Since moving to Houston, Texas, in 2012, I’ve been amazed at the abundance of theatre happening throughout the city. Houston is home to over forty theatre companies of varying levels, budgets, aesthetics, and missions. While local pillars such as the Alley Theatre and Main Street Theater consistently stage work in conversation with mainstream theatre nationally, smaller companies pop up year in and year out filling the gaps and helping create a well-rounded theatre scene in the country’s fourth-biggest city. And while Houston features several theatre companies dedicated to African-American theatre (Ensemble Theatre Company, Encore Theatre, Fade to Black), a Spanish-language theatre company (Gente de Teatro), and even a promising young company focused on serving the South Asian community (Shunya Theatre), Houston does not have a company or a space specifically dedicated to producing U.S. Latinx theatre.
Seeing the need to address this issue, Stages Repertory Theatre is producing its inaugural Sin Muros: A Latina/o Theatre Festival February 1-4, 2018. The four-day festival aims to bring together local Latinx audiences and theatre-makers to begin a conversation about where Latinx theatre fits within the Houston theatre ecosystem. The festival has a strong focus on Texas Latinx voices, both ones that have remained in the Lone Star State and ones who have left but still retain local ties.
Allow me to give you a little background on how Sin Muros was born and, specifically, my involvement as associate producer of the festival. In the past few years, I have written about the lack of Latino stories on Houston stages. You can read about this issue here, here, and here. After I published my essay, “Houston, We Have a Problem!: Excluding Latina/o Stories in Tejas,” on Café Onda/HowlRound, I became connected to Stages’ Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin and Marketing and Sales Director Mandi Hunsicker-Cooper contacted me to serve on their newfound Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force. During our initial meeting, we had a rich conversation about the lack of Latinx representation on- and off-stage as well as in the audience in Houston theatre.
Fast forward a few months and McLaughlin had a lightbulb moment: Stages would double down on its commitment to Latinx theatre by producing an annual theatre festival dedicated to Latinx voices in Texas. From this point, McLaughlin assembled a team: Philip Boehm, Bernardo Cubría, Josh Inocéncio, Jasminne Mendez, Laura Moreno, Valentina Olarte, Ana Scuseria, Claudia Soroka, and myself in addition to Stages’ staff. We collectively worked together to build a festival that could feasibly become a recurring commitment Latinx audiences and theatre artists. From the beginning, McLaughlin made it clear: this could not be a one-time thing. Stages needed to show a real, genuine commitment to Houston’s Latinx population.
The result of our work is the inaugural Sin Muros: A Latina/o Theatre Festival. In addition to the world premiere of Houston-native Josh Inocéncio’s solo play, Purple Eyes, Sin Muros will feature three free workshop staged readings: Songs for the Disappeared by Tanya Saracho (directed by Mariana Carreño King), Neighbors: A Fair Trade Agreement by Bernardo Cubría (directed by Jerry Ruiz), and Living Sculpture by Mando Alvarado (directed by Abigail Vega). Notably, all four playwrights call Texas home in some fashion. Stages’ full production of Alma en Venta by Philip Boehm runs throughout the festival weekend until February 11. In addition to theatre offerings, the festival will feature a poetry tent with Texas Latinx poets performing in between the play readings, a conversation on the history of casting with scholar Brian Eugenio Herrera, and a playwriting workshop with Nancy García Loza. For the complete festival schedule and to reserve tickets, visit Stages’ website.
While it is too soon to gauge the lasting effects of Sin Muros, one thing is certain: the need for Latinx theatre spaces in Houston is as urgent now as it ever has been. Sin Muros is here to address this issue, continue the conversation about Latinx art-making in Texas, and better serve the local Houston community. On behalf of the Sin Muros committee, we hope to see you in Houston!
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.