San Antonio’s TeatroFEST is a city-wide celebration honoring the Latino voice in American theater. Founded by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in 2005, the festival has grown into a six-week theater joyride that unveils the talented and diverse Latino theatrical community.
The FEST commences on May 26 with Anna in the Tropics, which portrays the Cuban-American experience through the lives of workers in a Florida cigar factory, circa 1929. Nilo Cruz’s 2003 Pulitzer-Prize-winner for Drama is a passionate tale of romance, jealousy, and longing, and deserves to be on your “must-see” list (although it just missed my top three). Cruz’s play opens at a cockfight. Throughout the play, cigars are manually rolled and scented clouds of smoke fill the stage. A handsome lector is hired to read to the factory workers, and he soon becomes a catalyst in the lives of his avid listeners. Emotions and sensuality spark interactions between characters and, with this tension, an (over)abundance of foreshadowing occurs.
Anna in the Tropics
Kaotic Good Productions in self (the remixx)
Border Stories Open Pitch Performances
Pain of the Macho
For a complete schedule: Guadalupeculturalarts.org
“Anna in the Tropics is intimate,” says Anna director Marisela Barrera, who also directs theater arts at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. The play is being staged in the smaller Cellar Theatre at the San Pedro Playhouse, which is how Barrera likes it. Accustomed to performing on street corners, in garages, and tiny black-box theaters, Barrera finds comfort in the cellar space. She is particularity excited about the Guadalupe’s involvement with TeatroFEST. June 21-24, the Guad will host the Open Pitch Performances, which brings theatrical talent to San Antonio from Albuquerque, Miami Beach, and Fort Worth.
The Guadalupe will also host Borderplex Electronica in Border Stories. “Borderplex Electronica is a group of independent artists coming from New York City, Chicago, L.A., and Austin, but `they’re all` originally from the Rio Grande Valley. It’s a group of professionals with their feet grounded in South Texas,” says Barrera.
Empanada, at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center June 9-17, challenges homophobia with a multi-media presentation, using video, live music, and story-telling by Anel I. Flores to expose homophobic prejudices encountered in common places, like the kitchen.
ReMixx, by Kaotic Good Productions at Jump-Start Performance Co., is written and performed by Robert Karimi. He tells an autobiographical tale of an Iranian-Guatemalan’s exploration of the American Dream. The dream nearly crumbles as he discovers a false barrier between him and society. There is buzz around Karimi’s performance in ReMixx. “He is the personification of the global identity,” says Barrera.
Pain of the Macho, written by Rick Najera, is a whimsical satire about the Latino man. Through humor and hope, Najera captures the many faces of the “macho.” Najera is known as a writer on MAD TV and In Living Color, as well as for writing and directing CBS’s First Annual Multicultural Sketch Comedy Showcase. He is also nationally recognized as the award-winning writer, director, and producer of LATINOLOGUES. Najera’s writing is wise, honest, and humorous. He shows his true colors in Pain of the Macho.
TeatroFEST has brought together various arts organizations for a common cause — the Latino voice. Barrera says she is amazed with the efforts of all the organizations. “We’re coming together, joining forces, locking arms, to raise the profile for theater in the city. Somehow we saw the common threads in our works. Theater is still vital in our community. Even within the Latino community, the voices are so diverse.”
As for me, the top three must-see productions are Karimi’s Remixx, Pain of the Macho, Border Stories.