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A new narrative: A-Típico festival tells a wide range of stories

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
A new narrative: A-Típico festival tells a wide range of stories
Carla Mirabal Rodriguez, Artistic Associate, Teatro Chelsea COURTESY PHOTO

Teatro Chelsea has launched “A-Típico,” a brand new Latinx play festival. The online festival will showcase works by Latinx playwrights April 9-17. The goal is to expand the Latinx narrative beyond the border-crossing trope to illustrate the diverse experiences and backgrounds within the community.

“We all have totally different experiences. I think it’s important to bring a breadth of different stories, because Latinos aren’t a monolith,” says Teatro Chelsea’s Artistic Associate Carla Mirabal Rodríguez, who is co-running the festival with Program Director Armando Rivera. “We tend to see, especially in American media, the same stories shared over and over again.”

Playwright Diego Lanao

Playwright Diego Lanao COURTESY PHOTO

Of 46 submissions from the United States and Latin America, the Teatro Chelsea team paired the plays down to six: “Before We Focus on Others,” by Diego Lanao; “Malas Mañas” by Alejandra Ramos Riera; “Anormales” by Fernando Vieira; “SAA (not that one)” by Luis Roberto Herrera; “Binary Star” by Guadalupe Flores; and “Flood” by Alicia Margarita Olivo. Four are full-length plays and two are one-act plays, and their scripts are a mix of Spanish, English and bilingual.

Rodríguez is careful to delineate between Latinx plays, which can follow standard, white-acceptable storylines, and Latinx playwrights, who are writing stories of all kinds featuring Latinx characters. “It’s the revolutionary thought of Latinx people just living their lives and not bringing attention to the fact that they’re Latinx, just them being and existing,” says Rodriguez.

Playwright Alejandra Ramos Riera

Playwright Alejandra Ramos Riera COURTESY PHOTO

The storylines center on human relationships of all kinds. In “Malas Mañas,” a man is released from prison after serving time for a crime committed in self-defense. During probation, he navigates reconnecting with his family. In “Anormales,” a young gay man struggles with prejudice in his hometown and his family grapples with the dangerous stigmas around homosexuality. “Binary Star” follows an autistic and brilliant astrophysicist whose world is turned upside down when she suddenly becomes the legal guardian of her teenage niece.

The plays will be read, workshop-style, on Zoom by a mix of local and national professional actors. Then the audience and artists will have the opportunity to discuss the stories. Tickets are pay-what-you-can and can be reserved on the Teatro Chelsea website.

Rodríguez hopes the festival highlights Latinx talent and illustrates that there is more to the Latinx experience than crossing borders. “These are the stories that you don’t really see often. Seeing yourself being represented without being tokenized feels really nice,” she says. “My true hope is that the audience comes away feeling refreshed.”