For the past five years, Alameda Theatre has championed the varied voices of Canadian Latin American playwrights.
One of its central means to develop new scripts is the De Colores Festival, which gives new plays and sometimes first-time theatre writers a supportive, mentored forum in which to work on their craft.
"When I began the festival, I never saw the impact it would have on Canadian Latino artists," admits company artistic director Marilo Nuñez. "We get more and more submissions each year and higher-quality work, too. Those who have been or are in the program tell me what a difference it makes to be part of a community that gives them a new perspective on who they are as Latinos in this country."
The quartet of playwrights in this year's fifth De Colores Festival is a blend of experienced and new writers.
Carmen Aguirre was in the first festival, back in 2008, while Ari Belathar (formerly Emma Ari Beltran), the company's writer in residence, returns from last year's festival. Both José Arias and Alejandro Valbuena are writing their first scripts.
Vancouver-based Aguirre, whose play The Refugee Hotel was premiered by Alameda, is also the author of Something Fierce: Memoirs Of A Revolutionary Daughter, the winner of this year's Canada Reads contest.
Her festival presentation is The Tina Modotti Project, based on the life of the 1920s photographer and activist.
"Modotti, who's known for her photos of Mexican migrants, was caught between her art and her politics," says Nuñez. "Involved with the Communist party and a spy for the Russians in the 1930s and 40s, she left her photography behind to further her political aims. Carmen explores the question of whether art should be political and whether politics should be part of one's art. Given her background, the question is also a personal one."
La Danza Del Venado, Belathar's script, is inspired by her crossing the border from Mexico to the United States as a child. A dance-theatre work, it uses the Yaqui ritual of the life and death of a sacred deer as a key image in the story of several Latin American immigrants crossing into Arizona.
"It's a haunting piece, given first-hand immediacy by Ari's having spent two months in Arizona working with a group called No One Left Behind, an organization that leaves packages of food and water for those crossing the border."
Arias, an actor and dancer, approached Nuñez with personal stories he wanted to tell. The result is the fictionalized Arrested, in which the central figures comes out to his family, is thrown out of the house, becomes a street kid and works on rebuilding his life after choosing to be true to himself.
Finally, filmmaker Valbuena tackles his first stage play, Camila's Bones, set in a futuristic dystopian Canada where pregnancy is a prized process. At its centre is an illegal Latina immigrant adopted by the family for whom she's a surrogate mother; adoption will allow her to stay in the country.
"Alejandro already has a strong voice as a writer, and here he addresses the issue of migrant workers and immigration in a society in which the issues reflect what's going on in today's Canada."
Nuñez points out that the plays on the roster are completely different from each other in style and subject matter, "offering four tastes of what Canadian Latin American playwrights want to discuss.
"We're aware of how much work still has to be done to raise the profile of Latin American playwrights in Canada. Ideally, we want their plays to be produced by theatres across the country."
Factory finalizes its season
Factory Theatre's interim artistic team, Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams, has announced their 2013 season of four productions.
Two of the shows, Aquino's Every Letter Counts and Bill Richardson and Veda Hille's Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, were originally part of the list of shows Factory announced last spring.
The former is Aquino's personal and political look at her uncle, Filipino icon Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, and his legacy to her. Directed by Williams, it opens the season January 26.
The Craigslist piece, a co-pro with Acting Up Stage Company, comes to Toronto from Vancouver's PuSh Festival. It uses the very popular ads on Craigslist as the building blocks for the show. Beginning January 30, it's directed by Amiel Gladstone.
The other two productions are the remount of a SummerWorks hit and the premiere of a show by a rising young playwright.
Nicolas Billon's Iceland, winner of the NOW Audience Choice Award and the Contra Guys Award at last August's SummerWorks, returns with its original cast (Kawa Ada, Claire Calnan and Christine Horne) and director (Ravi Jain) beginning March 2.
Toronto audiences will see the first performances of Amy Lee Lavoie's Stopheart, a dark comedy about growing up "different" in small-town northern Ontario. You might have seen some of her other plays, Rabbit Rabbit and the co-written Me Happy, at pat SummerWorks fests. Directed by Ron Jenkins, Stopheart runs from May 4.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts has renovated the large theatre that's part of the school at Bathurst and Lennox.
The venue's name will change from the Bathurst Street Theatre to the Randolph Theatre, named after academy founder and president George C. Randolph Jr.
The school holds a 20th-anniversary dinner and fundraising gala on Sunday (October 15) at the Royal York Hotel to celebrate the theatre's makeover; David Mirvish chairs the event, with performances by the school's students and graduates.
For more information, call (416) 924-2243 ext 241.
Occupy, a year later
It's been a year since the Occupy Toronto protest, a fitting time for a revival of Rosamund Small's Performing Occupy Toronto, a verbatim script developed from interviews with those involved on both sides of the issues.
The show had its premiere last June courtesy of Docket Theatre, and the company remounts it in a free, site-specific performance on Sunday (October 15) in St. James Park, the location of the encampment. Artists will investigate "how Occupy's call to action has evolved over the past year and what the future holds."
Small created the piece while playwright-in-residence with the Paprika Festival. She takes part as herself and also acts as narrator in this one-off presentation.
It will be part of a park-wide, multimedia installation beginning at 6 pm.