Carnaval 2015 | Fullerton Stage Theatre, DePaul University | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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Don't attend Carnaval 2015 expecting mile-long floats and half-naked samba dancers in enormous feathered headdresses, a la Rio. You may get them (who knows?), but only if one of the participating playwrights has put them in your thoughts by way of dialogue. A collaboration between the Latina/o Theatre Commons and a performance-focused online idea exchange called HowlRound, Carnaval is a festival featuring new plays by Latino-American writers.

This first iteration of the festival attracted 88 submissions from which a seven-member selection committee picked 12—eight to receive readings, four to be distributed as scripts. According to committee member Lisa Portes—head of MFA directing for the Theatre School at DePaul University, which is hosting Carnaval—the finalists were chosen to "reflect the geographical, generational, and aesthetic diversity within the current Latina/o theatermaking community, as well as for their overall quality."

A little shockingly, none of the featured works comes from a Chicago-based writer. Portes attributes the underrepresentation in part to ratios: “Only about 10 percent” of submissions came from Chicago,” she notes, “as compared to approximately 30 percent each from Los Angeles and New York.” To improve the local profile at future Carnavals, Portes plans "to get the word out early and often."

In the meantime the performing end of the fest is lousy with Chicago talent. Readings will be given by local actors and directed by such Chicago-associated talents as Henry Godinez, Alex Meda, Carlos Murillo, and Portes herself. And some of the playwrights, though not Chicago-bred, will be familiar. Two of the biggest names are Migdalia Cruz, whose Satyricono will be among the distributed scripts, and Octavio Solis, whose Mother Road will receive a reading (Sat 5 PM). Other readings (all in English or an easy mix of English and Spanish): The Living’Life of the Daughter Mira by Matthew Paul Olmos (Thu 11:30 AM), Perfectamente Loca by Magdalena Gomez (Thu 2:30 PM), Parachute Men by Mando Alvarado (Thu 5 PM), Wolf at the Door by Marisela Treviño Orta (Fri 11:30 AM), Swimming While Drowning by Emilio Rodriguez (Fri 2:30 PM), Más by Milta Ortiz (Fri 5 PM), and Sweep by Georgina Escobar (Sat 11:30 AM). —Tony Adler

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