Teatro Audaz, which translates to bold or audacious theater, has been carving a niche for Latinx narratives (gender-neutral phrasing intentional) for about a year now, with a focus on Texas playwrights. In anticipation of the company’s second season (which kicks off July 22 — not in a theater but at The Bang Bang Bar), we caught up with Teatro Audaz board chair and actor Maximo Anguiano and literary director Paula Rodriguez to chat about the company’s initial spark and goals for the future.
“There had been several of us working in these spaces sort of separately, but [we] knew of each other,” Anguiano explains.
“I met Maximo at a reading from another playwright. I saw him through Facebook, speeches he had given,” Rodriguez recalls.
Following a casual Facebook exchange two years ago between founding members Laura Garza and Alison Vasquez, the pair sat down a year later to get things moving. They then approached Rodriguez about signing on as a co-founder.
“Prior to this, there really hasn’t been a recent organization to do this. In San Antonio that’s kind of hard to believe,” Anguiano says. He says that while there are Latinx people writing, performing and working: “We don’t have anything formal, like a collective with a season, with a cast and crew — a consistent group of folks.”
So in 2016, Rodriguez, Garza and Vasquez began looking for people who shared their vision. “We started small, with readings first, leading up to actual productions. Now we have an entire season and are in collaboration with The Playhouse San Antonio,” Rodriguez says.
Given San Antonio’s large Hispanic population, Anguiano finds it surprising “for us not to have that be reflected on stage in all aspects. We needed to be represented there, to have our stories being told.” He finds the Latinx community too complex to not explore artistically. What makes San Antonio the prime setting for Teatro Audaz is that the company was created specifically for this city. Anguiano recounts a memorable moment during one of their auditions: “To hear a collection of stories in a two- or three-hour setting of really complex identities … When you talk about being queer, Chicano, or being an immigrant mother, this is some deep stuff. We think if we can help get these stories out there to the broader audiences, that’s what this society is missing right now. We can get these stories out, theater has the possibility to do that.”
On what makes theater a uniquely effective avenue to share these narratives, Rodriguez explains, “It’s live action — it’s one ephemeral moment that occurs. It’s immediate.”
It’s also an avenue that they have experience in and want to continue exploring. “With teaching and directing, I thought, now’s the time for me to start auditioning and start doing things,” Rodriguez says. “And what better place than this theater company?”
Teatro Audaz seems poised to fulfill a need in the community for a space where Latinx voices are represented. Referencing the many actors who often feel left out of mainstream theaters, Rodriguez says, “They look at the season of shows in a theater and they go, ‘There’s no part there for me. How am I gonna fit into this season?’”
Fortunately, Teatro Audaz has already had a lot of luck finding writers — both from outreach and writers reaching out to them. The company’s first production of the upcoming season was penned by a local playwright who went to school with Garza, who’d asked him to submit some work to be considered.
They’ve also had their share of challenges, though. “Funding is always an issue,” Anguiano says. “[And] we don’t necessarily have a [physical] theater right now, but we’re working on it.”
In the meantime, they’re working with The Playhouse for productions in 2018, a new blackbox theater space on the San Antonio College campus, and even planning a holiday show at the San Antonio Mennonite Church.
So … why The Bang Bang Bar for the season opener? To put it simply, “they share the same vision that we have,” Rodriguez says. “If you know the place and know the owners, they’re the same way we are.”
Enter Dos Chicanos Un Camino, written by Gabriel Itzcoatl Luera.
“It deals with so many different topics,” Rodriguez says. “Like, what does it mean to be a Latino? It deals with prejudice in your own community; it deals with stereotypes.”
It’s a comic play that starts off with a DJ radio show — a love-line type scenario where every caller seems to have similar stories of cheating or behaving badly in a relationship. “And that’s kind of like a stereotype of the community. But there’s also a lot of love there,” Rodriguez says. It also tackles the subject of not feeling Latinx enough for not speaking Spanish. Set right here in San Antonio, the play makes a number of local cultural references, including mentions of Brackenridge Park, the Spurs, Girl in a Coma and people being called “Northsiders.”
Although the play is billed as being 10 percent in Spanish, Rodriguez notes that the “Spanish is probably more Spanglish.”
“We’re only in our second year [and] we’re oftentimes paddling up the stream … but we have all the makings to make this be really something,” Anguiano says.
“Our theme this year is persistence,” Rodriguez says. “We keep on going.”