The 50 Playwrights Project’s second annual list of Latinx Plays for College Theatres fills the gap in accessible resources tailored specifically to the unique demands of college theatre programs. Curated by a selection committee of college professors and theatre professionals, the list features plays chosen with the following criteria in mind:
- Plays must be written by a Latinx playwright.
- Plays must be contemporary works.
- Plays must have a minimum cast size of 5.
In addition, the selection committee chose plays that feature an age range suited for college students. The committee also considered gender parity in terms of the playwrights as well as roles for actors. The committee took roles for women into large consideration given the trend of having more women than men to cast in college programs. Not coincidentally, these plays facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and are ideally suited for course syllabi.
50PP’s Latinx Plays for College Theatres List is a tool for directors and professors who are committed to updating the narrative of the American Theatre to include more Latinx voices. Latinx stories are systematically underrepresented on college stages in the U.S. despite the robust artistic production by Latinx writers. The 50 Playwrights Project encourages theatre-makers to seek out the plays on our list and commit to equity, diversity, and inclusion in their college theatre programs.
*Selection Committee: Michelle Lopez-Rios and Patricia Ybarra (Bios below)
Latinx Plays for College Theatres 2018
Bird in the Hand by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas
A man who runs a theme park in Miami dedicated to tropical birds takes us on a tour of his final year in high school. He explains how he came to inherit the park from his father and lose his best friend in the process. The narrator feels caged and out of place, much like the imported birds he cares for. He considers choices he might have made and daydreams about how his life might have turned out differently. A wry comedy full of striking images, the play was awarded the coveted designation of Critics’ Pick by The New York Times.
Cast: 2W 2M 2-3N
To read Bird in the Hand, visit Dramatic Publishing.
How to Defend Yourself by Lily Padilla
Seven college students gather for a DIY self-defense workshop after a sorority sister is raped. They learn to use their bodies as weapons. They learn to fend off attackers. They learn “not to be a victim.” Learning self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, anxiety, confusion, trauma and desire – lots of desire. How to Defend Yourself explores what you want, how to ask for it, and the insidious ways rape culture steals one’s body and sense of belonging.
Cast: 5W 2M
To read How to Defend Yourself, visit the New Plax Exchange.
Johanna: Facing Forward by Tlaloc Rivas
Johanna: Facing Forward explores the topic of domestic violence, community response, and personal resilience through the story of Johanna Orozco. At age 18 Johanna survives a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend. Recovering with the help of her extended family, a committed medical team, and a new friend in journalist Rachel Dissell, Johanna ultimately must choose to face her attacker in order to move forward in her life. After her assailant is sentenced, Johanna’s advocacy helps close loopholes in her state’s laws to protect and support other young people facing intimate-partner violence. Johanna: Facing Forward was inspired by the investigative journalism of Rachel Dissell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the personal writings of Johanna Orozco (now Orozco-Fraser). All three individuals endorsed the creation of this play, supported its development, and attended its world premiere at the Cleveland Public Theatre in 2015.
Cast: 4W 3M
To read Johanna: Facing Forward, visit the New Play Exchange.
Just Like Us by Karen Zacarías
Based on Helen Thorpe’s bestselling book, this documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver—two of whom are documented and two who are not—through young adulthood. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’s future becomes increasingly complicated. Just Like Us poses difficult, yet essential questions about what makes us American.
Cast: 9W 6M, or 7W 2M
To read Just Like Us, visit Karen Zacarías’ personal website.
Learn to be Latina by Enrique Urueta
Hanán is a beautiful and promising pop star, but her Lebanese heritage is a stumbling block. Rather than scrap her career, the record label decides to exploit her slightly Latina looks and package her as the next J.Lo. Anxious for stardom, Hanán surrenders to Latina Boot Camp. Be prepared to see every sacred cow slaughtered in this outrageous satire about fame, ethnicity and pop culture.
Cast: 4W 2M
To read Learn to be Latina, email Enrique Urueta.
Our Dear Dead Drug Lord by Alexis Scheer
Our Dear Dead Drug Lord follows a gang of girls who do normal teenage things: fall in love, experiment with drugs, worship Pablo Escobar…okay, maybe not so normal. Suspended high above reality in a treehouse in Florida, the girls try to resurrect the spirit of Pablo. But are they just messing with each other, or could they actually be messing with a higher spirit?
Cast: 4W 1M
To read Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, visit the New Play Exchange.
*To honor the legacy of the late María Irene Fornés, the selection committee would like to recommend an additional play for college theatres to produce.
Sarita by María Irene Fornés
When young Sarita sees her crush, Julio, flirting with other women, she vows to do the same with men, and at fourteen she becomes pregnant. She does not know by whom. After giving birth, she runs away and belatedly becomes Julio’s lover, but his inconstancy wears on her. Even when she finally leaves him and marries a new man, Mark, she cannot give up Julio, who continues to torment her and eventually drives her into a murderous rage, the cost of which will be her sanity and freedom.
Cast: 3W 4M
To read Sarita, visit Broadway Play Publishing.
Michelle Lopez-Rios is a director, voice coach, actor and theatre activist. Directing credits include Chapatti (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre); The Mole Hill Stories (First Stage); Precious Lives: The Live Show (371 Productions); Enfrascada (Renaissance Theaterworks); One Hot Texican Summer (Or The Summer I Found Out I Was Mexican) (Royal Mexican Players); Decaffeinated Tragedy (Bad Soviet Habits); Bienvenidos A Milwaukee (UCC); Trip Through The Mind Of A Crazy Mexican (Royal Mexican Players) and many university productions. Co-founder of the Royal Mexican Players, she and playwright Alvaro Saar Rios have taught workshops and created original works all over the country for more than a decade. She is an Associate Professor of Voice & Speech at The Theatre School at DePaul University where she will direct Jane Of The Jungle later this season.
Patricia Ybarra is associate professor and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. She is the author of Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism (Northwestern, 2018), Performing Conquest: Five Centuries of Theatre, History and Identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico (Michigan, 2009), and co-editor with Lara Nielsen of Neoliberalism and Global Theatres: Performance Permutations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; paperback 2015). She has served as president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).