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I have long believed that Chicago is at the epicenter of a new Latino theatre revolution… and the last three years have not proven me wrong. In fact, I am not the only one who thinks so. Alexander Perry has been publishing a series of interviews with the scene’s movers and shakers as well as reviews of their most recent efforts for Arte y Vida Chicago.

2009 saw the world premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s rambunctious wrestling-stereotype-busting extravaganza “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” co-produced by Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista as well as the latter’s production of Tanya Saracho’s “Our Lady of the Underpass” about the appearance of an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe at the Fullerton Avenue underpass. The Chicago production of “Chad Deity” packed its bags in 2010 and moved to off-Broadway; and last year, its lead actors —Desmin Borges and Usman Ally— appeared in LA’s Geffen Playhouse production of the play. 2009 also saw the production of Tanya Saracho’s adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” for Steppenwolf Theatre.

In 2010, Cuba’s Teatro Buendía made its Chicago debut as part of the Goodman Theatre’s 5th Biennial Latino Theatre Festival while the American Theater Company staged Kristoffer Diaz’s freestyle, graffiti-inspired play “Welcome to Arroyo’s” and Teatro Vista and the Urban Theater Company respectively brought to life the Midwest premieres of “In the Heights” co-author Quiara Alegría Hudes’ play “26 Miles” and José Rivea’s “Brainpeople.” 2011 was no less busy: the Goodman Theatre and Teatro Vista joined forces once again for the world premiere of Tanya Saracho’s “El Nogalar” (inspired by Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”; it will receive its West Coast premiere at The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles on January 28); the Urban Theater Company’s staging of Nilo Cruz’s “Beauty of the Father” and Teatro Vista’s of “Momma Boyz” by Cándido Tirado.

Sandra Delgado and Christina Nieves in a scene of the Goodman Theater/Teatro Vista co-production of Tanya Saracho's "El Nogalar".

This is just the tip of the iceberg. This rough overview does not include the works of such local Latino theatre stalwarts as the Aguijón Theater Company (the city’s oldest Spanish-language theatre company) and Teatro Luna as well as the work of dozens of smaller companies and ensembles, of stand-up comedy acts produced by Mike Oquendo and the work of performance and sketch artists like Dominizuelan and Salsation. There are, in fact, close to 23 small and medium-sized Latino theater companies in our city.

This year may prove as productive for most of them as the last three years. Already on tap: Albany Park Theater Project’s production of their ensemble-written play about the immigrant experience “Home/Land” (opening January 20); the Goodman Theatre debut of Barcelona-based director Calixto Bieto (who will be directing Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real,” opening March 3); Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater Production of Tanya Saracho’s new play “Enfrascadas” (opening April 5) and a new collaboration between the Goodman and Teatro Vista (Cándido Tirado’s “Fish Men,” opening April 7). And Victory Gardens Theater will be presenting Luis Alfaro’s “Oedipus El Rey” this summer.

AN ONLINE GATHERING PLACE
This explosion has finally led Tanya to finally launch a project she’s been mulling and talking about for the last seven years: the creation of an alliance of Latino theater artists. Co-founded by Tanya and actor, director and Teatro Vista member Ricardo Gutiérrez, ALTA (the Alliance of Latino Theater Artists)’s mission is to promote, celebrate, and provide resources to Latino artists and their allies: actors, directors, playwrights, choreographers, costume designers, set designers, stage managers, you name it.

ALTA took its first baby steps on December 12 when it presented its newly launched website to over 130 local Latino artists and friends. “70% of the people who came I didn’t know, which is a testament of why it needed to be done,” Tanya told me recently.

As designed by Tony Adams, artistic director of Halcyon Theatre, and conceived by Tanya and Ricardo, ALTA’s website will be an online gathering place for local Latino artists and Latino and non-Latino theater companies (and hopefully national and regional ones as well) to share their expertise, comment on recent trends and even find and post job opportunities regardless of field. Artists and companies can set up their own profiles and link them to their own websites.

ALTA Chicago's website wishes to unite Chicago's growing Latino talent under one digital roof.

Are you shooting an independent film in Chicago and looking for local talent? A commercial or a TV show? Or are you looking for on- or off-stage talent for your play? You may want to check ALTA’s website first. In fact, if you don’t know squat about Chicago’s Latino theater scene, ALTA’s website provides you with a great introduction to the same.

So, what’s happening in your local Latino theater scene? How does it compare to Chicago’s? Share your experiences with me and the good folks of ALTA. I will keep monitoring and writing about this vibrant scene in this blog. I hope to bring you more news soon.

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