As 2016 draws to a close, downtown’s Latino Theater Company can look back at a solid season of accomplishments. It also looks forward, with two special shows for the holiday season. More, they now eagerly accept applications of an upcoming festival — Encuentro de las Americas! (English: Meeting of the Americas)
Founded in 1985 by current artistic director José Luis Valenzuela and Geoffrey Rivas (best known as Detective Vega on television’s CSI), this company has now enjoyed three names. As Latino Theater Lab, it commissioned many new works and saw until LATC (Los Angeles Theater Center) closed in 1991. Moving the Mark Taper Forum, their accomplishments include Latino Theatre Initiative, following a pattern of encouraging local performers and works. Then, ten years ago, a renamed Latino Theater Company took over the new LATC on South Spring Street. With a grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, they renovated the building to create a multicultural theater arts center in Los Angeles’ very heart. With a twenty year lease in hand, LTC formed the “Cultural Roundtable” with Playwright’s Arena, Culture Clash, Robey Theatre Company, American Indian Dance Theatre, Cedar Grove Onstage as well as UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. Together their goal has been creation of theater which represents and express this city’s cultural landscape.
Valenzuela even says as much, via LTC’s website. “This city,” he says “will define theater for the 21st century because of its diversity, To me, culture is not static. It changes every day — we make a decision, and it becomes part of culture.”
Among LTC’s most recent successes proved Juarez: A Documentary Mythology, which closed last month (to go perform elsewhere in the nation). Before that they produced a cycle of three plays (titled Faith, Hope and Charity) following a single Mexican-American family, written and featuring company member Evelina Fernandez, directed by Valenzuela. A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story won accolades, revisiting history from the Great Depression to JFK’s assassination and the invasion of Iraq. This last is one of many revivals, a play cycle initially presented back in 2011-13.
Currently, The Latina Christmas Special plays through December 18—Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm with Sunday matinees at 3pm (dark November 24 and December 8, with an extra show on Monday, December 12 at 8pm). Directed by Rivas, this show simply chronicles a Christmas Eve spent by three friends, mostly composed of three sets of stories about Christmases in their past. By turns hilarious and heartwarming, this production marks a return to LATC by popular demand after a hugely successful run in 2015.
Returning cast members consist of Maria Russell, Diana Yanez, and Sandra Valls.
In 2014, LTC mounted Encuentro 2014 (or the 2014 Encuentro: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival) in October and November of that year. Fifteen different companies from all over the United States performed in rotating repertory. As part of Encuentro, companies got together to share ideas, practices, and various techniques. It all came together in a public performance of a brand new work—co-created by multiple represented companies!
Now plans are underway for Encuentro 2017!
Latin American companies from across the Americas (including Canada, the United States, territories of the USA, Latin America, and the Caribbean) are encouraged to apply. They will be in residence in here Los Angeles for three weeks.
Officially, Encuentro 2017 aims to highlight and celebrate certain values, including Cross-Cultural Collaboration, Exchange of Methodologies, Openness to Risk, and Inclusive Dialogue. Applicants face evaluation based upon Relevant Content, Artistic Boldness, Values Alignment with the Goals for Encuentro 2017, Geographic Representation, and Diversity of both Aesthetics and Methodology.
LTC has an open and transparent application process-anyone may apply. All applications are to be evaluated by a committee consisting of the Latino Theater Company as well as Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee members from all over the United States. Applications are due December 1, 2016 at 5pm Eastern Standard Time (EST). Specific questions about the process as well as Encuentro 2017 in general may be sent to Latino Theater Company Program Director, Selene Santiago at email@example.com.
Meanwhile for the Christmas season LTC remounts its free La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St. Now in its fourteenth year, this production stars renowned opera singer Suzanna Guzman as the Virgin, while including over one hundred actors (including many members of LTC), singers and dancers. Telling of Juan Diego, a simple peasant to whom the Virgin Mary appeared on four occasions in the mountains of Tepeyac near Mexico City in 1531, the show features original music composed and performed by Alfredo Lopez Mondragon. It is adapted for the stage from the mid-16th century text The Nican Mopohua by company member Fernandez, and performed in Spanish with English subtitles. Both 7:30pm performances, December 1 and 2, will be free but people begin arriving as soon as 4pm!