In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Latin American Theater and Performance

  • Introduction
  • Research Centers and Digital Archives
  • Journals
  • Reference Works
  • The Field
  • Anthologies of Plays and Performance Texts
  • Performance Theory
  • Precolonial and Colonial Periods, 1450–1830
  • Nation, Modernity, and Modernism, 1820–
  • Latin America’s Sixties, 1960–
  • Dictatorship and Its Legacies, 1970s–
  • Performance and the Politics of the Body, 1990s–
  • New Dramaturgies, 2000s–
  • Politics in/as Performance, 2010s

Latin American Studies Latin American Theater and Performance
Jill Lane
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0233


Theatrical practice in Latin America predates the European conquest, and since the conquest has been a site for the expression of new cultural formations, often enacting or contesting prevailing systems of power. As in the field of theater studies generally, the term “theater” encompasses a range of performance practices, and overlaps in key periods with religious rites, political spectacle, festival, social and modern dance, performance art, and popular culture forms. Major concerns of the field include asking how European-based dramatic forms have been reinvented through their continuous interaction with indigenous and African cultural forms, and vice versa; what are the meanings of modernist and post-modernist dramatic forms in societies where modernity is an unstable context; how theater practitioners have transformed traditional forms of theater into an activist “Theatre of the Oppressed”; and what role theater plays in the contemporary neoliberal moment. While scholarship on theater in Latin America dates to the early 20th century, the field of Latin American theater studies—which defines its object of study as theater from the entire region—emerged alongside Popular Theater practice of the 1960s and 1970s, which similarly understood itself as a continental project. Both practice and scholarship, forged in the context of the Cold War, embraced a socially critical stance in favor of the working classes (the “popular” classes), understood theater as a vehicle for social change, and believed that shared Latin American aesthetics and methods were emerging. The field has retained this fundamental interest in the social and political dimensions of theater and has responded to the changing geopolitics of the region. A significant development in the field was the shift in the 1990s from a continental to a hemispheric frame. The hemispheric orientation sought, on one hand, to reshape disciplinary boundaries that rendered the formative, and often repressive, relation between the United States and its southern neighbors invisible; on the other, it affirms shared histories, culture, and aesthetics between US Latinx and Latin American communities and artists. This bibliography addresses the history, theories, and practices of Latin American theater studies and maps its changing disciplinary boundaries and thematic concerns over time. The periodization is intentionally loose. For example, works related to revolutionary aesthetics and the politics of the body are concentrated in the 1960s and 1990s respectively, but these represent threads in both practice and scholarship that continue well past those dates.

Research Centers and Digital Archives

Scholars of Latin American theater and performance now benefit from important digital resources, including the Bibliografía crítica do teatro brasileiro, the Centro Latinoamericano de Creación e Investigación Teatral (CELCIT); the Cuban Theatre Digital Archive, and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. Both CELCIT and the Hemispheric Institute are centers whose resources will be of interest to practitioners: CELCIT includes resources for playwrights and directors, while the Hemispheric Institute includes recordings of historical and contemporary performance. Both centers sponsor online journals and underwrite new research that is shared on their digital platforms.

  • Bibliografía crítica do teatro brasileiro.

    Portuguese language online resource of books, chapters, articles, dissertations, and theses on Brazilian theater. Includes valuable bibliography of Brazilian theater journals.

  • CELCIT. Centro Latinoamericano de Creación e Investigación Teatral.

    The Argentine branch of the Centro Latinoamericano de Creación e Investigación Teatral, CELCIT. Sponsors a biannual journal; the publication series “Dramática Latinoamericana,” a collection of over four hundred publicly accessible Latin American plays; and “Teatro: Teoría y práctica,” a series of texts that focus on theory and methods of scenic practice, including issues focused on national theaters (e.g., Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, and Brazil). Available online.

  • Cuban Theatre Digital Archive (CTDA).

    Online resource for research on Cuban theater and performance and related fields, based at the University of Miami.

  • The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.

    Founded 1998, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics is a collaborative, multilingual and interdisciplinary network of institutions, artists, scholars, and activists throughout the Americas. Signature projects include the journal e-misférica (listed under Journals); HemiPress, a multilingual digital publications imprint; and the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL), the world’s first digital video archive on performance in the Americas, with extensive supporting materials in three languages.

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