Rupert Reyes, Joanne Reyes-Carreon and Roxanne Schroeder-Arce of Austin’s own, Teatro Vivo, changed my mind about contemporary theater. I ignorantly have written off theater as a lost art form that is beyond resuscitation due to the publicity that is currently accessible in the U.S. Large scale productions such as Jersey Boys, Shrek the Musical, and The Addams Family have dominated the visible theater scene leaving the local theater troops in black box theaters unknown. Sensing my skepticism, Artistic Director of Teatro Vivo, Rupert Reyes, pointed out that theater has been and still is a fundamental element of being human:
“We are dealing with an art form that is part of who we are in terms of our development, just like we learned to use fire, to cook, and preserve food. I think theater has become a sort of elitist art but there are still a lot of communities that still do theater that is accessible. To me, theater is my spirituality. When I go into a theater I feel like I am in a church. I tell my stories.”
Part of what makes Teatro Vivo such a unique experience is the shared importance of audience and artist. The two need each other for a successful performance and during the Austin Latino New Play Festival, feedback from the audience will help guide future plays. “In theater there is something about the live performance that unites people in a way that is very very different and very personal,” Joanne Reyes-Carreon, Executive Director of Teatro Vivo, explained.
From April 21-23, Teatro Vivo will be sharing their perspectives and interpretations of the Latino experience in the first annual Austin Latino New Play Festival. The plays presented in the festival will give us the chance to understand not only the importance of theater as a form of art and communication but will also shed light on subjects about (but not unique to) Latinos in the U.S.
Taking part in the festival is playwright Roxanne Schroeder-Arce. After years of teaching in the border town of Laredo, she realized that theater tends to leave behind Hispanic minorities. In order to make theater a subject of interest to the Latino youth as well as to incorporate a sort of cultural dialogue, she began writing plays that spoke of contemporary life of the younger Latino generations. For Roxanne, being a playwright and speaking of Hispanic youth is a matter of “telling stories that matter and telling stories that need to be heard that are too often underrepresented.”
Performances are sparse from Teatro Vivo throughout the year so it’s a good idea to check out what they have to offer during the three day Austin Latino New Play Festival. Just by talking about theater with Rupert, Joanne, and Roaxanne, I gained a new perspective of this art and I am optimistic that after the festival I will love it even more. If you are skeptical about theater, already love theater, or are curious to learn more about life through the Latino cultural lens, this festival and theater group is for you. Get there early because the seating is limited but the wait and experience will be worth it.