Destinos sets a course for greater representation of Latinx stories | Theater Preview | Chicago Reader

Destinos sets a course for greater representation of Latinx stories 

Now in its third year, the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival celebrates artists at home and abroad.

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click to enlarge La Tía Mariela

La Tía Mariela

Paulina Watty

Editor's Note: The National Museum of Mexican Art announced that all performances of La Tía Mariela have been canceled, due to the U.S. Department of Citizenship Immigration Services denying touring visas for the cast and crew. Refunds for tickets purchased in advance are available through clata.org

If there's ever an opportunity to see the full range of Chicago Latinx theater, Destinos, the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, is it. The six-week festival, produced by the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), returns for its third year and features Latinx artists and theater companies from all over the city. It also features Latinx companies and performers from Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Chile, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

"The goal here is to take Chicago's Latinx theater companies and bring them to the same level as the internationally and nationally acclaimed companies," says Jay Kelly, publicist for Destinos. "We have great companies here that deserve to be represented wholly and seen by many."

The festival includes five plays that represent the scope of the Chicago Latinx theater experience, including The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon by Rebeca Alemán, presented by Water People Theater, which tells the story of Paulina, a human rights journalist who wakes up from a coma and must recover her memory so she can achieve justice. There is also Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy, presented by Teatro Vista, which follows the Mexican American Morales family through the sexual revolution and the explosion of rock 'n' roll in the 1960s. Though this is part two of a three-part series, neither parts one nor three are needed for this story to be understood by audience members.

Destinos will also feature the final version of UrbanTheater Company's Back in the Day: An '80s House Music Dancesical. The play, initially a work in progress, ran in previews over the summer, and the creative team incorporated feedback from those performances in preparation for the October 10 opening. Other Chicago plays being shown are Aguijón Theater's Exquisita Agonía by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, which follows an opera singer who loses her husband in a car accident and then pursues the person who received his transplanted heart, and Repertorio Latino Theater Company's Hotel-Ó, which seeks to bring attention to gendered violence in Latinx communities.

Aside from presenting these five plays in Chicago, Destinos will be taking Water People Theater's La Peor De Todas to the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City as part of their goal to give local plays more exposure.

"We wanted our local plays to get the same opportunities and have programmers from other countries take a look at them," says CLATA cofounder and executive director Myrna Salazar, who notes that the festival will be hosting ten national and international festival programmers.

The national artists featured this year are all solo acts. From New York, there's Organic Sofrito or Other Recipes for Disaster, a dark comedy written and performed by Venessa M. Diaz that incorporates spoken-word poetry to explore a dysfunctional family and the healing power of traditional Latinx dishes. From New Orleans comes Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers, a sci-fi show by José Torres-Tama that challenges the anti-immigrant narrative that's been dominating the media. Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary is a one-woman tale from Los Angeles of Marissa Chibas's family and its role in the 1950s Cuban Revolution.

Mexican playwright and actor Conchi León returns to the festival with La Tía Mariela, a look into how Mexico turns death into a celebration of life through song and dance that also features Regina Orozco and Montserrat Marañón. Andares, copresented with Chicago Shakespeare and created by director Héctor Flores Komatsu, shines a light on the struggles Indigenous people face trying to balance modernity and tradition. Puerto Rico's Soltera, Casada, Viuda y Divorciada is a comedy by Román Sarmentero told through four points of view about women's relationships with men. Finally, Chilean director and puppet artist Aline Kuppenheim's Feos, based on a short story by Uruguayan novelist Mario Benedetti, is a bunraku puppet show mixed with stop-motion projections that challenges how we view and accept our flaws

With the local, national, and international acts, Kelly and Salazar believe Destinos represents the depth of the Chicago Latinx theater experience, especially since the plays are being hosted everywhere from marquee venues like Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf to cultural institutions like the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen and storefront theaters in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods like Aguijón Theatre in Belmont Cragin and Repertorio Latino Theatre Company in Bridgeport.

Above all, Salazar hopes that the stories being told throughout the festival make the Latinx community feel represented while resonating with those outside the community too. "I would love to share these stories with non-Latinos so there is more understanding of who we are," she says. "And for them to see that our stories are not all that different from theirs."   v

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