And I'm excited to see where it will be in the next few years. I'm hoping it gets bigger and bigger every year, and it is getting bigger and bigger, and we're adding more things. 

Brett Cullum: You know I didn't even ask this, “SIN MUROS,” what does it mean?

Cesar Jaquez: It means “without walls,” which is a perfect way to describe us.  

Making sure that there are no boundaries. You know that people don't have anything blocking their way to the art, and that's how I like to see it like there are no obstacles that you have to go to come and see this festival we make. We intentionally made the tickets $5 cause we wanted to. We want everybody to be able to see this like, what's the point of having this festival if we make it super crazy expensive, and nobody and nobody can buy tickets to it? 

We just wanna make sure that people can come. So we try to make sure we're not gonna create any obstacles for you to come and see us. You can pay $10 for a festival pass. You'll get a lanyard that says all access, and for $10, you can see every show for the entire weekend. Come back as often as you want, and then if you just want to see one reading, it's a $5 ticket.




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