They’ve dubbed it “Carnaval 2015,” and the title aptly suggests the celebratory nature of the project. An intensive three-day showcase – to be held July 23-25 at The Theatre School at DePaul University – Carnaval will feature readings of eight world premiere plays on a wide range of subjects, all by Latina/Latino playwrights from across the country. Each will be staged by a high-profile director, six of whom have Chicago roots.
Presented by The Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC), this theater festivalis a collaboration with Emerson College’s HowlRound (“a commons by and for people who make performance”), and is being produced in association with Teatro Vista and the Chicago Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists (ALTA). It is spearheaded by Lisa Portes, head of MFA directing at The Theatre School, who noted: “Carnaval endeavors to increase the visibility of work by Latina/o playwrights, and to encourage the production of that work in the nation’s theaters.”
When: July 23-25
Where: The Theater School at DePaul, 2350 N. Racine
Tickets: Free (but registration required)
Among the plays to be read is Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road,” an epic tale that brings together descendants from John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” It homes in on one William Joad who resolves to keep the Joad farm in the family as he and his only surviving relative, Martín – a young Latino ex-migrant worker – drive east to Oklahoma on the reverse journey of their forbears.
The Steinbeck book has been a favorite for many years,” said Solis. “But frankly, I only thought of it when, in 2013, I was asked by the National Steinbeck Center to accompany them on a 13-day trek from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Arvin, California in an RV and a van, more or less tracking the same route the Joads took in the novel. Traveling with two other selected artists and a film crew, I read the novel as we drove through many of the same towns the Midwest migrants passed through 75 years before.”
“We conducted many oral history interviews with local residents and gave writing, art and video workshops for them. Much of rural America is so economically depressed, and people are desperately dealing with many of the same issues that are dealt with in the novel. Oklahoma and much of the Texas Panhandle is presently undergoing a severe drought similar to that in the 1930s.”
Among the directors for Carnaval 2015 is Henry Godinez, resident artistic associate at Goodman Theatre. Portes asked him to work on New York-based playwright Georgina Escobar’s “Sweep,” a cosmic sci-fi journey in the “Blade Runner” tradition in which “hit women of the multiverse (the Sweepers) drop in on different eras to correct humanity’s imperfectpatterns, hunting their targets from biblical times through modern day Brooklyn.”
As Godinez explained: “What I love about this play is its wild imagination – the way it combines theology and physics in what Georgina describes as “theoretical philosophy + fictional play = modern cognitive parables.”Here is a brief look at the other six plays to receive readings:+ “the living life of the daughter mira” by Matthew Paul Olmos: When baby Mira is born premature at 32 weeks, and while she fights to stay alive, her teenage mother and uncompromising family clash over who is fit to raise the baby, while Mira’s father struggles to keep a promise he made to his daughter nine months earlier on a mysterious beach.
+ “Perfectamente Loca/Perfectly Insane” by Magdalena Gómez: A fractured daughter seeks to forgive her mother as their troubled relationship is re-enacted from painful memories. Colonialism, the devastating legacy of industrialization, religion, mental illness, sexual trafficking of children and unchallenged traditions are exposed through a theatrical prism in a Puerto Rican slum known as “El Fanguito.”
+ “Parachute Men” by Mando Alvarado: After the death of his mother, Eric travels the world in search of global disasters, abdicating his own family responsibilities. He comes home to discover a change in the pecking order where he’s an outsider and no longer “the man of the house.”+ “Wolf at the Door” by Marisela Treviño Orta: In this contemporary fairy tale, Isadora, after losing her first born, findsthe strength to stand up toher husband, Septimo – but he has his own ideas, trapping a pregnant intruder, Yolot, and hatching a plan to keep her baby.+ “Swimming While Drowning” by Emilio Rodriguez: A pair of homeless gay teenagers meet in a LGBT shelter. Through their poetry—rap and spoken word—the boys form a powerful bond and begin to see the truth about the world and the people around them.+ “Más” by Milta Ortiz: Told from on-the-ground interviews, this docudramaexamines thebanning of MexicanAmerican Studiesinthe Tucson Unified School District, and how the people involved struggle to hold on to their identity, community and humanity.
In addition to the readings, four plays will be distributed among the festival’s participants, including “Satyricoño,” by Migdalia Cruz (about a revolution set in 2069 Puerto Rico); “Appeal, An American Musical of Mexican Descent,” by Amparo Garcia-Crow (a play with music and circus elements about the life of civil-rights activist and lawyer Gustavo C. García, who was involved with the first case by Mexican-Americans heard by the Supreme Court); “Siempre Norteada: Always Late. Always Lost,” (a quasi-autobiographical short play by Virginia Grise about the journey of a queer artist from Texas to New York City); and “The Sweetheart Deal,” by Diane Rodriguez (about a young couple who, in 1970, decide to leave everything behind to volunteer for the United Farmworkers Union struggle).