Latino theatre in the United States

Latino theatre presents a wide range of aesthetic approaches, dramatic structures, and themes, ranging from love, romance, immigration, border politics, nation building, incarceration, and social justice.[1] Whether of a linguistic, ethnic, political, cultural or sexual nature, the plays often have a social justice component involving Latino/a people living in the United States.[2] The Oxcart by René Marqués,[3] Marisol by José Rivera (playwright),[4] and In the Heights[5] by Lin-Manuel Miranda are examples of staged Broadway plays. There is also a strong tradition of Latino avant-garde and absurdist theatre,[6] which double as political satires; prime examples include The Masses are Asses by Pedro Pietri[7] and United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi.[8][9]

Spanish language theater companies and in Latinx theater festivals in the United States present Spanish, Spanglish, English language plays in major American cities, including New York, Chicago, Tucson, Seattle, Denver.[6]

Assimilation in Latino/Hispanic TheatreEdit

In the early 20th century, adaptation, and assimilation of Latino immigrants to the United States, and the use of their own version of their language in America, began to translate into the written work of Latino theatre. One of the first mainstream plays that was written about the Latino culture and immigration experience in the United States was The Oxcart by René Marqués.[10] The Oxcart dramatizes the conflicts between Puerto Rican belonging and displacement on the mainland.[11] 21st century Puerto Rican and Nuyorican dramatic works address not only American culture but the actual formation of the United States government.[12] Examples are the Broadway musical Hamilton (musical) by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which tells the story of the American revolution in 1776,[13] and the experimental work United States of Banana[14] by Giannina Braschi who dramatizes the collapse of the American empire on September 11, 2001.[15][16]

The theatre historian Jorge Huerta writes " cannot analyze or write about Latina/o theater without also sounding like a sociologist, a political scientist, an ethnographer, etc., because these are all vital discourses in the understanding of our cultures as Latinas and Latinos." He distinguishes the theaters of the three major Latina/o groups – the Chicanas/os, Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans – in terms of the history of relations of the three groups with the United States, emphasizing the similarities and differences in their experiences.[17]

Among the Chicano playwrights of note is Luis Alfaro wrote play Oedipus El Rey at The Public Theater reset Oedipus Rex in South Central LA with a Latino Oedipus. Alfaro also adapted Sophocles’ Elektra, which he transformed into Electricidad, a story about a SoCal drug lord. EuripidesMedea became Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.[18]

Born of a Jewish father and Puerto Rican mother, Quiara Alegría Hudes has written many plays, including The Good Peaches and The Happiest Song Plays Last. Among her most successful works are the book for the musical In the Heights and Water by the Spoonful (for which she won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama). Her play Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[19]

Other Latino theater artists include Evelina Fernández, Dolores Prida, Ilan Stavans, María Irene Fornés, Cherríe Moraga, Caridad Svich, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Tanya Saracho, and Octavio Solis. Their works address histories of oppression, political and economic status, cultural nationalism, third world solidarity, multiculturalism—and their many discontents.[20]

Ethnic and Racial StereotypingEdit

Misrepresentation: Staged RacismEdit

Concerns over ethnic stereotyping and racism have recurred, in the misrepresentation of Latino people in works such as West Side Story,[21] which was written by non-Latino artists. There are also controversies about the assignment of Latino theater roles to non-Latino actors.[22]

Latino peoples and cultures have frequently been portrayed on stage as being violent, rivalrous, exotic, and not wanting to adapt.[23][24][25] Many consider the musical West Side Story an example of Puerto Rican stereotypes; much future racist discussion about Puerto Ricans and other Latinos stemmed from this musical.[26][27] The musical was written by non-Latinos: the book was by Arthur Laurents, the music was written by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics were written by Stephen Sondheim. Many believe that the underlying message is that Latino culture is dangerous and must be policed and controlled.[28][29]


Latinos have often found it difficult to be cast in roles that have not been specifically written to be played by a Latino. Many casting directors have begun to use the term "color blind" casting; however, this has caused controversy, as if a show is cast improperly with certain races in certain roles, it may be perceived by audiences as well as the theatre community as wrong or racist. Actors seek theater producer's statements that there will be no discrimination in the casting process.[30] Nevertheless, there have been films, TV shows, and plays that have been written for Latino actors, but played by non-Latino actors. An example of this is TheaterWorks' production of The Motherf**ker With the Hat.[31]

Notable playwrights and directorsEdit

Notable plays and musicalsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Encuentro : Latinx performance for the new American theater. Boffone, Trevor,, Marrero, María Teresa,, Rodriguez, Chantal,. Evanston, Illinois. ISBN 978-0-8101-4014-1. OCLC 1048940107.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Gonzalez, Madelena. Laplace-Claverie, Hélène. (2012). Minority theatre on the global stage : challenging paradigms from the margins. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 1-4438-3837-3. OCLC 823577630.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Gussow, Mel (1983-05-26). "Theater: 'The Oxcart,' by Puerto Rican Troupe". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  4. ^ a b Desk, BWW News. "BMCC Theatre Presents José Rivera's MARISOL". Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  5. ^ Hallemann, Caroline (2020-07-03). "Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'In the Heights Movie' Won't Premiere Until Summer 2021". Town & Country. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  6. ^ a b "AMERICAN THEATRE | Latino Theatre in the U.S." Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  7. ^ "Pedro Pietri & The Masses Are Asses (Pages 1-26) – Power Fuerza: Writing Through Literature". Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  8. ^ Poets, philosophers, lovers : on the writings of Giannina Braschi. Aldama, Frederick Luis, 1969-, O'Dwyer, Tess,. Pittsburgh, Pa. ISBN 978-0-8229-4618-2. OCLC 1143649021.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Minority theatre on the global stage : challenging paradigms from the margins. Gonzalez, Madelena., Laplace-Claverie, Hélène. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2012. ISBN 1-4438-3837-3. OCLC 823577630.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ Martin, Eleanor J. "René Marqués". Twayne Publishers Author Series. 516.
  11. ^ "The Oxcart | New Play Exchange". Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  12. ^ Rossini, Jon D. and Patricia Ybarra, Jon. "Neoliberalism, Historiography, Identity Politics: Toward a New Historiography of Latino Theater". Radical History Review (2012) 2012 (112): 162–172.
  13. ^ Kelly, Catherine E. (2017-05-24). "Introduction: Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical and the Early American Republic". Journal of the Early Republic. 37 (2): 251–253. doi:10.1353/jer.2017.0020. ISSN 1553-0620.
  14. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (September 11, 2017). "13 Theatre Works That Responded to 911".
  15. ^ Cruz-Malavé, Arnaldo Manuel (2014). ""Under the Skirt of Liberty": Giannina Braschi Rewrites Empire". American Quarterly. 66 (3): 801–818. ISSN 0003-0678.
  16. ^ Fagan, Allison (2019-09-01). "Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism. Patricia A. YbarraPermissible Narratives: The Promise of Latino/a Literature. Christopher González". MELUS. 44 (3): 197–201. doi:10.1093/melus/mlz028. ISSN 0163-755X.
  17. ^ Huerta, Jorge A. "From the margins to the mainstream: Latino/a theater in the U.S." Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature 32.2 (2008): 463+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  18. ^ "7 Latino Playwrights Bringing Our Stories to the Stage". Remezcla. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  19. ^ a b c d "Quiara Alegría Hudes | Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies". Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  20. ^ Taylor, Diana, 1950-. The archive and the repertoire : performing cultural memory in the Americas. Durham. ISBN 0-8223-3136-5. OCLC 52001768.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Schorske, Carina del Valle (2020-02-24). "Opinion | Let 'West Side Story' and Its Stereotypes Die". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  22. ^ "13 Times White People Stole Latino Roles". LATINA. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  23. ^ Ramos-García, Luis (2002). The State of Latino Theater in the United States. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-8153-3880-2.
  24. ^ Sandoval-Sánchez, Alberto. (1999). José, can you see? : Latinos on and off Broadway. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-16200-1. OCLC 40251558.
  25. ^ López, Tiffany Ana (2000). "Violent Inscriptions: Writing the Body and Making Community in Four Plays by Migdalia Cruz". Theatre Journal. 52 (1): 51–66. ISSN 0192-2882.
  26. ^ "Racism In 1960's West Side Story, 1961 - 716 Words |". Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  27. ^ Katrinandrusick (2019-11-07). "Latino Experience as depicted through "West Side Story"". Music 345: Race, Identity, and Representation in American Music. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  28. ^ Shields, Meg. "Revisiting Police Presence in West Side Story".
  29. ^ "Steven Spielberg Met With Puerto Ricans About 'West Side Story' Concerns". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  30. ^ The state of Latino theater in the United States. Ramos-García, Luis. New York: Routledge. 2002. ISBN 0-8153-3880-5. OCLC 52203374.CS1 maint: others (link)
  31. ^ "TheaterWorks' 'The Motherf**ker With the Hat' Raises Casting Questions". 18 January 2012.
  32. ^ Weber, Bruce (2013-01-23). "Dolores Prida, Columnist and Playwright, Dies at 69". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  33. ^ Coleman, Nancy (2020-07-04). "Where You Can See the Stars of 'Hamilton' Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  34. ^ "La Pasión Según Antígona Pérez | TheaterMania". Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  35. ^ "The Oxcart | work by Marqués". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  36. ^ "Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical 'On Your Feet!' to Close | Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  37. ^ Gonzalez, Madelena. Minority Theatre on the Global Stage: Challenging Paradigms from the Margins. Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-4438-3798-9.
  38. ^ Arriaga, Alexandra. "Aguijón Theater celebrates 30 years of bringing Spanish-language works to Chicago". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  39. ^ Meyer, Dan (Aug 19, 2019). "Leading Latino Theatre Company INTAR Creates Max Ferrá Directing Fellowship". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-07-05.

General referencesEdit

  • Godinez, Henry. "So Many Stories To Tell." American Theatre 20.10 (2003): 48–52. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Graham-Jones, Jean. "Comment: On Attributions, Appropriations, Misinterpretations, And Latin American Theatre Studies." Theatre Journal 56.3 (2004): 347–351. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Horwitz, Siml. "Latino Theatre Artists: Opportunity And Challenge." Back Stage 42.31 (2001): 20. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Horwitz, Simi. "New Perspectives." Back Stage 44.12 (2003): 24. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Huerta, Jorge A. "Latino Theater Alliance/L.A. Encuentro 2013: We've Come A Long Way, Baby!." Gestos: Revista De Teoría Y Práctica Del Teatro Hispánico 28.56 (2013): 169–170. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Nestor, Frank. "Colorblindness And Controversy." Back Stage (19305966) 53.3 (2012): 2–3. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Svich, Caridad. "US Polyglot Latino Theatre And Its Link To The Americas 1." Contemporary Theatre Review 16.2 (2006): 189–197. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Tolkoff, Esther. "Not A Subculture: NYC's Thriving Latino Theatre." Back Stage 41.10 (2000): 5. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
  • Valdez, Luis. "Chapter 77: Notes On Chicano Theater (1972)." Twentieth Century Theatre: A Sourcebook. 315–319. n.p.: Taylor & Francis Ltd / Books, 1995. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.