Teatro Luna has sparked an awakening in Latina theater. In 2000, when there were few opportunities for Latina artists, Teatro Luna burst onto the scene determined to revolutionize Chicago theater. Chicago’s first–and still only–all-Latina theater ensemble was founded by Tanya Saracho, a now rapidly rising playwright on the national theater scene, and Coya Paz, a well-known performer, director, and dramaturg in Chicago theater. Teatro Luna marked its path by creating ensemble-built plays by and for Latinas. With bold and unforgettable productions such as Machos, S-e-x-Oh!, The Maria Chronicles, SÓLO Latinas, and Lunatica(s), Teatro Luna helps voice the unique experiences of Latinas and carve a path for Latina playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, and actresses.
Celebrating its ten-year-anniversary, Teatro Luna is continually growing and changing. Both founding members resigned within the last year, and the ensemble also underwent some changes. Managing Director and Touring Director Alexandra Meda explained, “It was always a conscious thought in the organization that there would be changes around this time. The founders started talking about getting Teatro Luna to year ten and then moving on.” Meda noted that while the transition hasn’t been an easy process, both founders remain very supportive of the organization, and the company is excited about the future. “The world is ahead for us. In the last three years we’ve experienced unprecedented growth–both artistic and financial. And with that growth comes change. We’re coming to the ten-year mark and we want to cement Teatro Luna’s future in the community. Long after the individuals who founded it leave here, we want to make sure that Teatro Luna continues.”
Indeed Teatro Luna is focused on the future: it has expanded its programming to support aspiring and experienced playwrights and directors. Last year they began a pilot program, The Incubation Series, made up of three distinct labs: the Directors’ Lab, the playwriters’ lab called the Luna Lab, and the Lunadas Reading Series. The free year-long programs, which serve over 40 Latinas, consist of multi-level workshops designed to foster new playwrights as well as support experienced playwrights and directors. This summer at the 10X10 Festival, Teatro Luna will present 10 new plays created in the Luna Lab that will be directed by ten new directors from the program. The program has been tremendously popular. Meda shared, “We sent out one e-blast and only gave people a two-week deadline, and we had more applicants than we could take. To me, this program is necessary in Chicago and in other cities, too. In 5 years, we hope to have satellite Teatro Lunas. I think this is going to be a step in the next big phase of Teatro Luna.”
The Lunadas Reading Series, a free monthly event, helps writers develop works that have not yet been produced. Teatro Luna provides the writers with a dramaturg, a director, and actors, and they’re given a weekend to workshop the play before it’s presented to an audience for feedback. “We’re really lucky. A lot of remarkable playwrights submitted last year, many from out of town. They even flew themselves in–that’s how badly they need this process,” Meda emphasized.
In another effort to cement the future, Teatro Luna just completed a three-year strategic planning process. Meda explained, “We’re really excited. There’s a bright future ahead for Teatro Luna. We’re expanding our programming, artistic goals, and national reach. Our goals are ambitious, including increasing national and international touring of our shows. We want to keep on growing financially and grow our ensemble. Up until recently we were producing two shows per season, and we’re going to be moving to three and four mainstay shows.”
Teatro Luna’s upcoming play, Generic Latina 2010, is a new version of their first production ten years ago. True to form, the dynamic multi-talented ensemble will perform autobiographical stories with original music. Meda explained, “What it shares with the original play is the name and the questions that we are asking ourselves with the additional question of ‘What has changed over the past ten years for Latinas?’ The show deals with identity, what the term Latina means, what are the implications, all those kinds of theoretical questions.”
Talking to Meda about Teatro Luna’s impact on the Latino community really demonstrates the company’s mission, “At the very least, we provide hope for women who were told their whole lives that the arts are not a viable option and “no seas tonta, marry a doctor.” We provide hope and proof that we’re talented and able to do this kind of work. Theater work is not easy. Everyone’s understaffed and overworked. The fact that we’ve been able to make it ten years stands to prove a lot. I think we’ve also challenged our community to think and question a lot of stuff we grew up with that has been in our culture for a long time. We’ve produced so much autobiographical work, and I think when people see that, it changes them a little bit. They think about their own lives, their own stories, how they matter, and how they impact the world around them. At the end of the day, our mission is to say that your stories matter, and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
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