Carla Della Gatta, University of Southern California
Courtney Elkin Mohler, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
Within theatre scholarship that addresses difference based on identity and identification, Latinx and Indigenous theatre and performance remain underrepresented. Over the past two years the field has expanded to include gender and sexuality (as denoted by “Latinx” rather than “Latina/o”). Thoughtful conversations have resulted in the decision to integrate Indigenous theatre into the conversation with Latinx theatre, such as ATHE’s newly-titled Latino and Indigenous Americas (LIA) Focus Group, which signals not only a change toward broader gender inclusivity, but also reflects upon what kinds of performance traditions and innovations, topics, themes and aesthetics are currently most relevant to the field. This change arises at the same time as the initiatives in the Latinx Theatre Commons, catalyzing the creation of works by Latinx playwrights containing Latinx characters as only a portion of the total characters. This connects to the ongoing issue faced by Indigenous dramatists: the perception of a lack of qualified Native actors and audiences interested in plays with Native themes. The past decade has seen a surge of quality Native-written scripts, and a notable but non-proportional uptick in produced plays by Native American playwrights. To be produced, some Native dramatists seem to be testing the strategy of including more non-Native characters and accepting “non-traditional” or coalitional casting practices. This working session seeks to join these two conversations to determine the commonalities and differences between Latinx and Indigenous theatre, and how each is changing in subject matter, dramaturgy, practice, and performance to reflect a changing understanding of identity in 2017.
The format for the working session will be to obtain abstracts from each participant in order to divide the participants into pairings or two or possibly three. Essays will be placed in a shared Dropbox and pre-circulated with deadlines for review and commentary. Participant-groups will respond with comments to one another’s essay and pose two questions. These questions and reflections will also be sent to the session leaders. The working session will be held in a roundtable format, with participants giving a one-minute summary of the their partner’s paper. After all of the participants and papers have been introduced (fifteen minutes), the conference leaders will guide the larger conversation and ensure that the discussion pertains to all participants’ papers.
The session leaders will determine four discussion categories that will advance the conversation on Latinx and Indigenous theatre (twenty minutes each, for a total of eighty minutes). Of critical importance will be larger questions regarding the nature of identity as reflected in these papers, practical concerns pertaining to the production of Latinx and Indigenous American theatre and performance, the role of the scholar/critic in engaging with Latinx and Indigenous American theatre practitioners, and an assessment of the changing aesthetics, themes, and forms in a genre/genres currently characterized by an ethos of inclusivity.
After each topic has been discussed, the working group will identify next steps in the conversation (ten minutes) and allot time for Q&A with auditors (fifteen minutes). The goals of the working session will be to develop and advance the discourse on the expanding genres of both Latinx and Indigenous theatre. Historically, the playwright’s background informed a categorization as “Latinx theatre” or “Indigenous theatre” as well as generalized ideas about cultural themes. Given the shifting borders of the field and identification in the second decade of the 21st century, such generalizations based on aged notions of identity politics may not hold. Rather, this working group will grapple with how the expanded notions of indigenous/brown/native/mestiza/mized/on-the-border/borderless/gender+ are produce and are reflected in contemporary Latinx and Indigenous performance. The participants’ papers will inform the working session and hone in on the most urgent issues facing these fields. This may include negotiating how language, linguistic code-switching, performance venues, casting, dramaturgy, historiography, and criticism have all informed the delineations between Latinx and Indigenous theatre.
Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website here. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group proposals is 1 June 2017 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at email@example.com if you have any questions about the process.