Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Boleros for the Disenchanted"

Posted by Bruce Miller
On September 18, Barksdale will open Boleros for the Disenchanted as the first play in our 09-10 Signature Season at Willow Lawn. Boleros also will be the first instalment in our three-year Hispanic Theatre Project.

During each of the next three seasons, we will produce one play from the rich treasures of Hispanic culture. All three of the plays will be presented in English, with super-titles for Spanish-speaking audiences.

The first time I read Boleros, I fell in love with this funny and deeply moving new play. It is written by Jose Rivera, an important and highly respected voice in American theatre. Rivera has written several successful stage plays, and last year he was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for Motorcycle Diaries.

Barksdale is proud to be among the first theatres in the nation to be granted the rights to produce this important new work.

Our Hispanic Theatre Project is produced in association with the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Ana Inez King, Artistic Director. Support for this access program comes from the Community Foundation and the Sara Belle November Fund of the Community Foundation.

The goals of the Project are:
1. to create a welcoming atmosphere at Barksdale Theatre for Greater Richmond’s Latino citizens, the fastest growing segment of our metro population;
2. to provide Richmond’s Anglo audience with the opportunity to experience and appreciate the magnificent works of Hispanic culture, both new and classical;
3. to develop and sustain new relationships with Hispanic playwrights, actors, dancers, musicians and other theatre artists; and
4. to strengthen our community by establishing a common ground upon which multiple cultures can come together to experience, celebrate and respond to the universal language that is art.

These are lofty goals. We’re giving them our best shot.

During the last two years of planning, there has been a lot of talk about the terms Hispanic and Latino. I’ve asked a great many people for their opinions, and I’ve learned a lot about how diverse the opinions are. In most corners, both Latino and Anglo, the two terms are interchangeable. The U. S. Census Bureau, for one, considers the terms to have the exact same meaning.

Those who prefer one term over the other tend to do so for the following personal reasons.

To some, “Hispanic” describes the cultures and peoples of countries formerly ruled by Spain—nations in which Spanish is spoken by the majority of the population. These countries include, of course, Spain, plus Mexico and its Southern neighbors in Central America (with the exception of Belize, where English is the official language), the nations in the Western half of South America (in other words, not Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language), and most of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, etc.). Many also consider the former Spanish East Indies (the Philippines, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) to be “Hispanic.”

Those who don’t like the term “Hispanic” feel that it recalls the violent conquests that supported the age of the Spanish Empire, which thrived between 1492 and 1898. This feeling was more prevalent in the 60s and 70s than it is today. It was during the 60s and 70s that the term “Latino” grew in popularity, particularly among U. S. residents of Latin American ancestry, mainly because it honored the identity of the surviving and evolving countries rather than their former conqueror.

Those who dislike the term “Latino” mention that the term exists only outside of Latin America, not inside it. The term was created, they believe, to separate and isolate men and women with Latin American ancestry from the rest of the U. S. population. Therefore they find the term to be slightly pejorative. They feel that the term “Hispanic” is used in Spanish-speaking nations to unite, and the term “Latino” is used in the States to divide.

Like all things political, it’s very complicated. There is no one “correct” or universal opinion. People just feel the way they feel. And as I mentioned, most people, both Latinos and Anglos, feel that the terms are interchangeable.

We chose to call our initiative the Hispanic Theatre Project for two reasons:
1. that is the phraseology that our friends at the Latin Ballet preferred, and
2. “Hispanic” is the broader term and allows us to include for consideration plays that originated in Spain rather than Latin America.

We are very excited about our new Project, and eager to share Boleros for the Disenchanted with ALL of Richmond’s theatregoers. I think you'll love the show. I certainly hope you’ll join us!

--Bruce Miller

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