Encuentro 2014: Gathering of Latina/o artists makes impact in LA
Whether the recollection of a violent murder expressed through spoken word or dance, a dialogue exchanged inan online recovery community, or a creative response to our nation’s understanding of the illegal “alien,” Encuentro 2014 celebrated Latina/o narratives and exposed audiences to their experiences through theatre.
Encuentro, a month-long Latina/o theatre festival that ran from October 12 - November 10, drew from a vast number of artists both within and outside the United States. With over 19 theatre companies, 150 artists from the U.S. and Puerto Rico and 19 works, the festival was the first of its kind.
The realization of a festival like Encuentro was ultimately due to figures like Jose Luis Valenzuela, founder and artistic director of the Latino Theater Company, and his efforts to create a Los Angeles theatre scene that better encompasses and reflects the diversity of its inhabitants.
"This city will define theatre for the 21st century because of its diversity," said Valenzuela.
The majority of Encuentro, with the exception of two performances, took place at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, which is operated by the Latino Theater Company. With a mission to be a “laboratory where both tradition and innovation are honored and honed; a place where the convergence of people, cultures and ideas contribute to the future,” the Los Angeles Theatre Center remains a location where a multifaceted range of peoples can ideally come together, perform and expose audiences to a vaster range of experiences. Such a goal is still a working effort for the Latina/o community.
“We are still somehow the invisible people. … In the entertainment mainstream, we do not exist,” said Valenzuela.
He hopes that Encuentro instigated a legacy of dynamic and creative Latina/o theatre.
"It's quite an exciting moment to begin building those bridges for future generations, said Kinan Valdez, one of the ten fellows chosen to work on Encuentro. "The demographics in the country are changing and audiences are changing. Part of this is to place Latino theatre into the larger context of American theatre."