The Austin Chronicle

Latino New Play Festival

Stories you haven't heard

By Robert Faires, April 6, 2012, Arts

In one sense, new plays are old news in Austin. Local theatre companies have been spotlighting work by hometown playwrights for more than 30 years, and for half that time, new plays have constituted more than a quarter of the work produced on area stages every year. However, when you consider that only a small fraction of those Austin originals have come from writers of color and that Teatro Vivo – one of a handful of companies that consistently mount new works by Latino writers – only launched its festival devoted to such writers last year and that that inaugural festival attracted standing-room-only crowds to its staged readings of three plays, well, it's clear that new plays are still making news here.

This weekend, Teatro Vivo follows up on that initial success with another trio of dramas fresh from the keyboards of Latino playwrights. For the second round, Artistic Director Rupert Reyes sought scripts from beyond the state's borders as well as inside them and made room specifically for younger voices. As a result, this festival includes work by a University of Texas student, Arthur Marroquin, and a nationally prominent writer known to local audiences: Caridad Svich, who's had three plays staged by Salvage Vanguard Theater. The third slot is filled by another familiar name: Raul Garza, author of Fantasmaville, which was produced by Teatro Vivo, and Dos Pocitos, which was read in the first Latino New Play Festival before its full production last summer. All three focus on women in working-class families in small towns, and themes of motherhood, class struggle, and faith overlap in the works. But don't expect the same tale thrice told. These playwrights possess distinctive voices and will surely spin quite different dramas from those common elements.

What you can expect is more room for hearing the plays. After last year's overflow houses, Reyes has shifted the readings from the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center's 80-seat black box theatre to the 150-seat mainstage space. However, since all the readings are free, it might not hurt to go ahead and reserve yourself a seat at All readings are at 8pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River. At right is a brief description of the plays.

Rosalia by Arthur Marroquin Thursday, April 5

Weslaco native Marroquin, who's currently studying acting in the UT Department of Theatre & Dance, based this drama about a young woman from Jalisco, Mexico, on his mother. Growing up poor, the Rosalia of the title dreams of a better life for herself and her family. But how will marrying a man from the U.S. affect those dreams and the direction of her life? Rupert Reyes directs.

Cura by Raul Garza Friday, April 6

After cutting his teeth on sketches with the Latino Comedy Project, Garza hit big with his first play, Fantasmaville, which won the 2007 National Latino Playwriting Award. His Dos Pocitos imagined a future South Texas as a lawless no-man's-land. In Cura, he returns to the border but this time to look at one small-town woman's faith, which is being tested by a young man who may be the curandero of legend, el Niño Fidencio. Estevan "Chuy" Zarate directs.

Guapa by Caridad Svich Saturday, April 7 Where do you go after spending four generations in Chile, tracking one family through personal and social turmoil? How about a working-class home in a small Texas town where a woman named Beautiful dreams of playing soccer? Svich follows her adaptation of Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits (which earned her the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize) with the tale of a single mom whose household becomes home to Guapa – Beautiful – and turns into a place where dreams must contend with realities. Natalie Goodnow directs.

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