Tiffany Ana Lopez
What is Latina drama? Are Latina dramatists only those who explicitly identify themselves as Latina? Do all Latina dramatists have Spanish surnames? Is Latina drama thematically limited to political issues, such as bilingual education, barrio violence, or class struggle? Must actors have clearly recognizable "Latin" features and a "z" in their last names in order to communicate to an audience that a play is a Latina dramatic work? Ultimately, how--and more important, why-- use the category "Latina"?
A recent conversation I had with the playwright Migdalia Cruz illustrates a common scenario for Latina dramatists and the need to open up existing categories. Cruz had submitted one of her works to a literary director only to have it returned with the comment that the theater had already made its selections for its Latino theater festival. Cruz had not specified that she was a Latina dramatist. Rather, the "z" in her last name prompted a series of assumptions on the literary director's part about the category "Latina." The director assumed that Cruz had submitted her work for the festival; furthermore, she or he assumed that Cruz's work could be read only within that particular context. Why was Cruz's work not also (or better yet, first) considered for the main stage during the regular season?
The term "Latina drama" is useful inasmuch as it helps practitioners, critics, and writers distinguish and characterize playwrights and their works. However, the term is often used to limit readings of Latina dramatic works and, consequently, production possibilities. While many Latina/o-authored plays will be considered for the Festival Latino, few will be given staged readings, and even fewer main stage productions. In this era of scarce funding for the arts, many theaters fear that subscribers will not support Latina/o drama. Such fears stem from misperceptions about who Latinos are and what, exactly, constitutes Latina/o drama. Historically, popular culture has portrayed Latinas as domestic ser