Latina and Latino theater studies as a scholarly endeavor emerges from a variety of disciplinary queries—in literary studies, anthropology, ethnic studies, performance studies, and theater studies, among others—into the theatrical practices of Latino communities in the United States. The range of activity covered under this rubric includes indigenous and Afro-diasporic aesthetics (including ritual and secular performance); Spanish colonial literary and performance traditions (including religious and secular theater); the influences of Latin American national cultural developments in the performing arts; engagements with and participation in performing arts communities within the United States; and an overall awareness of a theatrical heritage and continued tradition worldwide. That is, Latino theater is both local and specific in its definition and global and far reaching in its practice. Nonetheless, the field of Latino theater studies has focused most specifically on the theater produced by and for Latino communities. This bibliography includes some key sources on the history and development of Latino theater in the United States but focuses more prominently on Latino theater in the 20th and 21st centuries. It pays attention primarily to theater produced after 1965, a time when theater movements consciously assumed a relationship to Latino group identity, culture, and politics that resulted in the development of an artistic and scholarly legacy that continues to influence Latino theater practice in the present.
Scholars of Latino theater have variously categorized the realm of activity fitting the umbrella term “Latina, Latino.” The general overviews and historical accounts included in this section offer a diverse map of the different terminologies and traditions that constitute this area of academic research. Historical accounts of early theatrical practice, especially in the southwestern United States, have used the terms “Spanish-language theater” or “Hispanic” as an organizational rubric based on language heritage that could account for the influence of Spanish conquerors in the cultural life of the United States and the later contributions of Latin American culture, especially in the formerly Mexican territory of the southwest borderlands region of the United States. Kanellos 1990 offers the most thorough documentation of this period. This history provides substantial references to archival sources available to the researchers interested in early Latino theater. Ramírez 1990 offers a similar level of detail in the historical documentation of early theatrical practice but focuses specifically on the Texas professional stage. Kanellos 1984 serves as a critical sampler of the range of subjects and approaches available in Latino theater studies, from archival research to close reading and interpretation of specific texts or practices. Focusing specifically on the participation of women in Latino theater, Ramírez 2000 presents a general history of Latina presence in US theater. More recently, “Latino (or Latina/o) theater” has served as an umbrella term to account for the diverse histories of theatrical practices by Latin American-descent communities in the United States, as well as their intersections and collaborations in interethnic or pan-ethnic cultural projects. Román 1997 calls for a consideration of the relationship between theatrical practice and pan-Latino ethnic identity and introduces a list of performers who may be understood under this rubric. The essay is an important early example of how identity politics shaped scholarly inquiry into Latino theater. Marrero 2000 and López 2005 offer updated surveys of the themes and concerns critical to Latino theater practice after Román. López offers a comprehensive survey of Latino theater in the 20th century that not only includes major playwrights and companies but also accounts for circuits of collaboration, funding sources, and showcase platforms. This essay offers a good orientation to the range of activity of post-1965 Latino theater in the United States. Focused primarily on the 1990s, Marrero charts the emergence of feminist, queer, and AIDS activist theater that changed the face of what was previously understood as Latino theater.
Kanellos, Nicolás. A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.
This historical survey, organized geographically to cover major areas of activity across the United States, presents the most comprehensive introduction yet available to Latino theater venues, actors, directors, playwrights, producers, and reviewing publications pre-1940. It offers an early discussion of Latino or “Hispanic” pan-ethnicity in the theater.
Kanellos, Nicolás, ed. Hispanic Theatre in the United States. Houston, TX: Arte Público, 1984.
This collection of short essays includes overviews and reports from the scene on Latino theater in the United States, including Spanish-language, Puerto Rican, Cuban, labor, and Chicano theater. Ybarra-Frausto’s essay on Chicano carpa or tent performances is especially useful in advancing analysis of the aesthetics of Latino theater.
López, Tiffany Ana. “Writing beyond Borders: A Survey of U.S. Latino Drama.” In A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama. Edited by David Krasner, 370–387. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
Introduces major Latina and Latino theater figures since the 1960s. A section on leading contemporary theater practitioners accounts for the significant advancements in Latino theater from the late 1990s into the early 2000s.
Marrero, María Teresa. “Out of the Fringe? Out of the Closet: Latina/Latino Theatre and Performance in the 1990s.” TDR: The Drama Review 44.3 (2000): 131–153.
An overview of Chicano and Latino theater and performance art in the 1990s with special emphasis on the development of feminist, queer, and AIDS activist practices.
Ramírez, Elizabeth C. Footlights across the Border: A History of Spanish Language Professional Theatre in the United States. Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang, 1990.
Documents Spanish-language professional theater activity in Texas from 1870 to 1940. A useful and well-documented discussion of the labor of the theater actor as entrepreneur is included.
Ramírez, Elizabeth C. Chicanas/Latinas in American Theatre: A History of Performance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.
A historical survey of the role of women in Chicano and Latino theater. Useful for identifying key participants and institutions in the scene.
Román, David. “Latino Performance and Identity.” Aztlán: The Journal of Chicano Studies 22.2 (1997): 152–167.
Introduces the first discussion of the relationship between performance and identity in Latino theater. In addition to offering one of the first definitions of Latino pan-ethnicity in theater studies, the essay surveys Latino theater and performance art from the 1950s to the 1990s.
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